Johan Cruyff needs no introduction to most football fans and particularly to those of the Catalan giants. When Michels brought the Dutchman to Spain in 1973 (fresh from conquering Europe with his native Ajax), he was undeniably the great star of the team that won the league that season. The unbeaten stretch in that 1973/74 campaign began with a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. Los Blancos, incidentally, would finish the campaign in an unthinkable 8th place. Barca’s unbeaten run was ended at the home of Real’s city rivals Atletico Madrid, as they succumbed 2-0. The Catalans had already been crowned champions and Atletico would go on to claim second place in La Liga.
In his days as a player, current coach Pep Guardiola was an integral part of Cruyff’s Barcelona team of the early 1990s when the Dutchman was manager. In the ‘Dream Team’ that boasted world-class talents like Michael Laudrup and Hristo Stoichkov, Guardiola was seen as the ‘pivot’ from which the star players weaved their magic. He is still a young manager but the statistics and accumulation of trophies tell their own story. Of his 166 games in charge, Guardiola has won 121 while drawing 30 and losing just 15 in all competitions: a phenomenal record. This season, his charges have drawn three matches and lost just one.
As for the talent of Messi, his creativity and goal-scoring prowess could be likened to that of Cruyff. Not for an instant am I suggesting a direct comparison between the two but in terms of analysing two sides from two different eras, there is a correlation between the two. Messi (like Cruyff) is a star player and has the ability and confidence to embarrass an entire defence before scoring a goal.
Marcial Pina finished second-top in the Pichichi contest in 1973/74. Along with team-mate Carles Rexach, they could be seen as the Pedro and David Villa of their day because of their goal-scoring feats and their roles as the other two parts of a three-pronged attack.
Crucially, Cruyff is considered in many quarters to be the architect behind the ‘tiki-taka’ style synonymous with Barca and employed by several other Spanish clubs as well as the national team. While it may have taken nearly 40 years to break the record there is no doubt that the legacies of Michels and Cruyff permeate every fibre of the club. There is no reason why the current crop cannot beat the record of 32 games unbeaten set by Real Sociedad in 1979/80.