The year of 2011 was another stellar one for FC Barcelona. There were many memorable moments, both positive and negative. From winning the Liga and Champions League double, to the various long-term injury scares affecting players and coaches alike, 2011 was undoubtedly filled with triumphs and obstacles. totalBarça contributors reflect on the drama that dominated 2011 by choosing some of their favorite and least-favorite memories in a tribute to the Best Team in the World.
doris86pl: This is really hard, we experienced so many wonderful goals, almost all players (shame on you Valdés!) scored last year, but this one by Andrés Iniesta against Viktoria Plzen is surely one of my favourites. This is magic.
Maria Ines: It is difficult to choose among so many goals. But I’d say Xavi’s goal against Arsenal. It was a hard game, lots at stake and he just disguised himself as a striker and scored a fantastic goal, in cold blood. And the pass was superb too. A close second would be Messi’s goal against Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
Alexandra: A goal that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind is the one David Villa scored in the Spanish Super Cup game at the Bernabéu against Real Madrid. Villa, who hasn’t had the best of seasons and who was having a hard time finding the net before that, showed that he is a born goalscorer and made us remember what an amazing foot he has. Just outside of the penalty area, he curls the ball into Casillas’ top right corner. One of the most perfect goals that has ever been scored. Amazing.
Ivich: I just can’t get enough of Dani Alves’ stunning goal against Getafe. The fact that it was a match-winning one makes it even more special. Not discrediting the abilities of other Barça players, but not all of them can score a long-range beauty like this.
MegRyan: I have to go with Xavi’s goal in this season’s first La Liga El Clásico. Yes, the ball did take a bit of a deflection off Marcelo, but no one can deny that Xavi’s off the volley shot was just wicked. Mostly, however, I vote this for sentimental reasons, because this was Xavi’s 600th game with the club, and what better way to celebrate than with a goal against the team’s biggest rival. That, and I love that after Xavi slid to the ground, Messi just totally laid on top of him during the goal celebration. This last half of 2011 has been a goal fiesta for Xavi, when compared to his earlier statistics, and I sincerely hope he keeps on scoring.
Best goal celebration
doris86pl: Hard to choose one, but most memorable is surely Messi at Wembley.
Maria Ines: Messi’s goal against Madrid to win the Super Cup. Just loved it!
Alexandra: Lionel Messi has scored over 200 goals for FC Barcelona, he has scored in big games, in decisive games, in emotional games. He has scored in all these, but I have never seen him as happy or as full of joy as he was after scoring in the final against Manchester United. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a footballer happier after a goal than Leo was at Wembley. So for me, it’s impossible not to choose that as the best goal celebration!
Ivich: Messi celebrating Villa’s goal in the UEFA Champions League final. It was almost as if Messi had scored the goal.
MegRyan: The best goal celebration for me was after Piqué’s goal against Zaragoza in the league this season. Not only because he did his usual crossed twos to dedicate his goal to his lovely WAG Shakira, but also because while everyone was jumping on him, Puyol managed to poke Xavi in the eye! It shouldn’t have been so funny, but it was. Mostly because once his teammates stopped celebrating long enough to notice, they all were grabbing his head and making sure he was all right, and Xavi was still holding his eye. It reminded me of a toddler being looked after by his parents. I’m sorry, I didn’t take this category seriously at all, but all of the team’s goal celebrations are euphoric, so I had to pick the one that I remembered most. This, is it.
Best team performance
doris86pl: No doubt, the Champions League final.
Maria Ines: It has to be the CL final. The team had a lot of great performances, but I’ve never seen Barça outplay such a great rival the way they did that day.
Alexandra: For me, this was one of the hardest categories. As I asked around, everyone said it was easy because it was of course this or that game. The only problem is that everyone mentioned different games! And that’s the thing with Barça, because all the games the team plays feature a great team performance, but which one was the best? For me, there are three. The one I think was the most impressive was the 4-0 win over BATE Borisov. As we had already qualified for the Champions League, Pep gave the chance to a lot of youngsters. When young players get the chance to show their skills they often tend to play a bit egotistically. But our youngsters went out and together played an amazing game as a team, with nearly everyone a B team player, boys between 17-21. On the pitch Barça impressed the football world as it never let BATE even touch the ball. In the end it might not be a better team performance than some of the games the first team played this year, but it was the most impressive one. The other two are the 1-3 at the Bernabeu against Madrid, where we started by giving away a goal and then worked as a team, fighting to get back into the game. Winning 1-3, it was hard work and amazing to see real teamwork. The third is the first League game of this season, 5-0 against Villarreal, a game where there was nothing to complain about, it was just perfect.
MegRyan: As Alexandra said, this is a tough one. For me, it is either the 1-3 El Clásico from this season or the recent 9-0 over CE L’Hospitalet in the Copa del Rey. The game against Madrid showed that the team could rally and recover after going down a goal so quickly and after such a terrible mistake. The players never gave up and turned the game around as a unit to embarrass Madrid in its own stadium. The Copa game was an amazing performance by a team made of mostly B team players. They all wanted to prove to Pep they can play first division football, and they certainly did. All I can remember thinking during this game was, “Wow, the future of this team is so bright.”
Best individual performance
doris86pl: When it comes to Barcelona, it’s extremly difficult to point out one outstanding player in the game, but Andrés Iniesta’s performance versus Real Madrid in the last El Clásico was just extraordinary, pure magic.
Maria Ines: I have two here: Xavi against Manchester United. The game went the way he wanted. He did whatever he wanted to and led us to our fourth Champions League title. Puyol against Madrid a couple of weeks ago. He held on while the team was getting back on its feet again, defending his heart out against great players. Fantastic game from our awesome and inspiring captain.
Alexandra: There have been a lot of good individual performances this year, but for this one I’m going with instinct. While reading the category, the first thought I had was of Thiago against Villarreal. It was the first League game of this season, Thiago’s first ever season as a first team player. He got to start the game, he scored the first goal and when the game was over, Barça had won 5-0 and the name on everyone’s lips was Thiago Alcântara. If I remember correctly, Thiago made over 100 correct passes (something not many players can manage to do). Thiago ran the midfield in a game where Barça played a perfect game. He also made two amazing assists, hard to make a better Liga debut as a first team member.
Ivich: Messi in the second-leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid. He was just phenomenal. It is in matches like this that I am reminded of why Barça is so lucky to have him fit, healthy, motivated, happy and playing so consistently well. Messi is a game changer and this match just proves it.
MegRyan: All of our players have great individual performances every game, which combine for stellar team performances. However, if I have to choose, then I’ll pick Cesc’s display against Osasuna in the 8-0 league win. Not only did he score a goal himself, but he had a hat trick of assists to boot. This game proved that Cesc can play with the team’s midfield masters, like Xavi, as well as brilliantly combine with the forwards, especially Messi. This was the game when I realized that Cesc had finally found his place and was really gelling with the team. (Sorry for the music in the video, it was the only Cesc specific video I could find!)
Most improved player
doris86pl: Thiago. From being a young talent he became a member of the starting 11 in the Club World Cup Final. He grew up a lot, he seems to be very calm and confident on the pitch. It’s been a great year for Thiago Alcântara.
Maria Ines: Thiago. I had an opinion about him last year, from the few minutes he was given, and I thought he was so incredibly selfish! So, I’ve seen such a remarkable change in him, he is such a terrific team player now.
Alexandra: There are many players who have improved a lot during this year but still this one is easy for me. The most improved player is without a doubt Thiago Alcântara. During 2011, Thiago has gone from being a talent to a superstar. In the beginning of this year, Thiago was the one taking care of the midfield in Barça B; today it feels like he has been in the first team forever. I’ve never seen a player coming up in the first team and taking his place in it in the way that Thiago has done. In my opinion, he is already one of the best midfielders in the world. Thiago isn’t a burgeoning talent anymore, he is long past that.
Ivich: Mascherano. The way the Argentine has easily adapted to his new role – as centre-back – makes him, without doubt, the most improved player.
MegRyan: The most improved players for me are clear: Mascherano and Busquets. When the team had a defensive crisis late last season due to injuries, these two holding midfielders stepped up to fill the hole. At first, the transition was a little shaky, and even I was unsure if these two were going to succeed, but given time they both flourished in their new roles. I name Masch and Busi/Biscuits most improved because they went where the team needed them without complaint and did their best to adjust to new positions. They actually made me stop wishing for Pep to buy a defender, and that was a big accomplishment by both.
Best offside story
dois86pl: I think the best thing was that our players started using twitter and facebook a lot (some went crazy), it gave us the opportunity to be a little bit closer to the team. When it comes to a particular offside moment, it’s surely Iniesta making his own wine. I must underline that I’m a wine lover, and when I was in Barcelona some weeks ago, I tried ‘Corazón Loco’ (‘Crazy Heart’), an informal, light wine available in white and red. And it’s really good, I fell in love with the white one.
Maria Ines: Cesc’s hair saga, which was followed closely here at totalBarça. I still laugh about that crazy hair he had when he was a teenager!
Alexandra: This must be the debate about Cesc Fábregas’ hair. I think everyone watching Barça was talking about his morning hair, and then Piqué and Puyol made the debate bigger on Twitter and there was a huge campaign to make Cesc cut it. I think we all have been waiting for that moment for him to put the scissors to his hair since he joined the Club. Some weeks ago, his sister finally made it a reality and I have to say his hair is better now, still too long though.
Ivich: Is it just me or was the year very low on Offside moments? What comes to mind is Messi in Dolce & Gabbana.
MegRyan: I disagree Ivich, I think there were many ridiculous offside stories! My favorite has to be Messi’s new logo he unveiled. I wrote an Offside story on it, actually. I’m not sure if it was a ploy by Adidas or if he just wanted to look like a superhero, but I find the logo a little unneccesary. But hey, he’s Messi, so he can do whatever he wants.
Craziest transfer rumours
doris86pl: In: Robinho, Szczesny, Bale; out: Dani Alves and Busquets to Manchester City.
Maria Ines: Messi to Inter I would say (was it this year, or last year? It was so stupid I can’t even remember). And Neymar to Barça. There is no way, none on this earth, that I could see Neymar adding something to this Barça. And another one: Barça getting Torres to replace Villa, minutes after he broke his leg. Stupid. Enough said.
Alexandra: This one is incredibly hard for me, as several years back I decided to shut my ears to all the transfer rumors. I will only believe in a transfer when the player is signing the contract and I really hate all the rumors. But it has been impossible to miss all the rumors about Neymar. A great young talented player, but I don’t see him as a good alternative for Barça. First, I’ve heard he isn’t the most humble player and are we really going to do an “Ibra” again? On the other hand, he is young and maybe easier to “change.” Second, I just don’t see a place for him, we already have a lot of great forwards in the first team and then players like Cuenca and Tello coming up, so why should we sign a new forward? For me, it would be idiotic and just a way to spend money we need to save. For transfers out, I’ve heard some about Villa leaving. Sure, he hasn’t had the best season and he isn’t scoring goals like he did in Valencia. And yeah, is offside more than any player has ever been. But he still is a great player, he is humble and even if his time in Barcelona has not been what he hoped for, and even if he gets to sit on the bench, he never complains and never stops fighting. As long he wants to be in our team he should be in our team. And Villa loves it in Barcelona, he isn’t going anywhere.
Ivich: Villa going to Chelsea and Torres coming in return. It takes tremendous imagination to come up with something so bizarre.
MegRyan: Hleb coming back from loan to Barcelona…. Wait, that was true? Noooooooooo!
Moment we would most like to forget
doris86pl: The defeat in the Copa del Rey, still hurts. . . .
Maria Ines: I really hope that months come fast and we can forget about David Villa’s horrible injury. Abi’s tumor was something terrible but not to forget about, as it made the team stronger.
Alexandra: For me it’s the 1-0 loss against Getafe. Not because we lost, but the way we lost. Since Guardiola has been the coach, I have never seen a game like the one we played against Getafe. There was no motivation, not even a little. We didn’t care about winning, the players didn’t fight, they didn’t run. It didn’t look like Barça, it wasn’t Barça. It was a horrible, horrible game and I hope I’ll never have to witness something like it again.
Ivich: I have a weak spot for Ibrahim Afellay and his injury was a massive blow that my tender heart is still coming to terms with. With Villa’s injury and the reactions that followed, it only reminded me how Ibi didn’t even get half the support Villa did. I know, I know, this is pure mush coming out. But sometimes seeing a player out of action is the hardest, especially when he really needs to showcase himself.
MegRyan: First and foremost, the long term injuries to Villa and Afellay I would most like to forget. I never like to see our players get hurt and know they face a long road to recovery. Also, I would like to forget learning of Tito’s tumor and surgery. It was very reminiscent of Abidal’s situation last year, and it is scary to think that major health problems can really strike anyone. I’ve also got to shoutout to the Copa del Rey loss because I was really devastated that the triple eluded us by just one extra time goal by our arch rivals. I wouldn’t mind forgetting all of the bad feelings that surronded the team early this season after our series of draws and loss to Getafe as well. It really amazed me how disenchanted some fans became, and I hope we can support our team better in the future.
Moment we actually did forget
doris86pl: Probably Milito signing for CA Independiente.
Maria Ines: I can honestly say that I have forgotten about that Copa del Rey. It was painful for like two days. It was much more painful to me the idea of losing the CL than that smashed cup.
Alexandra: I think something we often forget is the hard games. During 2011 Barça won the Champions League, the League, and had the most Manitas I think a team has ever managed in a season. When I think back on 2011, I think about a year with a lot of big and easy wins, a lot of goals and amazing football. But looking at the results, I remember that there were a lot of really hard games, games we didn’t win with five goals but only with one. It’s those hard games in the end that decide if you’ll win the big titles, when it’s hard you have to win. We did that in 2011, but I think we easily forget those games, the games with few goals, the games that easily could have been draws and losses instead. The games that won us the titles.
Ivich: Mourinho’s conspiracy theories – UNICEF? Referee bias? – as to why Barça always wins. Mou, how about that Barça actually plays well?
MegRyan: Following suit with Doris, I think people have forgotten about Jeffrén moving to Sporting CP over the summer. The kid scored a great goal in the epic original manita, his future looked bright, and now I never hear about him. It’s kind of sad.
Your favourite moment of 2011
doris86pl: There were many extraordinary moments, for sure all the titles, especially the Champions League final, the celebrations at Camp Nou, but my favourite can’t be anything other than Abidal lifting the CL trophy. Really, what else could I choose? An amazing player who comes back from a serious operation on a tumour in his liver and then gives you chills because of his amazing performance in the UEFA Champions League final.
Maria Ines: There’s no other moment that sums up what Barça is than Abi holding the CL cup. That was just awesome.
The day Alexis was presented was also a highlight of the year to me. I’ve been following Barça for so many years, and I honestly thought that I would never ever see a Chilean player actually playing for my team. And Alexis did it, as with so many things in his life, he achieved what seemed impossible: to join one of the best teams ever. He had such a hard life, growing up as a kid with limited means; he sacrificed a lot, gave up a lot of things to be the player he is today. To see him joining this team and being so happy about it was something that gives hope, something that tells you that if you work hard, you’ll make your dreams come true.
The whole process for me was a bit odd, since I’ve supported Barça for so long. The press here could not care less about my team, but all of the sudden they were like experts. They would ask people in the street about which Barça player Alexis would kick out of the team and stuff like that. Barça were all over the news here at some point and I cannot say I like that, it was some sort of a show. But behind that, there was a kid that made his dream come true. And that’s what football should be about: hope and sacrifice!
Alexandra: For me this one is easy. After being diagnosed with a liver tumor in March, Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy in May. It was the hardest news that can ever hit a team, a family, a person. Éric Abidal had to fight for his life. Two months later, he had not only won against Manchester United in the Champions League final, he had also won over a serious health problem. For me, the biggest win for Barça was the one Abidal won on his own. And at Wembley, Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernández made one of the greatest gestures I’ve seen on a football field, as they gave the captain armband to the biggest hero in the squad, Éric Abidal, so that he could lift the biggest trophy in club football. It can’t get bigger than that, for me the best moment of 2011 and one of the best moments ever.
Ivich: Pretty much the entire ceremony at Camp Nou after we won the Champions League. Ibi saying “I’ll try to speak better Spanish next time,” a drunk Valdes and his cute son, Dylan, Villa with his two adorable daughters in matching frilly pink skirts, Messi playing with the kids, Abidal with his daughters, Pep relaxed, the players singing “Por Que, Por Que….”… all of this is a reminder that we truly are “More than a club.”
MegRyan: It is incredibly difficult to pick a favorite moment. I did love seeing all the Barça babies at the celebration as Ivich mentioned above, however, I think I have one. This happened very early in 2011, but it was when Xavi broke Migueli’s record for most games played in a blaugrana shirt. I just loved that the team surprised him with a little ceremony at the end and made him give a speech. I believe he said something to the effect of, “I’m not very good in situations where I’m not in control” because he was kind of nervous and embarrassed. Xavi is just a true legend, and it is clear that to Barcelona and culés, he is absolutely adored and very much indispensible.
These have been totalBarça’s Best of 2011, but what have been yours? Let us know if you agree or disagree with our choices in each category or create one of your own in our comments section. 2011 will always be unforgettable, but here is to an even more memorable 2012 with FC Barcelona!