BARCELONA (AFP) – It was ten years ago Alex Ferguson dubbed them the best team he had ever faced but those left from Barcelona’s iconic generation still have work to do.
Three remain and when Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique line up against Liverpool on Wednesday, they may wonder if this could be their best chance of another, and perhaps final, Champions League triumph.
Pep Guardiola’s mesmeric side had just danced around and dizzied Manchester United in 2009, their 2-0 victory completing an historic treble, when Ferguson conceded: “Nobody has given us a hiding like that.”
But not long after the final whistle at Wembley, Ferguson expressed doubts too, about the longevity of that Barca group and then, whether they could ever be replaced.
“Great teams go in cycles and the cycle they’re in at the moment is the best in Europe,” he said. “How long it lasts and whether they can replace that team…they have the philosophy but it’s difficult to say if you can find players like Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta and Messi all the time. Probably not.”
Xavi and Iniesta have gone, succeeded by the all-encompassing Ivan Rakitic and, more recently, Arthur Melo, who could mature into the kind of player his predecessors would admire.