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23rd Nov 2015

Why are Barcelona so superior to Real Madrid? We look at the reasons…

Nooruddean Choudry

4-0. At the Bernabeu.

It was the stuff of dreams for Barcelona, and a catastrophe for Real Madrid. The home side were humiliated in front of hundreds of millions of football fans around the world, and on their own patch too.

Why, how and why are the Catalans lording it over their Spanish foes to such a damning extent? Are Barcelona really that good, or Real so completely abject? We’ve put on our thinking caps to have a look at the possible reasons…

La Masia and the philosophy

It’s such a well worn thing to say, but Barcelona are a unique club. As are Real of course, but for very different reasons. If the latter are pure Hollywood and complete box office, the former are more carefully crafted sleeper hit – with an ensemble cast.

#MesQueUnClub may have historical connotations of independence and cultural identity, but it could easily relate to Barcelona’s footballing culture. The club recruit star names at huge expense of course, but they are steadfast in their devotion to the collective and nurturing a distinct style of play.

Barca are an interdependent team, not a collection of stars. And they have one virtue that has always alluded Los Merengues – patience.

Barca’s bulk-buying prior to transfer ban

Let’s not get bogged down in romantic notions and sanitised history. A major reason why Barcelona have been able to progress and improve despite their transfer ban is that they exploited the rules and bought big before the shutters came down.

The club always had their famous academy to rely on, but that hasn’t been as necessary as many predicted – much to the frustration of some supporters who would like to see more movement on the production line.

Splashing out on the likes of Luis Suarez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ivan Rakitic (who has been magnificent) proved vital in Barcelona’s treble-winning campaign last season, and the squad has continued to gel under Luis Enrique’s guidance.

Barca made wise signings under immense pressure – and are reaping the rewards.

Managerial ‘boot room’ and trust

Again, La Masia is often portrayed in the media as nothing more than a highly productive conveyor belt for footballing talent. But much like Ross Geller’s Unagi, it is also a profound wisdom. One that even new recruits take on board and adopt.

That includes the coaching staff. Luis Enrique might not be La Masia alumnus, and his tactics differ from those of Pep Guardiola, but as a former player at the Nou Camp and Barcelona B coach, he gets the club and what is expected of him.

There is lineage that dates back to Johan Cruyff, and perhaps even Rinus Michels – a constant ethos compared to the continual change at Real Madrid.

It is this sense of connection that allows Enrique the kind of job security that is a pipe dream over at the Bernabeu.

Neymar is more influential than Ronaldo

Whisper it, but perhaps Neymar’s star is rising to such astronomic levels that he is in danger of breaking the Messi-Ronaldo glass ceiling. Certainly the Brazilian has taken on the mantle of Barca’s main man in Messi’s absence.

Ronaldo remains a freak phenomenon of our times. He is a physical and technical colossus, but has perhaps morphed into what Judi Dench’s M in Skyfall would describe as a ‘blunt instrument’; he gets the ball and scores a goal.

Neymar is more Lennon than Elvis: A supremely gifted individual who is happy to play his part in a select gang of geniuses.

The Benitez paradox 

You can say what you like about Rafa Benitez, but he is a skilled and consummate tactician. There are few managers in the world that can hone and hammer a side into their own image like the former Liverpool manager can.

It is exactly this virtue that makes him a strange fit for Real Madrid. Benitez sets out his teams in a very structured, rigid way. He can change his formation and tactics, but it is all very scientific. At its best, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Real is a different equation all together. You fit the team around the Galacticos, not the other way round. It is no coincidence that some of Rafa’s best results have come when some of the first picks have been absent.

That is the Benitez paradox – he is the anti-Del Bosque. The larger the constellation of stars, the darker the outcome.