One of the biggest tragedies of soccer is that fame and stardom are enjoyed primarily by attacking players. Historically, the Ballon d’Or has been shared disproportionately among attacking players with only four defensive players ever winning this prestigious award. Many pundits and experts have even suggested splitting the award into two to make the competition slightly more fair. Often, attackers get credited for a victory while the beauty and importance of a strong defense is overlooked. This is especially the case for center defensive midfielders. They are not known for being flashy with the ball and they are rarely in the limelight. However, take them out of a team and you’re left with chaos on the field. They tend to be the crux of the team as the rest of the players beat to the tempo set by these defensive midfielders. They’re the ones responsible for covering for a mistake made by the center backs and they continue to give it their 100 percent game in and game out without being given the credit they deserve, which takes incredible amount of mental strength and willpower. They are often times the most intelligent player on their team, always two steps ahead of the opposition. For me, Sergio Busquets of Barcelona Football Club embodies these characteristics to the fullest. For those people who aren’t avid enthusiasts of soccer, names like Messi, Iniesta, Ronaldinho and Xavi will all sound familiar. However, most of them will not even have heard of Busquets.
Born in Sabadell, Spain, Sergio Busquets Burgos rose through the ranks of the esteemed Barcelona Youth Academy, La Masia. He made his debut for the senior team in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history. He was key to Pep Guardiola’s success with Barcelona and has been at the heart of the team ever since. Busquets is the complete midfielder; he adds security to the team since he very rarely loses the ball. He is known for his consistency, efficiency and ethereal elegance. He is the fulcrum of one of the greatest teams in modern football. Playing alongside Iniesta, Xavi, and Messi for years, his importance to the team is often grossly underappreciated and, he is often disliked by many opposing fans because he does the dirty work for both club and country. He knows when to commit a tactical foul and when to feign injury to break up and slow down play. He lures defenders to him, thereby creating space for players like Messi and Iniesta perform their magic. Then just when you think the opposition is going to steal the ball from him, he releases it to another player who now has acres of space. One of his other brilliant qualities is that he always receives the ball in the most crowded and impossible positions (most often played directly from the goalkeeper) but somehow emerges with the ball glued to his feet.
Busquets often drops deep and plays in line with the defenders, allowing the wing backs to push up the field and press the opponents. His game sense is so refined that it looks like he is always in the right place at the right time, intercepting through-balls and making crucial tackles throughout the game, all the while making it look effortless. Without the need for an ego and without trying to be extravagant, Busquets has thrived in this highly specialized role for years. He once famously said in an interview, “I would rather cut out 10 passes and win the ball back than play a load of one-twos.”
Coaches and players have only good things to say about this footballing genius. Cruyff said “He is a gift for any coach”, Xavi said he is “fundamental” and Pep Guardiola, arguably one of the best coaches of the last decade, said “you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game.” This is testament to how despite always being behind the scenes and not being the obvious star of team, he is arguably one of the most, if not the most important player.
To sum up, through the transitions at Barcelona over the last ten years, Busquets has remained a constant. He has never been eager for recognition and in an era where players are constantly changing clubs for money, he epitomizes loyalty. At the age of 29, he has won almost everything there is to win for both club and country: 6 La Liga titles, 5 Copa del Rey’s, 3 Champions League’s, 1 World Cup and 1 European Cup. When he finally hangs up his boots, I think there will be a huge hole in the Barcelona midfield that will remain empty for a long time.
A video highlighting Busquets’ brilliance and ingenuity can be viewed by accessing the following link: