Enjoy Guardiola’s Barça: The Dark Ages were disastrous >> Read My Mind

With the whole of the Blaugrana world focusing on the titanic battle with Real Madrid and knocking their pretentious backsides off La Liga’s top spot, I would like to use today’s Read My Mind article to put Barça’s current success into perspective by looking back at one of the worst periods in our over 100 years of history: The Dark Ages.

After years of consistently enjoying victories and mesmerising attacking football, former president Josep Lluis Nuñez decided to sack Johan Cruyff for what can only be interpreted as ‘personal disagreements’ between both big-headed individuals before the end of the 1995/96 season.

It was obvious that Koeman, Guardiola, Stoitchkov and other members of Barça’s legendary Dream Team weren’t at their best, especially from the 4-0 defeat against AC Milan in the 1994 Champions League final onwards, but getting rid of our most successful manager ever was seen by many Culės (me included) as a suicidal move.

Strangely, Sir Bobby Robson (followed by his puppy / personal assistant / translator buddy Mourinho) took over at the Camp Nou shortly after. Luckily for them, Barça signed Brazilian youngster Ronaldo Nazario from PSV Eindhoven at the same time. The powerful striker proved an absolute leader on the pitch, taking the Blaugranas to lifting Copa Del Rey, the European Cup Winners Cup and second place in La Liga, behind Real Madrid. Guess what happened next? You’re right: Robson got kicked out of Barcelona despite winning 2 trophies. Another weird, rushed decision by the Barça board that fans couldn’t really explain.

But it got worse. President Nuñez then sold Ronaldo (by then, clearly the best player on Earth) to Inter Milan as he refused to listen to the Brazilian’s demands to improve his yearly wage due to his impressive first season. This regrettable decision meant FC Barcelona was, once again, losing a star player because of poor judgement by our board – as it had previously happened with Maradona, Laudrup, Schuster and many others before them.

From then on, everything went downhill at a frightening speed.

Van Gaal was appointed manager, with Culė fans hoping his Dutch roots and Ajax heritage would bring back Cruyff’s former glory and stylish football to the Camp Nou. He did neither. Fair enough, he won a couple of Ligas but, to be honest, the damage he did to our club’s image was irreparable. His dry, robotic personality clashed with our club’s culture: It was a match made in hell.

The Dutch Dictator replenished our squad with pseudo-footballers such as Bogarde, Petit or Okunowo, ruined promising signings such as Overmars or Gerard Lopez and mostly fielded Dutch players throughout the season, neglecting most La Masia talent of their chance to impress. There was also Figo The Pig‘s betrayal, Judas style, covered in more detail here. In conclusion: A great job, Brick-Head!!!

As for President Nuñez… Well, the fan uproar in the streets of Barcelona was such that he was obviously forced to give up his seat. Then Gaspart took over, turning the Camp Nou into a laughable misery thanks to his constant whining and ridiculous comments whenever possible. Fans hated him too and made him resign, then a couple of Mr Nobodies took control and made Barça’s terrible crisis even worse…

Facts never lie: Between 1996 and 2002 FC Barcelona only won 2 Ligas, 2 Copas Del Rey, 1 Cup Winner’s Cup and a European Supercup. Very poor return indeed. What’s worse: The Camp Nou celebrated achieving 4th place in La Liga 2001 as if we had won a Champions League final. Fair enough., Rivaldo’s goal was beautiful but grabbing a European football spot in the last match is simply NOT up to our standards!!!

Looking back, there aren’t many positives to take. To be honest, the only one I can think of is that a very young, courageous Carles Puyol and a clever, tiny midfielder called Xavi Hernández made their debuts in that period and, based on their experience throughout those horrible times, are able to enjoy our current success even more.

Having said all of the above, I recommend that, whenever you feel like criticising Messi because he hasn’t scored for a couple of matches or blaming Villa for being offside too many times, you look back at the time when Barça was a LESSER team in European football.

Or even better: Simply sit back and enjoy watching Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and friends make history.


Posted by: Tom , Columnist at ‘Read My Mind’