BARCELONA: As Barcelona prepare to welcome back Pep Guardiola to the Nou Camp for Wednesday’s Champions League game against Manchester City, Reuters Sport looks at how the club has evolved since the visionary coach departed in 2012.
STEADILY INCREASING TROPHY COUNT
Guardiola unseated his old mentor Johan Cruyff as Barca’s most decorated coach by winning 14 of 19 major competitions entered between 2008 and 2012, including two Champions Leagues, three La Liga titles and two King’s Cups.
Three different coaches have taken charge since he left in 2012, the late Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino and Luis Enrique, adding a combined 10 trophies.
In little over two years Luis Enrique has won eight competitions, including the 2015 Champions League and two league titles, and could eclipse Guardiola’s silverware haul if he chooses to extend his contract beyond June 2017.
REVAMPED SQUAD WITH COMMON BASE
Just five core players from the squad Guardiola bade farewell to remain at the club – Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and talisman Lionel Messi.
Sergi Roberto and Rafinha, who were both in the youth system then but were handed their debuts by Guardiola, are now first- team regulars, with the Brazilian scoring twice in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.
INCREASED REVENUES AND A GLOBAL EXPANSION STRATEGY
Guardiola’s sustained success further elevated Barcelona’s global profile and laid the foundations for a financial boom, with revenues growing from 334 million euros (£307 million)before he arrived in 2008 to 495 million when he left.
The club’s surge in revenues has only accelerated in the ensuing four years, posting a record 679 million euros for last season, the biggest in Spain.
Barca have finalised plans to redevelop their Nou Camp stadium, increasing the capacity from 98,000 to 105,000 by 2021. They have also cranked up their global strategy by opening offices in Hong Kong and New York, also announcing plans to set up a women’s soccer franchise in the U.S.
EVOLVED PLAYING STYLE
Guardiola became the most coveted coach in world soccer after building a Barca side that monopolised possession and served up scintillating football, culminating in outstanding wins over Manchester United in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals.
While Barca continue to dominate the ball and press high under Luis Enrique, the focus has shifted from control in midfield to sharp attacks engineered by their devastating front line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
“Barcelona now have players capable of playing two styles,” says former captain Xavi Hernandez.
“They can play with possession but if they push back they can counter-attack to perfection. They don’t need to elaborate the play too much as the three forwards are capable of creating attacks on their own.”
DECLINING ROLE FOR HOMEGROWN YOUNGSTERS
Although Barca spent an estimated 350 million euros on signings while Guardiola was in charge, the coach had a reputation for blooding youngsters, giving 22 academy players their debuts, including future mainstays Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Pedro.
The club’s much-lauded emphasis on home-grown talent has steadily declined since Guardiola left, however.
Although Sergi Roberto and Rafinha have become regulars under Luis Enrique, he sent forward Munir El Haddadi and promising midfielder Sergi Samper out on loan this summer while spending an estimated 122 million euros on new players.