Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 when he was 35. Andres Iniesta left in 2018, when he was 34. Now it’s Sergio Busquets’ turn to leave, when he’s 34, Ototo is 35. Everything is sealed there in the mythical link at Camp Nou – they even retire same age When this season ends, and Busquets says goodbye to his fans in Catalonia for the last time, nothing will be left of this legendary squad. It now belongs only to history, and will never be restored. It is allowed to feel a pinch in the heart. Busquets was the last remnant of the wonderful team, and now he is turning off the light when the new team, with Xavi on the lines, is perhaps going to turn it on again, in slightly different shades.
The point is that Busquets’ start was different compared to his two partners. Xavi joined La Masia at the age of 11, and made his debut for Barca’s senior team at 18. Iniesta joined La Masia at the age of 12, with his family turning down an offer from Real Madrid because its academy was too close to the red light district, and made his debut for the team The adult is also 18 years old. In contrast, Busquets moved to La Masia only at the age of 17, and the debut in the first team only exists at the age of 20. In this sense, he is apparently the “least educated”, and was not trained in everything related to the Blaugrana’s style when he was a teenager.
And this is actually surprising, because this is the son of a Barcelona player. Although Carles Busquets was a goalkeeper, and also served mainly as a back-up for Andoni Sovisarte and his successors, it is still the meat of Barca, who grew up in La Masia himself and belonged to the first team for an entire decade in the 90s, with 79 league games on his resume. In the 1994/95 season, he was Johan Cruyff’s first-choice goalkeeper, delivering a number of great performances, but his best-known performance was, unfortunately, in the 5-0 El Clasico defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu, in which Ivan Semorano scored a first-half hat-trick – exactly a year after Barca had trampled the Whites in the Camp Nuo with Romario’s hat trick.
Pep Guardiola was then complicit in the defeat and was replaced at halftime. Later, he had time to play with Xavi and Iniesta, but from the Busquets family he was on the pitch with only his father. On the other hand, the son became the player most identified with him and the revolution he brought about when he returned to the club as a coach. Xavi and Iniesta were already then, of course, in the system – even if in much more marginal roles. Nor did one have to be a great genius to make Dani Alves Barca’s first acquisition in the summer of 2008. Busquets, who actually came to the club on a striker standard and was not considered a promise at all in the academy, was Pep’s personal brilliance, and it started already in the reserve team in 2007.
The tall, lanky youngster was then shifted to the center of the pitch and became a dominant player in the fourth division, but it was very far from the public eye, even if it was Barcelona fans. Therefore, when the lineup against Racing Santander was announced on September 13, 2008, many wondered who it was. The last name betrayed a connection to the former goalkeeper, but beyond that he was a complete mystery, and the opponent’s coach Juan Muniz also admitted that he had no idea about him. The reference to his performance, with number 28 on his back, was swallowed up in a wave of criticism after the 1:1 draw. After a loss to Numancia in the first round, some perceived the beginning of Pep’s tenure as a fiasco, but the young coach himself was very enthusiastic about the ability against Santander and stated: “If we continue to play like this, everything will be great.” And he was right on the way to the treble, as he was right with Busquets.
On the way to recognition, Busquets had to overcome several question marks. In Barcelona, he gradually replaced Yaya Toure, who is a tremendous player by any standard, with distinct advantages on his face. The star from the Ivory Coast burned spaces in the center of the pitch, joined the attacks, knew how to finish them, and it was no accident that he became such an important key player in the Manchester City set-up after the move in 2010. Busquets on the whole distributed simple passes near the center circle, and at first glance their contribution could not be compared at all. For those who understood the basics of Guardiola’s style the decision seemed more logical, but at Camp Nou they still regretted Toure’s departure. “It was impossible to compete with Busquets,” said Yaya, emphasizing that he would have preferred to play at Barca until the end of his career.-
In the Spanish national team, the criticism towards Busquets was a little different. With Luis Aragonés, the Reds played in a 1-4-1-4 formation, with one back midfielder in the form of Marcos Senna and 4 creative midfielders of a distinct attacking nature – and thus won Euro 2008. With Vicente del Bosque on the lines, she gave up one of the forward midfielders In favor of two central midfielders – Xavi Alonso and Busquets, so the formation changed to 1-3-2-4 and was naturally less adventurous and more boring. The inclusion of Xavi Alonso was completely natural, but many fans and commentators were outraged by the choice of Busquets. Del Bosque remained firm in his opinion, and Spain won the 2010 World Cup. That’s how Busquets was upgraded from a player in the fourth division to a world champion in two years.-
Finally, there were also objections regarding his character on the field – and his approach was sometimes perceived as unsportsmanlike. The debate came to a head when Busquets made a play in the Champions League semi-final against Inter in 2010, causing Thiago Motta to be sent off, and taking a playful look while lying on the grass to make sure the referee drew the correct card. Some disliked this conduct, but for Guardiola it was also a blessing. These types of drills, plus endless talks with the referees, are an integral part of the game plan in all his teams, and Busquets fit in perfectly. Even this dirty work he always knew how to do with elegance and wisdom – similar to his touches on the ball.
His influence on the game was generally overlooked, as Busquets did nothing extraordinary, just controlled the pace and helped move the ball. Children who watched the great Barca dreamed of imitating Leo Messi, Iniesta and Xavi, but not Busquets. But if you ask the coaches, you get the opposite picture. “I would like to know how to play like him. He always plays thinking of the others. He understands the needs of the team and adapts himself to them. He plays simply and clearly.” Del Bosque also stated simply: “If I could be a player now, I would want to be Busquets.” Luis Enrique defined him as an “almost perfect midfielder”, and tried to convince him not to retire from the team at the end of the last World Cup, even though he himself already knew about his departure. He wanted Busquets to help his successor as well.
The stars knew his worth well. Xavi and Iniesta said Busquets helped them become better, while Gerard Pique stated: “There is no one who plays with one touch better than him.” Because with Busquets, one touch was usually enough. One touch, and another, and another, and another. In total, this amounted to more than 100 touches per game, but a negligible number of career goals and assists. It’s especially amazing because he has a great kick, and he was a decent scorer in his youth, but Busquets just knew there were players who did it better than him. He concentrated on aspects where his contribution was maximal, and media attention never interested him. He was mostly jealous of the “ordinary people who can go out on the street without being recognized”.
As a coach, Xavi appreciates Busquets no less than as a player, and he also tried to convince him to extend the contract, but he himself set the rule that Barca’s midfielders should leave at the age of 35. Xavi said goodbye as Spanish champion, as did Iniesta. Now Busquets had the opportunity to do as they did – and there was a fear that it would not be possible for him when the Catalans were in a deep and continuous crisis. Now, a win over Espanyol Derby on Sunday will secure them the crown, and Busquets will be able to celebrate his 9th title. Add to that 3 wins in the Champions League, 7 wins in the Spanish Cup, and also the title of World Champion and European Champion. No matter how you look at it, this is a brilliant and extraordinary career.
Busquets is said to have redefined the midfield role, but that’s probably not entirely accurate, because it means others will follow – and it’s not at all possible. Barca is still looking for the new Xavi and the new Iniesta, and even if they have a spectacular duo in the form of Pedri and Gabi – they are still very fundamentally different players. Now the search for the new Busquets will also begin, and it is also expected to end in nothing. There will never be another like him, and he leaves behind only longings.