Unsung Heroes #3: Sergio Busquets

Time for the third edition of Unsung Heroes, a summer series on Chronicles of Almunia for which we/I are/am still accepting entiries. Before this entry gets going, let me just say: I know Sergio Busquets is a cheat, but don’t judge me – judge Sam Robinson, the author of this fine piece, instead. This post first appeared on his blog, Liquid Football.

If anything encapsulated public opinion of Sergio Busquets, it is the top search result for the Barcelona and Spain midfielder on Google: “Sergio Busquets dive”. Fair to say, then, that most people don’t like him.

His play-acting is indefensible, a perennial pain in the arse. The most famous example comes from the Champions League semi-final of 2010 against an Inter Milan side then managed by José Mourinho. Busquets was supposedly pushed in the face by former Barcelona man Thiago Motta. If, by chance, Busquets looked through his hands for long enough, he’d have seen Motta being given his second yellow card by the referee.

The footballing world exploded with rage. Motta hit out at the Spaniard, saying “He always does it, it is terrible behaviour.”

However, when Busquets isn’t throwing himself on the floor, pretending to be injured, he is a superb footballer. Without him, Barcelona would not function in the manner that has people across the globe salivating.

The son of former Barcelona goalkeeper Carles Busquets, Sergio is the anchor of the midfield. His presence gives Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta – Cesc Fàbregas has recently come into the fold, too, since his summer move from Arsenal – a licence to work their magic further up-field, safe in the knowledge that Busquets is on hand to stop any potential counter-attacks. Whilst this is not an infallible tactic, it works most of the time.

The most vociferous support for Busquets comes from his team-mates; Xavi says that Busquets is “fundamental” to both Barcelona and Spain, he “reads the game well and moves the ball with precision, in as few touches as possible.” Robust and simple, but effective too. He receives the ball, looks up, spots a team-mate and gives them the ball; no complications, merely continuity.

Busquets, who has had only three shots all season in La Liga, could be seen as representative of everything that is anti-Barcelona to the footballing purists. The 23 year-old does the dirty work in a team of beauty; a footballing paradox, if you will. In the midst of a squad with an exuberance of quality, he takes little credit for his role in the side. Instead, it is Xavi, Iniesta and Messi who usually pick up the plaudits.

Nonetheless, it is Busquets who provides the foundations. He, himself, has said that “People who don’t like football don’t appreciate” his style but his team-mates do: “They appreciate that I do the dirty work and I know it is necessary.”

It is not just Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola who sees Busquets as a quality player either.

The Spain coach, Vicente Del Bosque, who led the national side to World Cup glory in 2010, said before the tournament: “If I could be like any player in the world, I would like to be Sergio Busquets”. High praise, indeed, from such a decorated manager who oversaw the height of the Galactico era at Real Madrid. He promptly put the La Masia product into his midfield for every game of the competition and made him a World Cup winner at the age of 21.

So often the pantomime villain, Busquets has been accused of being out of place at Barcelona. On the field it is rare to find him out of place. He is their destroyer, a vital cog in a footballing machine. He has, on occasion, been forced to play at centre back and has shown great versatility and competence in doing so.

Busquets currently has a contract that runs until 2015 with a buyout clause of €150m. Even that may not be enough to tempt Barcelona to part with a player whose contribution is priceless.

Please note: all statistics correct at time of writing (9/3/2012)


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