By Samindra Kunti, Amsterdam Arena – Joan Vila Bosch has been eulogizing the beautiful game, the Barcelona way, for years. He is a key figure at FC Barcelona. He played with Johan Cruyff and, as a youth coach, helped shape the careers of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas at the Nou Camp.
Today, he is the club’s director of methodology. He coaches the coaches, but is also tasked with ensuring the continuity of the famed style of play and philosophy that has made the club iconic around the world. At the Aspire4Sport Global Summit on Football Performance & Science, Football Qatar sat down with Joan Vila Bosch.
What is the idea behind FC Barcelona?
Our idea is about creative and associative football. By simply watching Barcelona you see that our aim is to have the ball, dominate the game and generate superiority – through ball possession. That is the idea that has been growing in Barcelona for the last 30 years.
Who was the most influential at FC Barcelona – Johan Cruyff or Pep Guardiola?
Both were. In the 90’s Johan Cruyff, the pupil of Rinus Michels, changed the mentality at Barcelona – not only in the first team, but across all youth levels and formative sections. That was very important. The idea of ball possession was developed. Then came Pep Guardiola, who played under Cruyff. His arrival coincided with the advent of an exceptional generation – Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Busquets, Pique, Puyol, Valdes. All these players grew up in the 90’s with that singular idea. So, they reached the first team, with a great coach. Barcelona’s golden era began in 2008, but that was the result of a process of more than 20 years – more than 20 years to get to the top, the summit. That golden moment has been lasting for practically eight years now. That’s our challenge for the future, that we can have the same continuity with this model.
Will we see another golden generation in the future?
Yes, we have to believe that in the future we can have a generation that is as talented as that one, but it is difficult. We are talking about an entire generation. We will have good generations in the next few years, because we have excellent players at youth level. We hope that Busquets, Alba, Pique and Iniesta, who is not that young anymore, will serve and help the younger players, who will join the ranks of the first team in the next few years. The next generations won’t be as extraordinary and as special as that one, but they will be good.
You saw Xavi and Iniesta as little children, but has youth development at Barcelona changed in any way over the years?
No, it hasn’t changed. We have followed the same idea for 25 years. We haven’t changed our youth development. Great talent is innate, and part nurtured by youth development. When Xavi and Iniesta arrived at the club at the age of 10 or 11, they already had something different from the rest. We are talking about exceptional examples. We also have very talented players of the age of 10, 11, 13, 14 that we try to form during those years. Could there be another Xavi or Iniesta in the future? Yes!
Who is the best player you have seen play at FC Barcelona?
The best player is Messi. I fell in love with football when I was 15 years old and I watched Brazil in 1970 against Italy – Pele, Tostao, Jairzinho, Clodoaldo, Rivelino and Gerson. My idol was Pele, my previous idol was Cruyff and my current idol is Messi – and also Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol, not only because they are great players, but also because I saw them grow up. I was a coach of these players and it is a great satisfaction to see that they have become among the best players in the world. They have special significance for me. But you ask – the best that I have ever seen play? I think that is Messi.
Luis Enrique is the current head coach of Barcelona. How is he different from Guardiola?
They were two different players and they are two different coaches. They are both very good. I have always considered Guardiola the best coach that I know. I have a close relationship with him. We talked a lot. He is sensational. Enrique succeeded him after Tito Vilanova, who sadly passed away. He is coaching players that played under Guardiola – Iniesta, Pique, Alba, important players. He has taken over the blue print of Guardiola somewhat, but Enrique has his own personality. He is not the same as Guardiola, but he applies the same playing philosophy with some different characteristics.
Will Guardiola succeed at Manchester City?
Certainly. I have no doubt. He will show his value at City, the way he did at Munich.
Why is Guardiola so special?
He fulfills all the requirements of a great coach. He is very intelligent, a very hard worker. He knows perfectly how Barcelona works as a club. The ideas of Cruyff have helped him and his footballing sensibility. He is great at formative level. He talks various languages. I would also say that one of his great characteristics is that he wants to learn every day. He listens a lot.
Finally, you have been at Barcelona your whole life. Have you changed?
I arrived at Barcelona when I was 15. I had my formation here as player and as coach, and now I am the coach of the coaches. I have always learned, not only about Barcelona’s idea, but I listen, I discuss and learn from a lot of people. My formation is FC Barcelona, but I have grown up and believed in the idea of associative football, with a lot of attacking. It is difficult at my age to change ideas! Over the years I have seen that creative and attacking football is not only aesthetic – in the sense of jogo bonito, but it is also a winning approach. Barcelona wins. That’s why we keep following this idea.