There was a time, in the distant 20th century, when the starting teams seemed untouchable and the fans knew the eleven by heart. “Son, tell these gentlemen who plays in the Barca from Menotti“, Said the proud father before his friends. And the boy recited knowingly: “Urruti. Gerardo-Migueli-Alexanko-Julio Alberto. Victor-Schuster-Alonso. Marcos-Maradona-Carrasco“. There was a whole liturgy in those corrido line-ups, the same one that the journalist rescued Yves Bigot, when he remembered that the front of the Brazil who won the 58 World Cup (Didí, Vavá, Pelé, Garrincha, Zagalo) was pronounced with the same rhythm as “a-one-ba-buluba-balam-bambú”, the success of Little Richard.
Today, high competition, rotations and the increase in injuries have turned the concept of a starting eleven into an anachronism, although fans continue to do their math before each game. After all, the continuity of some names, as well as the confidence in a fixed scheme, are proof of success, and its opposite effect – the mess and changes – a sign of doubts in the game. We have seen it at Barça in recent seasons, with constant comings and goings, sometimes voluntary and others forced by casualties. Who has suffered the most to find a starting eleven is Xavi, always with that feeling of going with the right baggage to try to apply a style –or a styling–.
Now, finally, his Barça arrives at tomorrow’s game against athletic club being able to choose. The three midfield positions will be shared between Busquets, Pedri, Gavi, Nico, De Jong Y Riqui Puig. It will not be an easy choice. From his experience, Busquets seems the most obvious, although there are other attractive and unexpected combinations, and there will be those who prefer the cheek of youth. The competition will be healthy as long as everyone has a number in Xavi’s raffle and can contribute freshness, and it would be precisely a mistake to look for the perfect and immovable triangle. Where three fit, four fit. Or five.