SIMON Kuper’s latest offering, Barca, is one of the most engaging books about a football club and certainly the most revealing, without ever getting scandalous or mucky.
Kuper is, of course, a fine writer, one who knows the game and its mechanics. Not for nothing is he the co-author of that excellent work, Soccernomics.
So vital is this book that any reader will plough through it in a few days, it is compelling and destroys some of the myths about Barcelona. In short, it often portrays the Catalan giants as a somewhat shambolic organisation, one that allowed itself to be over-influenced by one player, Lionel Messi. The culture that was driven by Johan Cruyff has been eroded in recent years by desperate attempts to keep and afford Messi while allowing him to have free license.
Moreover, Cruyff’s legions of admirers will be disappointed by some of the nonsense around the Dutch legend. Nevertheless, it is eye-opening and a little sad to read that Cruyff appeared to be a guy with a giant ego and, invariably, a political agenda.
While Kuper’s story heads towards the club’s current crisis, the book was arguably written just a few months too early. Recent events have served to rubber-stamp the club’s decline and despite already preparing the reader for the fall of empire, when the book is revised, the whole Messi saga will make for interesting copy. Messi doesn’t come out of it too well, but how will he look in a year or two?
Barca is also a book for our times, explaining just how big-time football has floated towards the abyss. There are doubtless other tales to be told, and there would be no better narrator than Simon Kuper. An essential book.
Barca by Simon Kuper is published by Short Books.