A brief history of Barcelona

July 5, 2012
By Rob Smyth

Barca
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Formed: 1899
European Cup/Champions League: 1991-92, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11
European Cup Winners' Cup: 1978-79, 1981-82, 1988-89, 1996-97
Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (Europa): 1955-58, 1958-60, 1965-66
La Liga: 21
Copa Del Rey: 25
Copa de La Liga: 2
Supercopa de Espana: 9

Barcelona pride themselves on being, as their motto says, "more than a club". They are owned and run by supporters, and are determined to represent the community of Catalonia with nobility and integrity. They have won 20 league titles and 10 major European trophies.

The club was founded in 1899 when Joan Gamper placed a newspaper advert stating that he planned to form a football club. Eleven players attended - included Walter Wild, who would become the club's first president. Barcelona took part in the first ever Copa del Rey in 1902, losing 2-1 to Club Vizcaya in the final, and went on to win the tournament seven times between 1910 and 1928 - most of those with the considerable aid of the Filipino striker Paulino Alcantara, whose 357 goals are still a club record. The following season they won their first championship, their last trophy before the war.

It was in the Fifties that Barcelona started to establish themselves as one of Europe's premier sides. They won three La Ligas and five Copa del Reys; they built a new stadium, the famous Nou Camp; and they were the first winners of the Fairs Cup, the forerunner to the Europa League. The tournament ran for from 1955 to 1958, and Barcelona hammered a London XI 8-2 on aggregate in the final.

In 1961 Barcelona became the first team ever to beat Real Madrid in the European Cup, only to then lose to Benfica in the final. It was the start of a miserable decade, in which they failed to win La Liga or the Euroepan Cup. Two more Fairs Cups and four Copa del Reys were only partial consolation.

The arrival of Johan Cruyff in 1973 led immediately to an overdue title - in a season which included a 5-0 win away to Real Madrid - but that was Barcelona's only La Liga triumph between 1960 and 1985. They won the Cup Winners' Cup for the first time in 1978, repeating the feat in 1982. Yet despite the world-record signing of Diego Maradona in 1982, it was not until the appointment of Terry Venables in 1984 that they returned to the summit of Spanish football.

With Maradona sold to Napoli, Venables' side won La Liga in 1984-85 and then reached the European Cup final a year later, losing on penalties to Steaua Bucharest after missing all four of their spot-kicks. Real Madrid won five titles in a row between 1985 and 1990, but in 1988 Cruyff returned as manager and carefully compiled his 'Dream Team', which included the likes of Ronald Koeman, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov.

They won four titles in a row from 1991 to 1994 - even though, incredibly, they were in second place going into the final day on the last three occasions - and in the midst of that domestic hegemony came nirvana when, in 1992, Ronald Koeman's scorching free-kick gave Barcelona victory over Sampdoria and, with it, their first-ever European Cup.

Bobby Robson claimed the Cup Winners' Cup and the Copa del Rey in his only season, 1996-97, and Louis van Gaal won La Liga for the next two years, but Barcelona were a frequent mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous around the turn of the century. Never was that better reflected than in 2000-01: after a woeful domestic season, Barcelona had to beat Valencia at home on the final day to finish in the top four and gain a Champions League place. They did so, just, thanks to an astonishing hat-trick from Rivaldo, including a last-minute winner that went straight into folklore.

For a time Barcelona seemed frumpy in comparison to Real's galacticos, not least when Real stole Luis Figo from them in 2000, but their faith in youth (Xavi, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol) was rewarded when a brilliant side - augmented by the occasional star signing such as Ronaldinho - emerged under Frank Rijkaard. They won the Champions League in 2006, and also consecutive titles, but then began to lose their way.

In the summer of 2008, Rijkaard was replaced by the former midfield schemer Pep Guardiola, whose first season was astonishingly successful: Barcelona became the first Spanish side to do the Treble of league, cup and European Cup. En route they slaughtered Real Madrid 6-2 in the Bernabeu. They completed a miraculous 2009 when they won the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup and the Club World Championship to complete an unprecedented sextuple.

Barcelona retained the title in 2010, setting a new record for a 38-game Spanish season by amassing 99 points, and also supplied seven of the starting XI when Spain beat Holland in the World Cup final. The following season, the glory continued as they wrapped up another league title and beat Manchester United 3-1 in London to get their hands back on the Champions League trophy. And they continued to play a style of football whose purity was almost without compare. Never mind Catalonia: at times, Barcelona were from another planet.

After such success, a lull had to come and they could only add the 2012 Copa del Rey to their impressive list. At the end of the season, Guardiola decided to take a break and left the future of the club in the hands of his assistant Tito Vilanova.