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on 24 October 2015
I read a review prior to purchasing that said the writing was not great and the chapters and stories were repetitive, however I like Graham Hunter both in the papers and on radio so thought I would give it a chance. The reviewer was right not Graham best piece of writing, did repeat itself however the passion, love, the detail of the individuals was fascinating, been reminded of some great games made the heart race hard. Good read graham, great insight from your research.
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on 23 June 2017
Well written and intriguing book that summerises the greatest era of club football. From Messi, Xavi and Iniesta we get an insight to inner workings of FC Barcelona. And how they become synonymous with fantastic football.
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on 5 July 2014
Absolutely fantastic. The insight is incredible, and having a book as deeply thought out and written to take us through the golden years of Barca under Pep Guardiola just exemplifies what a truly momentous era of football we have been lucky to witness in real time, and to refer to in greater detail through Graham Hunter's book.
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on 4 March 2017
A must read, for a Barca fan or anyone who is interested in the best team that shattered top European goal posts!
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on 6 September 2017
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on 27 October 2012
This book is a superb chronicle of FC Barcelona's meteroic rise to rule the football world over recent times. Concentrating mainly on the Pep Guardiola era (2008 - 2012), the author includes well researched and detailed entries on the key players in the current team as well as a number of personnel who have helped develop this groundbreaking team. The author writes with economy and purpose very passionately about the nucleus of the current team including obviously Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta et al. It is very clear how much the nucleus of homegrown players have influenced this footballing sensation with their own dynamic, quick passing tiki taka style football which exhilarates and astounds in equal measures. In addition to chapters on current players we learn of the famous La Masia and how the youngsters are schooled and moulded into the future Messis and Puyols in years to come. A chapter on the essence of the breathtaking football we take from granted from FC Barclona is also included featuring Johan Cruyff and how his methods of total football forms the basis of what we admire today. The author has clearly referenced a massive amount of material to create this fascinating book and it is a real page turner.

The highlight of the book would be the detailed and gripping accounts portraying Messi and the moulding of the team by the dedication of Pep Guardiola. We are left in no doubt that this team, surely the greatest of all time, did not come about through accident. The chapters on the total football / tiki taka football style and the La Masia football academy help complete the book. The reader gets an insight from the grassroots style of play used, the teaching of the kids in this style through the various stages of the La Masia to the fulfilment of this dream on a world stage in Champions League finals.

Whilst a superb football book, one of the best you will read, there are a couple of very minor quibbles. Clearly any football lover (and especially those who buy this book) will have great admiration of the team some may find parts where the author over eulogises and seems a tad excessive. Also whilst frequent reference is made to Cruyff's 1992 Champions League winning 'Dream Team' there is not a single mention of the marking of the end of this team- namely the 1994 Champions League final when AC Milan crushed Cruyff's 'Dream Team' 4-0. The end of the Dream Team era. It also seems that the author has his preferences in the politics of FCB and the current president does not yet sit on the same pedestal that the author perchs Joan Laporta, president between 2003 - 2010!

Overall the positives massively overwhelm these small negatives in the same way FC Barcelona frequently overwhelm their opponents on the pitch. With style, panache and intelligence. If you like football, this is essential reading.
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on 15 March 2013
This is possibly the most enjoyable book about sport that I have read, certainly the best I have read in a long time. The combination of Graham Hunter, a splendid author, and Barcelona, an even better team, proved to be the perfect match. The book mainly focuses on the greatest period of the clubs history, the three seasons that spanned from 2008-2011. In 2008 Barcelona were a team that were on the wane, full of seasoned internationals and bonafide superstars but lacking motivation and morale. That all changed when Pep Guardiola took charge and brought his own philosophy of possession-based football which was to prove revolutionary. Hunter goes into great detail on how Guardiola was first able to rid the squad of stragglers such as Ronaldinho and Deco and get key players like Messi and Xavi to understand and implement his principles. It is very interesting to then read about the relentless way in which Guardiola went about getting the best out of his players.

Key matches such as the destruction of Man Utd at Wembley and the 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid are also well documented. Hunter also chronicles the rise of Leo Messi, which proves to be very informative, as I was never aware of how close Messi was to moving back to Argentina during his early years at Camp Nou. It is inconceivable to think that fans of European football might have been deprived of watching such a genius in action.

All in all I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in the greatest team to ever play the beautiful game!
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on 22 February 2012
Quite simply the best football book i've ever read. Brilliantly researched and superbly told story of how Barcelona picked themselves up to become the Greatest team in the world, there are some fascinating anecdotes and the writer has had access to the likes of Guardiola and Xavi(my 8 year old son almost wept tears of joy when he got to see him play in the flesh!). Learning how close Alex Mcleish came to signing Messi and Iniesta on loan came as quite a surprise, this a man who thinks Emile Heskey can play on the left side of midfield. He can't,he's even more useless there than up front. Without giving too much away you'll also learn how close the club came to losing the best footballer the world has ever seen before he'd even played in the first team amongst many other fascinating insights.

My partner had to put up with me eulogising over the book so much that I caught her reading it. She has no interest in football whatsover, she is from Wigan.

The book is also brilliantly illustrated, the only other time i've felt compelled to write a review was to warn people about how bad a book is, this is the polar opposite. A superb book about a magnificent football club. Just buy it, you won't regret it.
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on 13 December 2012
If like me, you admire and enjoy Barcelona's own brans of football then this book wont disappoint: this is up there with some of the finest football books I have ever read. The insights into La Masia and Messi's upbringing are particularly good. It is obvious this guy knows his stuff and has researched meticulously to write this book.

Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Pep get star-billing (unsurprisingly) with long-chapters dedicated to fleshing out their backstories. This is great but some chapters (for example on Eric Abidal) feel quite rushed by comparison.

What really lets this book down is the author's completely one-sided arguments for Barca. Now I know Mourinho can be a bit controversial, but you will leave this book believing he is the embodiment of evil and Pep is god himself. (Yes this is a book about Barca but I would have liked a more balanced feel to the whole thing). I found myself remarking to the author on several occasions "Please remove your tongue from [insert Barca related person here] a**e. For example, there were no mentions of Busquets' behaviour in THAT Inter match, rather the author focused on evil himself Mourinho.

Just a minor detail in the grans scheme of things and this is a very enjoyable read if you are a fan of/admire Barca.
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on 24 May 2012
If you want to be informed of the history of FC Barcelona, of Catalonia, and the bloody Civil War, in order to have a greater understanding of where the club stands today this is not the book for you. The Scottish journalist, Graham Hunter, based in Catalonia for the last ten years, has focussed the story entirely on the recent triumphs of the present generation of Barça players, currently under the coach Josep "Pep" Guardiola since the summer of 2008.

It deals with the top names: Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, the goal-keeper Victor Valdés, David Villa the "kid", and king Leo, their successes in the Clasicos matches in La Liga against the age long foe Real Madrid, and the UEFA Champions League finals in Paris against Arsenal in 2006, and the two against Manchester United in 2009 in Rome and two years later at the new Wembley.

But for Hunter the adventure commenced almost a generation earlier with the arrival as coach of the Dutch idol, Johan Cruyff, who in addition to bringing some immediate successes including the winning of the first Champions League trophy in 1992 by the "Dream Team" of international stars of the Koeman, Laudrup, Stoichkov calibre, plus of local products like Salinas, Zubizarreta and Guardiola, planted the seeds of the club's future through its youth nurseries in La Masia, out of which most of the present team, as well as its last lost exile, Cesc Fàbregas, were nurtured and groomed. This distinct long term system of investment is to be compared to the short-term grab and spend practices of tested prima donna galacticos -from Di Stefano to Cristiano Ronaldo, since the 1950s by Madrid.

The author touches on the training methods with the use of CCTV cameras, the friendly family environment, giving the club a head start over the "predatory" hawk-like schemes of British and other Spanish teams, and for any true Barça fan success eventually arrives for those with talent who are prepared to wait rather than fly the nest to the glitter of promised dreams elsewhere. That, however, sounds a little less the thoughts of an observant journalist, but those of an emotional Barcelona supporter analysing events in hindsight, as just as often there is a very fine line between winning and losing a competition, no one waiting on the bench is certain if ever ones luck will indeed change and the manager-cum-coach is prepared to give the thumbs up and allow him to run out onto the field.

The adventure crossed the highs and lows of the mega-stars Brazilians Deco and Ronaldinho, the inability of others stars such as Ibrahimovic or Henry to integrate themselves into the structure after their great days at Inter and Arsenal respectively (hinting that big names whether at Real, Milan, or these days at Mancini's Manchester City are not a prerequisite to instant success), as well as the internal behind the scenes jealousies and power struggles of the top directors that assist or jeopardise the tenure of the latest trainer on the bench.

One must not be starry-eyed. A football club even with gems like Messi and Iniesta is no different to any other business trying to beat its competitors in order to make profits, which in lean times of economic crisis may signify making grave sacrifices and down-sizing its staff. The book is in effect a study of management in action. Hunter shows that whether it concerns the modern decision to adopt a commercial sponsor, UNICEF, Barça knows well all its individual qualities of its goods, and realizes how to market them in the global market beyond the confines of the Iberian peninsula and of Europe. It does this by marrying its Catalan family past with its present and future aspirations. Unfortunately, the author has purposely chosen to avoid dealing with its long past, something which Spanish fans are obviously fully knowledgeable of, whereas outsiders reading the story in English will not be so familiar. Why?

Barcelona, according to Hunter, is not interested simply in the idea of winning rather than losing, but winning in their own fashion. Winning 9 or 10-0 in every match, exciting as it might be initially to the fans, is no competition, a bore, and a waste of time; it simply encourages complacency, the stars start to take things easy, to think less, and it makes the firm gradually slip and slide into dangers, in the same way that General Motors, IBM, or Gilette behaved and failed to maintain their goods and customers during the 1980s and 90s

For British readers unaware of the regular outbursts of José Mourinho since leaving Chelsea in 2007, Hunter has clinically illustrated both his professional merits and personal destructive weaknesses, comprising his so-called "emotional intelligence", and recounted the reason why this record winning and highly charismatic figure was rejected in 2008 over an untried, but loyal Guardiola, and why the club is still the better for that choice despite recently losing La Liga to its rival in 2012 after two incredible years.

In a sense Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World is the story about the club from Guardiola the genius player to the play genius, and the makings of his little diamond Leo Messi. FC Barcelona is more than the sum of the individuals, since the team without Messi and his crown still has many other kings, knights, and court jesters, but when he is not playing it lacks that piece of brilliant unexpected wizardry, and has faulted, something recognised by none other than another former Barça and Argentine legend of the early 1980s, Diego Maradona. Indeed, there is already the case where the "hand of Leo" entered the stadium.

The book aimed at a wide interested reading public is, however, far from perfection. In its over 400 pages it is inevitable that when covering a limited period of the club's life history that as a lot of the material comes from the author's own regular features the analysis, and certain key phrases are repeated several times. It is also surprising that it has relatively few illustrations or photos, no index, and the printing is poorly finished (which realistically is not the fault of the author but of the publisher Backpage Press). And yet, Graham Hunter has still managed to produce a worthy addition to the growing Barcelona collection: useful as most football books for all football fans everywhere, but equally for eager managers wishing to employ original proven ideas to their own work situations.
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