A clubs style of play is as important as the emblem that sits on it’s badge. It’s hard to point out a team that has stuck to its roots and is flailing in the lower ranks of football’s leagues and competitions. It’s no surprise to see that teams that have stuck to their original identity of football are excelling. This is evident by the continuous success of clubs like Barcelona who have stuck to tiki taka.

The Gist reveals the reasons behind this phenomenon…………………

It has only been two years since Barcelona were battered 7-0 on aggregate at the hands of Bayer Munich in the 2013 Champions League semi’s and lost their La Liga title to Diego Simeone’s Athletico Madrid In 2014. After a rough 2013/14 when most people believed Barcelona’s tiki taka style of play had aged out and been exposed the Blaugrana responded by winning the Spanish treble last season and just two years on, Barca are enjoying the longest undefeated run by a Spanish club in history.

Barcelona  Celebrate 2015 Champions League Crown

In the 1940’s stretching to the 1980’s and 90’s Italy and Italian football became famous for ‘Catenaccio’ or ‘’door bolt’’ (Italian), a playing style with a strong emphasis on defence. It led to the Italy’s most successful period in football, one were clubs like Juventus, Inter Milan, and Ac Milan dominated European football and the Italian National team, word football alike.German Otto Rehhagel also used the style successfully during Greece’s victorious Euro 2004 campaign.

AC Milan Players forming a wall
9 Dec 1992: AC Milan Players Demetrio Albertini, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten form a wall in the European Cup match against PSV Eindhoven. AC Milan won the match 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Chris Cole/Allsport


Another playing style which bred trophies for teams across Europe was Total football, which the Dutch National Team used successfully, well….not completely successfully seeing that they lost the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany. However, Ajax who used the style to perfection went on two consecutive unbeaten seasons and the lift the European Cup in the early seventies. Real Madrid are known to have been the best exponents of total football, one which saw them pick up five European Cups between 1957 and 1962.


The bottom-line is that teams with and established style of play are more successful even today and those who abandoned their style of play are not as strong as before. Importance of a team’s style of play does not just represent how it will conduct itself on the pitch but how the youths coming from the academies will be built up. The evolution of the Spanish national team into a tiki taka based team comes to mind, when this happened young players from across Spain evolved and they were able to use their naturally small bodies to their best abilities, emphasizing technical ability and control over strength and power. This saw players like David Silva, Andres Iniesta and most recently Koke, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and so forth and so on come to the fray.

Spain's national football team players c
Spain lift trophy at the 2010 World Cup

This discipline and loyalty to playing style has contributed two European Championships and a World cup to the Spanish national team’s trophy cabinet but also Barcelona’s most successful period, one that has seen them win more trophies in the past 10 years than in the previous 117 years of their history. It’s no surprise many clubs are now rushing to Spain to hire managers,Miguel Sanchez Flores of Watford and Totenham’s Mauricio Pochetino two examples of thriving Spanish bred managers.

On the other hand, not so much can be said for teams that have abandoned their roots. Manchester United being an example, has fallen since its total football style of play left with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Since then United have been lost in a manager merry go round of David Moyes and current boss Louis Van Gaal’s continuous persistence to employ a style of play that just doesn’t suit United.


David Moyes failure to replicate Ferguson’s methods led him to questioning whether the squad Ferguson had left him was a title winning squad which many begged to differ seeing that the same squad minus the improvements of Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata had won the title by an astonishing 13 points the previous season.


The fruits of loyalty to style of play by Manchester United yielded 39 trophies during Alex Ferguson’s 26 year  trophy laden spell at the helm of the red devils which was mainly driven by the famous class of 92’ and a relatively average squad driven by hard work and dynamism, two qualities needed for a squad employing total football.

Across world football, many talented teams are failing to win titles, not because they lack talent or good players but because they have no method to their play. Most clubs are prepared to high and fire high level managers with the hope of success, Chelsea and Manchester City being such examples. Even world number one Belgium failed to impress at the 2014 world cup, not because they weren’t good enough but because they had no method to their play, in short they were simply 11 stars running across the pitch till their exit in the quarter finals. Even the great Brazil has suffered similar fate since their shift from the renowned Samba football which saw Brazil lift 5 world cup titles before head coach Dunga walked through CBF’s doors in 2014.

Clubs like Athletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City have identified this and have seen success with Dortmund winning two successive bundesliga titles under Jürgen Klopp and leading a resurgent title push against Bayern Munich this season with their aggressive attacking football while Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester are currently about to defying the odds  if they can hold on long enough to win their first ever Barclays Premier league title with their exciting counter attacking football emphasizing quick wing play by Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton coupled with Jamie Vardy’s attacking prowess.


In short, In order to succeed clubs need to identify who they are, not only in the present but in the future as well if they are to taste the long term success of clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid.