El Clasico has become one of the must-see sporting spectacles, and the first clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid gives us a clearer indication of which of these giants of the game are in pole position to secure another La Liga crown.
All the talk ahead of the latest instalment of this blockbuster has been surrounding Neymar, the Brazilian superstar’s relationship with Luis Suarez, his never-ending disputes with the taxman and whether he has broken the Messi-Ronaldo stronghold of Ballon d’Or certainties.
However, playing in an anchor role that is often so under-appreciated, Sergio Busquets has won the lot, and then some, and produced form reminiscent of a former captain that even the most optimistic Cule didn’t think could be replicated.
Xavi’s legacy will take some emulating, but with all the physicality, know-how and tactical acumen in his skillset, Busquets has become a leading figure in Barcelona’s style of play, and finally many are starting to see that it is the platform provided by the multi-faceted Spaniard that allows Neymar and co to fire Barcelona to such success.
With a career pass success rate of 91%, it is amazing Busquets has been underrated for so long – His ability to dictate the pace by distributing high-quality passes across the park is second to none in world football.
While Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha have struggled for fitness and Andreas Iniesta’s influence has waned, Busquets has stepped up to the plate, and rather than simply offering cover for an at times shaky Barca backline, the 27-year-old has carried the ball forward with the aura of a Regista at home further up the pitch.
One of the most fouled players in the division, Busquets has a nack of winning a free-kick to relieve his team-mates – another selfless trait that makes him so popular in Catalonia.
A strict fitness regime and diet means he never misses a game. While others have been rotated as younger stars start to get their chance, Busquets never gets that rest, for club or country, due to this need for such a reliable anchor, and his physical condition is key to his dependability.
Even after limping out of Spain’s victory over England, few doubted his powers of recovery before El Clasico, and with the club’s transfer embargo meaning new signings such as Arda Turan cannot be fielded until the new year, Busquets’ ever-presence is vital.
“He is a unique player. He is the most complete and, for me, best midfielder in the world without a doubt,” Barca boss Luis Enrique eulogised recently – a sentiment that few have actually questioned.
Toni Kroos has won praise from Real great Zinedine Zidane recently for his role in the side, as others struggle to find their early season form. Are these anchor men finally getting the recognition they deserve? Or are these two simply too good to ignore?
Lionel Messi’s injury was greeted with exasperation across Catalonia, with such a setback a rare occurrence for the Barca talisman.
However, Neymar and Suarez’s prolific, almost telepathic partnership has meant Messi can recover at his own pace, with goals in anything but short supply at the Nou Camp.
In fact, Busquets could well be their only irreplaceable player among Enrique’s squad, and the two-time treble winner is revelling in such responsibility.
Claude Makelele’s influence on Chelsea and Real Madrid was often understated, with a host of big names later admitting that without the Frenchman’s protection and Regista qualities, their respective sides would not have won what they have.
Such admittance seems to have taken experts and fans aback. These pivotal playmakers and tempo-dictators are fundamental to even the most attacking team’s hopes of success – the realisation has set in that it is high time they are recognised.
And ahead of the most-watched match in world football, Busquets can once again prove there is more to Barcelona than their dynamic frontmen, and those who start the moves that lead to such moments of glory are just as important as those tax-evading superstar finishers.
About the Author – Pete Hall
Freelance football writer working predominantly for Sky Sports. Also regularly write for Bleacher Report, Eurosport, FourFourTwo and numerous others.