Sometimes soccer can seem a very simple sport. The great Dutch coach Rinus Michels, the father of the Total Football school of the late sixties and early seventies and the man who took that style of soccer to Barcelona, believed that his side should always play one more defender than the other team had attackers. If the opponent played three up, Michels liked four back; if two up, then three back. To an extent, that has been the theoretical orthodoxy ever since.
Ask anybody who's done it, and they'll tell you that sustaining success is much harder than achieving it in the first place. The great Hungarian coach Bela Guttmann refused ever to spend longer than three years at a club because he felt that after that he could no longer motivate players. It may be that in the modern world of soccer in which money begets money, success is easier to sustain than previously, at least on a domestic level. On a European scale what that means is a cluster of perhaps eight or so super powers constantly battling for the Champions League, which is surely the main reason no side has successfully defended the title since the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi in 1990.
Here we go, then. Barcelona and Real's very own World Series starts now, the most exciting run of games in living memory or definitive and depressing proof that no one else in Spain matters -- great clubs, superb teams and talented players, relegated to an irrelevance, in the shadow of two footballing behemoths. For two weeks, at least.
It was the ultimate expression of modern player power. In January, Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced he was "taking a break" from international football. The Barcelona forward will not play for the Swedish national team for the foreseeable future.
These lists are not mere compilations of all-time bests in their respective sports but all-time bests at quickening the pulse and evoking a visceral response from those fortunate enough to have witnessed their artistry.
"The Spirit of..." team has been running an online poll asking viewers to choose who they think has been the most influential leader to have featured on the show over the course of the past twelve months.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Pep Guardiola. At 33, he had chosen to end his career in Qatar largely because, as he saw it, the modern game had no room for a guy like him.
There are more pounds around the middle and less hair up top these days as perhaps the most powerful yet graceful player ever produced in Europe slides toward his 46th birthday, his playing days long past and an oft-aborted coaching career in its fourth phase.
When a star player at the peak of his powers moves to one of the world's biggest clubs, it is generally assumed that the buying club got the better half of the deal. Ambition triumphs over loyalty. But with Thierry Henry's transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona, it looks like the English club has good reason to be smiling.