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Sergio Busquets is the most underappreciated footballer

Friday 23rd February 2018

Chelsea vs Barcelona was a tactically intense affair.

Antonio Conte had his men set up behind the ball, depriving Barcelona any space. The Blues' plan was to force mistakes when Barca were in possession, then transition quickly to utilize Eden Hazard, Pedro, and Willian's pace on the counterattack. The strategy was playing out well for the home side, especially when Willian finally put them into the lead.

Joy was short-lived. One defensive error cost. Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi capitalised. Plaudits went to Antonio Conte's brilliant tactics, Kante working his socks off, Willian and Hazard for being a constant threat, Iniesta's brilliant assist, and Messi finally breaking his duck against the blue side of London. The one player who actually bossed the game didn't get near enough credit for his performance. That player was Sergio Busquets.

Many would opine N'golo Kante owned Barcelona's midfield four. Kante had an exceptional game but by no means did he completely dominate the Blaugrana. The visitors did what they always do: pass and build the attack slowly.

For the past 10 years, Sergio Busquets has been crucial to that process. The Spaniard was once again at his brilliant best in southwest London. He made 128 passes from 152 touches and won six tackles, most by any player. That's 103 more passes than Kante with a deadly 93% accuracy. Further food for thought, Busquets wasn't dispossessed once. Kante had his pocket picked three times. No disrespect meant to the Frenchman but Busquets had the better game.

Still only 29, Busi is the dream midfielder for any team. You try to press him; he'll defy it. He brushed aside Chelsea markers all evening.

The cerebral midfielder makes himself available for passes or drags opponents out of position to create space for his teammates. The Busquets trademark fake pass has done so many defenders over the years. He knows his next pass before receiving possession. Busquets is a player with exceptional positional and tactical awareness, a politician's cunning, comprehensive distribution skills, and panoramic vision.

Add to his technical wizardry the fact he's a beast physically. Standing at 6'2', Busquets is great in the air. He isn't afraid to use his stature to impose himself on games. There had to be something special in a player that forced Pep Guardiola to bench Yaya Toure at his peak. As early as 2008, Johan Cruyff agreed.

Positionally, he seems like a veteran with or without the ball. With the ball he makes what is difficult look easy: he disposes of the ball with one or two touches. Without the ball, he gives us a lesson: that of being in the right place to intercept and running just to recover the ball.

The Barcelona number five defines the club system. He controls tempo, recycles possession, plays out from the back, and most importantly does the dirty work in midfield. Consistent, he has a bad game once every other blue moon. He is just the consummate defensive midfielder.

For all the titles Barcelona has won with him at the centre of everything, Busquets has never made the FifPro World XI and La Liga's Team of the Season just once. At the heart of so many successful Barcelona and Spanish sides, Sergio Busquets has never received the credit due for his world-class performances week in week out.

Vedansh Nathani

Manchester United fan from India. Follows almost all sports - football and pro-wrestling in particular. Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are some of his favourites.

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