Book Review: Barca – The Making Of The Greatest Team In The World
I wasn’t going to read ‘Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World’, by Graham Hunter. But then people started talking. “It’s really good”, they said. “The best book of the year”, they said. And so, despite my reservations, I went and bought the bloody thing because I’m a sheep who follows the crowd.
Well, I wish I hadn’t. It’s not a bad book, in the sense that I never considered giving up on it. But it is completely undeserving of all the hype.
First of all, I actually LIKE Graham Hunter. If you’re a glory hunting plastic Barca fan like me, he’s your go to man for news, gossip and general information about the club. But there’s an overriding air of sycophancy about this book that, to my cynical mind, negates the point of it, which is presumably to develop an appreciation for this special team in the eyes of the reader. Every current player is showered with gushing praise, both for their footballing and personal qualities. That’s fine and I’m not calling his assessments into question, but we already know that Messi is an incredible footballer.
Perhaps the most grating aspect of the book is the not so subtle references to how friendly he is with the Barca clan that Hunter throws in. The best example of this is Hunter’s description of a conversation he had with Xavi right after the 2011 Champions League final. After Hunter commends the role of Messi’s movement in the first goal, Xavi responds, “Man, I love the way you enjoy your football.”
Now, Hunter is right…Messi’s movement during that first goal IS excellent. But he could easily have mentioned that without the emphasis on how chummy he is with Xavi. Maybe I’m just jealous.
The other major criticism I have of the book is that it feels as though Hunter has dumbed down his writing style somewhat. Sure, we could revert to lazy stereotypes about the intellect of the average football fan but I know, from having read his columns over the years (and heard him speak) that Hunter does not need to write in such a “simple” manner. It does at times feel like a book written for all ages, rather than adults. Of course, that is an unfair criticism, as there’s nothing wrong with aiming it at everyone. I wasn’t expecting ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, but I do think Hunter has held back a little here.
There are plenty of positives about the book. The insights from behind the scenes certainly help to place the team in a wider context, making us understand that the players have lives outside of the football pitch, and, while this may sound silly, lives that can be quite challenging. As someone who’s followed Barca for quite some time, most of them weren’t new to me, but they are a valuable addition, and,despite what I said earlier, arguably worth the retail price if you’re unfamiliar with them. The most interesting part of the book was Hunter’s account of the Joan Gaspart era, which emphasizes just how far this team has come and how much work it took.
Graham Hunter is a better writer than I am (as this piece will no doubt prove), and is undoubtedly the foremost English speaking journalist when it comes to all matters Barcelona. And as I said earlier, I DID finish the book, and fairly quickly at that, so I clearly enjoyed it on some level.
My issue with it is that it felt as though I was reading a simplified version of what Hunter is really capable of. And the incessant hype around it probably didn’t help either.
Ultimately, despite all my protestations, if you’re not a Barca fan, it’s worth buying this book. Just don’t get too excited.