Busquets brimming with belief

With his own brand of two-touch tiki-taka, the diminutive defensive midfielder has shattered the stigma attached to one of the game's most unattractive jobs. By Aaron Sharp.

While his mercurial Barcelona team-mates are busy bringing new meaning to the beautiful game, Sergio Busquets is giving football's ‘ugly job' a 90-minute makeover of its own.

With his own brand of two-touch tiki-taka, the diminutive defensive midfielder has shattered the stigma attached to one of the game's most unattractive jobs. In doing so he has earned himself a new contract at the new home of total football.

A product of Barca's world famous La Masia academy, it is no surprise that Busquets made his 2008 first-team bow playing football the Catalan way. What has football pundits purring the world over, is the ease with which the busy 22-year-old filled the boots of his powerhouse predecessor Yaya Toure.

Busquets' impressive start to life at the Nou Camp saw him become an immediate inclusion in Vicente del Bosque's all-conquering Spain team at the tender age of 21.

After a World Cup campaign in which his possession obsession allowed his esteemed colleagues to steamroll all who stood in their path, Busquets' international boss heaped praise on the quiet man of Spain's all-star midfield.

Del Bosque said: “If I were a player today I would like to be like Sergio Busquets.

“He does everything. He helps the team, he's generous, he exhausts himself and he's the first to play real football.”

That, from a former Real Madrid legend, is no small praise.

But the effectiveness of Busquets' work is not lost on his more high-profile team-mates. Xavi, widely regarded as the world's most meticulous of midfield maestros, feels his colleague is an example to all young defensive midfielders for his vision and awareness.

He said: “Sergio Busquets — the best midfielder there is playing one-touch.

“He doesn't need more. He controls, looks and passes in one touch. Some need two or three and, given how fast the game is, that's too slow.”

That ability to shift the ball quickly without surrendering possession is the basis for Busquets' defensive midfield play.

The theory that, while you have the ball the opposition cannot score, is one that runs throughout Pep Guardiola's team.

But Busquets' ability to retain possession in midfield, even when pressed by an opposition sent out with the single task of stopping the Barca machine from ticking, means that the traditional tough-tackling stereotype that belongs to midfielders of the past simply does not apply to ‘Busi'.

More Vincent van Gogh than Patrick Vieira, Busquets' own effective method seems to be rubbing off. Fabio Capello is one manager who sees in Busquets, a model to be imitated. He took Arsenal's creative youngster Jack Wilshere and deployed him in a similar role, to good effect, for England's recent friendly win against Denmark.

As for Busquets himself, he says his style is based on no one specific player, but instead that he strives to be himself and keep it simple.

He said: “Maybe I'm not such an eye-catching player in that I am not the one who scores decisive goals, but I would define myself as a team player. I try to sacrifice myself for all my team-mates, help out, stay tactically well positioned and play it simple.

“It's very important because you give balance to the central midfield. I have always liked great players, but I also do not believe I can compare myself to anyone, I believe you always have to try to be yourself.”

Being himself certainly seems good enough for the Nou Camp crowd, who hold their defensive man in midfield as highly as they do the destructive Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi or Pedro.

As Barcelona continue to dominate the Spanish Primera Division this season, it is fair to say that putting out fires has not been a large part of Busquets' defensive duties.

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