Sergio Busquets admitted recently that only two people could convince him to leave Barcelona – his wife and Pep Guardiola. That should send alarm bells ringing among Blaugrana supporters, and not because Mrs. Busquets might fancy living elsewhere.
No, Busquets explained precisely why Guardiola has such a sway on him and, with Guardiola a few months away from taking over at Manchester City, the timing of the comments was interesting to say the least. Busquets is very much one of those modern day players who says little publically, so what he does say carries a lot of weight, and if he says it, he means it.
It should be noted that Busquets insisted he was happy at Barca, his club, and Guardiola’s club, but he left the door ajar to be tempted elsewhere. It wasn’t so much a come-and-get-me plea as a try-it-and-see-what happens invitation, Busquets hinting he wants to be part of Pep’s City revolution but not wanting to upset the club with which he has achieved so much success.
Guardiola may yet go back to Barca for Busquets and if he does, it would be easy to see why. Busquets is, more so even than Gerard Pique in defence, Andres Iniesta in midfield or Luis Suarez and Neymar in attack, the player who makes Barca tick. Only Lionel Messi can truly be said to be more important to Barca than Busquets, and even then there’s an argument to be made that part of Messi’s effectiveness is that he has Busquets behind him, keeping the ball moving, helping out in defence and starting attacks.
Busquets’ quietly, calmly destructive presence – destructive too harsh a word maybe for Busquets’ elegance – is something sorely lacking at Real Madrid, and perhaps too common at Atletico. Cristiano Ronaldo et al have no such destroyer in their team. Casemiro is the closest thing but, as Rafa Benitez discovered, defensive midfielders rarely find favour at the Santiago Bernabeu. Claude Makelele was a victim a decade or so earlier of the same issue, and the team suffered accordingly then as well.
Atletico have plenty of ball-winners in midfield – too many, perhaps, with only Antoine Griezmann and, to a degree, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco there to genuinely trouble the opposition defence from open play. Diego Simeone has been unable to get a forward bar Griezmann to score regularly since Diego Costa was sold, Jackson Martinez having come and gone in the blink of an eye and Mario Mandzukic lasting only a season as well.
It’s Barca who have the right balance and Busquets is a major reason for it. And it’s that balance that Guardiola will want at City as well – someone to anchor the midfield, recycle possession and give Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and whoever else is in his City selection the platform on which to play. Guardiola evidently holds the key to Busquets’ future, Busquets may hold the key to Guardiola’s City success.