Jason Pettigrove is a well established author and sports journalist as well as a content editor at FC Barcelona. Jason’s love affair with Barcelona goes back several decades and covers the tough, the good and the great eras of the Catalan club.
In the first part of the Q&A which is published below, Jason touches upon the connection he built with the club as well as his favorite Barca players and matches. Feel free to discuss the main points from the Q&A and to connect with Jason and Rami Soufi via their Twitter profiles.
1) You’ve been a Barcelona fan for quite some time. What made you support Barca?
I’ll try and shorten a long story! I went on holiday to Lloret de Mar in the mid 1970s with my parents, and the Barça shirt was the first one I bought. I saw the Camp Nou and also brought home some posters of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Sotil to put up on my wall, as well as a Barça pennant.
When I was old enough to go to watch football, West Ham were my local team so I followed them for many years. My eldest son, who is now 25, played at the West Ham academy from the ages of 8-12, but he was bullied incessantly by his coach. It got to the point where I had to complain to the Premier League, and was astounded by the club’s attitude.
The week after he walked off of the pitch in disgust at his treatment, leaving football behind in the process, I was in Barcelona to see my first match at the Camp Nou – the 2007 El Clásico where Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick. Barça were always my first love, but that was the point when I began to properly support them.
2) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Barca players and why?
Lionel Messi – A player who can do it all and still be better than anyone else while do it all on the attacking front. Goals, assists, dribbling, passing, etc you name it and Messi can do it! Biggest point is we should remember that to be at the very top for as long as he has is astonishing as well.
Johan Cruyff – The Dutchman was perhaps the master. As a player he took the Blaugranes on a long journey which he would later complete as a coach when he guided them to their first European Cup while creating what was referred to as the Dream Team.
Pep Guardiola – From ball-boy to record breaking coach is probably the best way to describe Guardiola’s incredible journey with Barca. An imperious captain and a member of the Cruyff teams in the 1990s. Pep would later prove to be a managerial genius as shown by the titles won under his guidance between 2008 and 2012.
3) Name your favorite Barca player by position. One each from DEF/MID/ATT.
DEF – Gerard Pique – Once regarded as a bit of an afterthought next to club skipper Carles Puyol, Pique has matured into the consummate central defender. As big a part of the success over the last decade, his absence often corresponded with a drop in form defensively and exposed Barca’s back four.
MID – Arthur Melo – Although I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Arthur yet, he gives the team balance and purpose. The ‘new Xavi’ moniker is probably a little unfair, but the team looks so much more in control in the middle of the park with Arthur on the pitch.
Attack – Messi – The phrase ‘Messi-dependence’ is a little overused in my opinion, but
there’s little doubt he is the conduit through which all good things come. He is not just the team’s attacking spark and a football genius, but he is also the glue that holds the team together.
4) Most important Barca victory in your lifetime? Why?
That’s a very tough one as there have been a few important wins and for a number of different reasons. I think I will go with the 1992 Champions League win at Wembley. Simply put, for a world class club with world class players, it had taken them until then to reach the pinnacle in Europe.
Winning the cup got a huge monkey off of the club’s back, and though they probably
should’ve won more than they have since, that victory was a huge turning point.
5) Your all-time favorite Barca match? Why?
I’ll give you two. First, the 3-3 draw in El Clásico that I mentioned earlier. It happens to be my first live Barça match and also Messi’s first hat-trick not to mention the atmosphere that was as good as I’ve ever known.
Second, the 2011 Champions League final. I was lucky enough to be there, and it remains the best 90 minutes of football I think I’ve seen, or will ever see. Pep’s Barça at their absolute peak, and there was nothing Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United could do about it.
6) Pick two from Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann for your team, and why?
For the short term, it would have to be Suarez and Dembele. Although El Pistolero is getting on a bit, he still knows where the goal is, and a lack of pace hasn’t dimmed his excellence in sticking the ball in the back of the net.
Dembele has had his critics, and I’ve been one of them, but there’s little doubt that he is a top player when he’s free of injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on
when he returns.
7) Pick two from Arthur, Frankie de Jong, Busquets, Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and why?
Easy one here- Arthur and Frenkie de Jong. The future of Barça’s midfield. Rakitic has been a fine servant and doesn’t deserve the heat he’s getting at the moment, but the time has come for him to move. Vidal is a breath of fresh air, but if the club can get some decent money for him, his sale is a no brainer. Busi only doesn’t get in because he’s coming to the end of his career and, sadly, isn’t quite the player he once was.
8) What are Barca’s weaknesses? Some single out the full-back positions while many point to the central defensive pair being shaky with Pique slowing down. Some mention Neymar’s departure. Others refer to over dependence on Messi. Thoughts?
I think what makes Barça great is also their weakness. Full-backs pushing too far up and being susceptible and getting caught on the break, a willingness to always look for Messi when often there will be better options available, possession for possession’s sake which, though incredibly pleasing on the eye, needs to have more of a purpose sometimes.
9) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Barca shirt?
As with other questions here, it has to be Messi for me. Whatever he is asked to do, he does it better than all others. His goal-scoring exploits and his magical assists will stand the test of time, and his passing ability is beyond comparison. There hasn’t been another player in the history of football that ‘had it all.’