FC Barcelona Profile

Major Honours La Liga (26), UEFA Champions League (5), Copa del Rey (31), UEFA Super Cup (5), FIFA Club World Cup (3)
Year Founded 1899

Barcelona are ubdoubtedly one of the biggest and most successful sporting institutions in the world, but ongoing financial problems have hindered them.

Futbol Club Barcelona, otherwise known as FC Barcelona, are a Spanish soccer club currently competing in the La Liga.

Barcelona have a worldwide fanbase and a stellar history which includes a haul of 75 major trophies, making them one of the most successful clubs in the world.

Based in the Catalan capital, their home is the Camp Nou, which has a capacity of 99,354. The club is also one of the most-valued institutions in world sport with an estimated worth of $5billion.

The club has been home to some of the biggest names in soccer including Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Romario, Luis Figo, Rivaldo and many others.

FC Barcelona were founded in 1899 when Swissman Hans Gamper, more commonly known as Joan Gamper, put out an advertisement in the newspaper, Los Deportes, asking for players to contact him as he wanted to create a team.

In November of that year, 11 players attended the first meeting which sparked the birth of FC Barcelona.

Early history and the Spanish Civil War

Before the first ever national league in Spain got underway in 1928, Barcelona competed in the Campionat de Catalunya; a competition based in the region of Catalonia which was also the first soccer league in Spain.

Barca entered the league in 1903, having already won silverware in the two years prior. This included Barcelona's first ever piece of silverware, which came in 1902 when the club won the Copa Macaya in only their second full season in existence. A win in the Copa Barcelona followed.

From 1905 to 1928, Barca won 15 league titles in the Campionat de Catalunya and also claimed eight Copa del Rey trophies.

In 1917, Englishman Jack Greenwell became the club's first ever full-time manager. Greenwell, a former Barca player, led the club through its first 'golden age' and won five league titles and two Copa del Reys in his seven seasons in charge.

In 1928/29, Barca took part in the inaugural La Liga season and came out as the first ever champions, having pipped Real Madrid to the title. Barcelona wouldn't then take the crown for another 16 years.

During the 1920s, Barcelona were expanding as a club and were playing their home games at the Camp de Les Corts, which had an initial capacity of around 30,000. The club's membership was also booming with over 20,000 people becoming a part of FC Barcelona.

It was during this same decade that political tensions also began to increase.

On June 14, 1925, the crowd in the stadium began jeering the Royal March - the official anthem of Spain - as a way of reacting to dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. As a penalty, the club's stadium was shut for the following six months and Barcelona's founder, Joan Gamper, was forced to step down as president.

Just five years later, Gamper committed suicide after suffering depression, personal problems and financial issues.

The club entered a period of decline in the 1930s, which was largely caused by political unrest in the country and a lack of success on the field.

Attendances and memberships sunk to a new low as the country entered the Spanish Civil War in 1936. On August 6 of that year, Barcelona's president Josep Sunyol was murdered by Francoist troops at the age of 38. Sunyol was part of the pro-independence party in Catalonia and his death is an important part of FC Barcelona and Catalan history.

More tragedy took place in March 1938 when the city of Barcelona came under aerial bombardment. The Italian Air Force carried out the attack and it is estimated that around 3,000 were killed. One of the bombs hit FC Barcelona’s club offices.

The region of Catalonia was occupied just a few months after the bombardment. This had a profound impact on FC Barcelona, who were forced to change their name to Club de Futbol Barcelona and remove the Catalan flag from its badge. Any sign of regional nationalism was banned throughout Spain.

However, in spite of the political problems, things began to drastically improve on the pitch for Barcelona as the 1940s came around.

League honours and European success

Josep Samitier took charge of the club in June 1944 and in his first season as manager, he took Barcelona to their first La Liga title since 1929.

Two more league titles followed in 1948 and 1949 under Enrique Fernandez. The season after, Barcelona added Laszlo Kubala to their squad - a player who went on to attain legendary status at the club thanks to his skills, flamboyant playing style and incredible goal scoring record. 

Manager Ferdinand Daucik was part of the transfer that included Kubala and with the two men now representing Barca, the club enjoyed a highly successful period from 1950 to 1954. During this time, Barcelona won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, two Copa Eva Duartes and one Latin Cup. 

The late 1950s and very early '60s also turned out to be a successful time for the club.

Under Argentine manager Helenio Herrera, the club's arsenal was bolstered by the additions of Luis Suarez, Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor. Barcelona claimed a league and cup double in 1959 before winning a league and Fairs Cup double a year later. 

The 1960/61 season saw the club reach another milestone as they participated in their first European Cup final. Despite losing 3-2 to Benfica, that European campaign was a historic one as they had knocked Real Madrid out in the first round to end their five-year winning run in the competition.

By the 1960s, Barca were already settling into their new home of Camp Nou, but the construction of the stadium meant that there wasn't a lot of money to bolster the playing squad.

As a result, the club endured a 14 year run without winning the league title. During this period, the team did win the Copa del Rey in 1963, 1968 and 1971 while also managing to lift the 1966 Fairs Cup trophy.

It was in the mid-1970s when a real breakthrough transpired for the Catalan club - not only on the pitch but also politically and culturally. The end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975 allowed Barca to regain their identity and they changed their name back to Futbol Club Barcelona. The club also reinstated their old crest.

Beforehand, Barca had made a real statement of intent when Johan Cruyff arrived at the club just before the start of the 1973/74 season.

The Dutchman was signed for £920,000 from Ajax Amsterdam; a world record fee at the time. The player was an immediate hit with the fans, particularly as he had rejected a move to rivals Real Madrid.

Johan Cruyff

Cruyff was playing in a side that also included Juan Manuel Asensi, Hugo Sotil and Carles Rexach. Together, they helped Barca claim the league title in the 1973/74 campaign for the first time since 1960.

Cruyff went on to be crowned European Footballer of the Year that season; an award he won a total of three times in his career, two of them at Barca.

The Josep Lluis Nunez era

One of the most important figures in the history of FC Barcelona is Josep Lluis Nunez. The Spaniard became the first ever elected president of the club in 1978 and went on to revolutionise the way the club did business.

A year after the change in presidency, the club triumphed in Europe, claiming the 1979 European Cup Winners' Cup courtesy of a 4-3 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf. It was in that same year that the club began work on the famous La Masia youth academy.

Nine years after breaking the world transfer record on Cruyff, Barca did it again by spending £5million to get Diego Maradona from Boca Juniors. The transfer came straight after the 1982 World Cup, which had ended in disappointment for Maradona’s Argentina as they bowed out in the second round.

With the Argentine in the team, Barcelona went on to win the Copa del Rey, Copa de la Liga and Supercopa de Espana. However, the club fell short in the league and also failed to make an impact on the European stage.

Maradona had an injury-plagued two seasons with Barcelona, but he went down in history for his outstanding performance in the 1983 Copa del Rey final.

Barca beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu but it was the Argentine who stole the show with his skill and sheer brilliance. The performance resulted in Real Madrid fans giving Maradona a round of applause.

As of today, this is something that’s only ever occurred three times, with Ronaldinho and Andres Iniesta being the two other Barcelona players to receive an ovation from Real Madrid supporters.

A season later, Barca were back in the Copa del Rey final, this time against Athletic Bilbao. This game also went down in history courtesy of the brawl between the players at the end of the game.

Barcelona had lost 1-0, with tensions reaching boiling point after the final whistle. Both teams engaged in a fight which caused the 100,000 supporters in the ground to react. Solid objects were thrown onto the field and 60 people were injured.

Maradona played a large part in the on-field brawl, which effectively sealed his fate at the club. His continuous disputes with president Nunez certainly didn’t help his case either and in the summer of 1984, the player was moved on to Napoli for a world record fee of £6.9million.

Terry Venables was hired as manager for the 1984/85 campaign and in his first season, the Englishman took the club to their first La Liga title in 11 years.

One year later, he led Barca to the European Cup final, but defeat to Steaua Bucuresti on penalties denied the club their first win in that competition.

Terry Venables was appointed Barcelona manager in 1984

In 1988, Cruyff returned to the club as manager and went on to create what would later be called the ‘Dream Team’.

The Dutchman had an incredible blend of Spanish and international talent including Pep Guardiola, Jose Mari Bakero, Miguel Angel Nadal, Ronald Koeman, Romario, Txiki Begiristain, Michael Laudrup and Hristo Stoichkov.

Under Cruyff, Barcelona enjoyed a golden period. The club won four straight league titles from 1991 to 1994 and also conquered Europe.

In 1989, Barca got the better of Sampdoria in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup before beating the same side to win the 1992 European Cup. This was Barcelona’s first ever triumph in Europe’s elite club competition.

Apart from this, Barca also claimed the 1990 Copa del Rey, the 1992 European Super Cup and three Supercopa de Espana crowns. In total, Cruyff and his men won 11 trophies in his eight years in charge.

Cruyff departed in May 1996 after failing to deliver a single trophy in two seasons. Falling out with the club president didn’t help either.

Former England manager Bobby Robson replaced Cruyff and enjoyed a highly successful one-season spell, claiming the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and the Supercopa de Espana treble. Robson’s reign will also be remembered as the time that saw Ronaldo join the club. The Brazillian recorded 47 goals in his first 49 games for the club.

Bobby Robson succeeded Johan Cruyff as Barca manager

The following season, the club turned to Louis van Gaal as they looked for a long-term managerial option.

In his three seasons at the club, Barca claimed back-to-back league titles, one Copa del Rey and also the UEFA Super Cup. The club also seemed to be heading in an exciting direction with stars such as Luis Figo, Rivaldo, Luis Enrique and Patrick Kluivert breaking out.

Barcelona and the 2000s

As the world welcomed in the new millennium, Barca said goodbye to three major figures at the club.

However, the departures of president Nunez and manager Van Gaal were nothing compared to that of Luis Figo. The Portuguese forward was one of the most popular players at the club but this certainly changed when news filtered out that Figo would be joining arch-rivals Real Madrid.

The next three years would also be incredibly disappointing ones for Barca as the revolving door of managers brought nothing but a trophyless period and fourth to sixth place finishes in the league.

However, things began to change in 2003. The club had a new president in Joan Laporta and an exciting young manager in Frank Rijkaard.

Despite relegating Sparta Rotterdam for the first time in the club’s history, Rijkaard got off to a much better start with Barcelona. In his first season, the club finished second in the table and saw an influx of international stars join.

Samuel Eto’o, Edgar Davids, Deco, Henrik Larsson and Ronaldinho joined a side that already consisted of Carles Puyol, Xavi, Victor Valdes and Andres Iniesta.

Barcelona's team of the mid-2000s (left-right: Carles Puyol, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Henrik Larsson)

From his appointment in 2003 to his eventual departure in 2008, Rijkaard restored Barcelona’s status as one of the biggest clubs in the world.

His team claimed two La Liga titles, two Supercopa de Espanas and most importantly, Barca reclaimed the Champions League title for the first time since 1992.

In his last season in charge, Rijkaard finished third in the league and faced semi-final eliminations from both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. He was replaced by Pep Guardiola in June 2008.

The Pep Guardiola era

When Pep Guardiola was promoted from being the manager of Barcelona’s B team to Barcelona’s first team, few would have expected that he would not only guide them to a new golden period of success but also create a playing style that would revolutionise the sport - tiki-taka.

Early in his time with the club, Ronaldinho and Deco were moved on as Guardiola looked to build his team around Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Guardiola’s first season in charge came in 2008/09 and saw Barca win a treble. As well as claiming the La Liga title, the club also captured their first Copa del Rey since 1998 and the Champions League courtesy of a masterful 2-0 victory over Manchester United in Rome.

Four more trophies followed in the 2009/10 campaign, including a second La Liga title for Guardiola. This was arguably one of the greatest league campaigns by a single club in the history of Spanish soccer, with Barca winning 31 of their 38 league games and losing just once.

A third consecutive title followed in 2010/11 as Barca claimed yet another treble.

They once again got the better of Manchester United in the Champions League final while also claiming the Supercopa de Espana for a third straight season. As his third campaign came to an end, Guardiola had already accumulated 10 trophies.

Barcelona players celebrate winning the UEFA Champions League in 2011

The 2011/12 season turned out to be Guardiola’s last at the helm in Barcelona. Despite missing out on a league title and bowing out from the Champions League at the semi-final stage, he did lead the club to four more trophies; the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Guardiola’s assistant, Tito Vilanova, took over the managerial position and in his debut season he beat his predecessor's league record, accumulating 100 points and losing just twice to claim the La Liga title.

Vilanova was suffering from a type of throat cancer from as far back as 2011. On December 20, 2012, the manager underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for a period of six weeks.

During this time, it was his assistant Jordi Roura who took over managerial duties. Vilanova returned in late March 2013 but only four months later he resigned as his condition relapsed. Vilanova died on April 25, 2014, at the age of 45.

Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola, pictured in 2009

Success under Luis Enrique

Barcelona enjoyed yet another period of huge success following the appointment of Luis Enrique as manager.

In his first season, the team claimed a treble, winning back the league crown from Atletico Madrid as well as claiming the Copa del Rey for the first time since 2012 and the Champions League for the first time since 2011.

In the following campaign of 2015/16, Barca claimed four more trophies.

They retained La Liga and the Copa del Rey as well as won the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. That season, Enrique’s team went on a 39-match unbeaten run across all competitions - a new club record and a new record in Spain too. The run was ended by Real Madrid, who claimed a 2-1 win at Camp Nou.

One reason behind the success was Barcelona's star-studded front three, which consisted of Luis SuarezNeymar and Lionel Messi. They bagged 131 goals between them that season.

Enrique left in May 2017 and was replaced by Ernesto Valverde. In his three seasons, Enrique had claimed nine trophies, making him the club’s third-most successful manager behind Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff.

Luis Enrique

While Barca would go on to win two La Liga titles under Valverde, disappointing results in Europe - including letting a 3-0 aggregate lead against Liverpool slip in the second leg of their 2019 Champions League semi-final - saw him replaced by Quique Setien.

The team began to crumble under the reign of the former Real Betis manager though and they failed to win the La Liga title. However, it was an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals that ended Setien's short run as manager.

Former player Ronald Koeman assumed managerial responsibilities from August 2020, but amid the club's torrid financial situation, Koeman struggled to ever build a squad or string together results.

Koeman did manage to guide the club to their 31st Copa Del Rey, with a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the 2021 final. It would be his only trophy as manager at Barca.

Ronald Koeman, Barcelona, Manager

Lionel Messi's departure to Paris St-Germain at the start of the season led to a poor start to the 2021/22 campaign, including two 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica. Koeman's 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano was the final nail in the coffin, and he was sacked on October 28.

Former club legend Xavi was named the new Barcelona manager in November 2021, but he was unable to keep them in the Champions League and the club found themselves being dumped out of the Europa League in the quarter-finals.

Barcelona finished seccond in 2021/22 La Liga season, 13 points behind champions Real Madrid, and failed to reach either domestic cup final.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi starred in Barcelona's 5-0 win over Real Madrid

Lionel Messi is regarded as one of soccer’s greatest ever players and is ranked alongside the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona and contemporary rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Argentine has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona and continues to represent the Catalan giants to this day.

The player joined Barcelona’s academy at the age of 13 back in 2000. Three years later, Barca’s first team manager Frank Rijkaard decided to hand Messi his debut in a friendly against Porto, who at the time were managed by Jose Mourinho.

It was during the 2004/05 season when Messi made his competitive debut for Barca. His entrance came on October 16 against Espanyol when he came off the bench in the 82nd minute. Messi was 17 years old at the time.

Messi made nine appearances that season including his debut in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. His first goal came on May 1, 2005, against Albacete, which at the time made him the youngest goalscorer in the history of the club.

From 2005 onwards, Messi became a regular in Barcelona’s starting lineup. From the time of his debut to today, Messi has helped Barca to 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns, six Copa del Reys, eight Supercopa de Espanas, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups.

As an individual, Messi has won almost every honour that the game has to offer, including six Ballon d’Ors. The player made over 776 appearances for Barca's first team and scored 670 goals.

Lionel Messi weeps during his farewell news conference at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona

In August 2020, Messi became evermore dissatisfied with the direction of the club and expressed his desire to leave. In the end, he begrudgingly decided to remain at the club to prevent a court battle. Messi would later go on record saying that he would never go to court against the club.

However, in the following summer, Messi began negotiations of a new contract with Barcelona, but their financial limitations stopped them from retaining their legendary no.10. As a result, Messi ended up moving to Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent in 2021.

His absence was obvious, and Barcelona struggled to adapt to life without him. Ronald Koeman ended up losing his job just months into the 2021/22 season, with the Catalonian side sat ninth in La Liga.

El Clasico

Barcelona's biggest rivals are Real Madrid. Any fixture featuring the two clubs is referred to as 'El Clasico' (The Classic) and it is one of the biggest games in world soccer. It is broadcast around the globe with hundreds of millions of fans tuning in.

The two sides are often the main title contenders in La Liga, but the rivalry is as much about culture as it is about sport.

Tensions stem from the Spanish Civil War, with politics often playing a part in proceedings too. With a strengthening Catalan independence movement of late, the clashes against their rivals from the Spanish capital have taken on increased significance.

As things stand, Real Madrid have won 100 El Clasicos, Barcelona have won 97, and there have been 52 draws.

El Clasico is not only a fixture that takes place domestically - there have been occasions when the two clubs have clashed on the European stage too.

The most famous battle between the two sides took place in the Champions League semifinals in the 2001/02 season. Billed as the 'Match of the Century,' half a billion people watched around the world as Barcelona succumbed to defeat over two legs.

Barca's other rivals include neighbours Espanyol and European adversaries AC Milan.

Barcelona's fanbase

FC Barcelona are one of the world's best supported sporting institutions. The club has a membership of around 160,000 and it is reported that 25% of the Spanish population are Barcelona sympathisers. This is only bettered by Real Madrid, who enjoy 32% of support.

Barcelona have a total of 1,267 officially recognised fan clubs worldwide. They are also the second-most followed club on social media. They have over 103 million supporters on Facebook and almost 35 million followers on Twitter.

Over the years, the club has had many high-profile supporters. These include Pope John Paul II and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Barcelona, ownership and finances

Similar to rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona are an organisation owned by the membership. It is impossible to buy shares in the club and the only way to have a say in its running is to become a member.

In 2010, the club's worth was estimated to be around $1billion by Forbes - a figure only bettered by Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid. This increased to around $2.6billion three years later and to $3.2billion in 2014.

In 2017, the club was ranked the fourth most valuable sports team on the planet, being rated at $3.64billion. A year later, Barca's first team became the highest paid sports team in the world with the average player salary reaching $13.8million per year.

As things stand, the club is in the midst of a huge financial crisis on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic and high spending over the past few transfer windows.

The financial instability of the club has seen Barca offload the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi for a pittance as they aim to restore calm to their finances.

Despite the financial troubles, in September 2022 Forbes ranked the club second in their most valuable club's list at $5billion, just below rivals Real Madrid.

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