Catalan independence became one of the hotly debated issues this week with the referendum vote being casted last weekend.
A democratic process branded illegal by the Spanish government brought back the memories of General Franco’s repression as police hit the streets to prevent people from voting. As a result, close to one thousand people were injured in clashes as this political issue spilt over to football as well.
The Catalan bannermen of freedom – FC Barcelona – found themselves in the epicentre of the story with La Liga forcing them to play the Las Palmas match despite the ongoing street troubles on the day of the vote.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was unable to hold back tears after the match when he proclaimed his dedication to the Catalan cause, at the same time making himself even more hated by the Spanish supporters who booed him in Spain training.
The Catalan issue raised a couple of big football questions and made us think of what the Catalan team would look like if FIFA would approve the Catalan national team as an independent side.
The Catalan National Team
It would, undoubtedly, be a highly-competitive team comprised of some quality players, knowing that Catalans have played to play a big part in the Spanish team in recent times.
The Spanish national team has served the total of 41 players with a national team call-up during the past year. Six of them are Catalan – Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets and Gerrard Deulofeu.
Interestingly enough, six was the number of Basque players called up during the last twelve months as well – Kepa Arrizabalaga (LINK), Cesar Azpilicueta, Asier Illaramendi, Ander Herrera, Inigo Martinez and Aritz Aduriz.
As Spain continues to struggle with the Catalan issue, here is an Instagram post we created specifically to tickle every football fan’s imagination. Just think of a Catalan All-Time XI composed of some of the biggest names in the history of football.
Goalkeeper: Ricardo Zamora
A celebrated Spanish goalkeeper who represented Barcelona, Espanyol and Real Madrid is considered one of the greatest shot stoppers not only in the Catalan but also in the Spanish history.
Best known for a cloth cap and a white polo-neck, Zamora was a trend-setter. He claimed it was to protect him from sun and opponents and ended up becoming a look many goalkeepers later copied and adopted as their own.
Defence: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila
The younger generations are sure to have fresh and fond memories of former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol. The defender renowned for his bravery and sportsmanship, Puyol remains one of the most popular names in world football.
Gerard Pique’s football career is well documented by the contemporary historians, but it is perhaps Joan Capdevila who’ll raise most eyebrows with younger fans.
A left-back by nature, Capdevila was capped by Spain on 60 occasions. He represented his country in one World Cup and two European Championships – winning one of each. It might come as a surprise for many to find out that the 39-year-old defender only finished his professional career this year after seven appearances for an Andorran football team FC Santa Coloma.
Midfield: Sergio Busquets, Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Carles Rexach
The Catalan all-time midfield line has Barcelona written all over it. Busquets, Xavi and Fabregas all played under current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Carles Rexach, on the other hand, is a member of the older generation.
The 70-year-old winger spent 22 years as a player at Camp Nou and then spent as many years working as a scout, coach and manager. Together with Johan Cruyff with whom he formed a formidable partnership, Carles Rexach helped Barcelona to their first La Liga win in 14 years.
Attack: Raul Tamudo, Paulino Alcantara
Espanyol legend Raul Tamudo is definitely one of the most recognisable Catalan strikers in history. Tamudo helped Espanyol to two Copa del Rey trophies in 1999/2000 and 2005/06 and won the Summer Olympics silver medal in 2000 with Spain Under-23s.
He played the UEFA Cup final and pulled the plug on his career with the total of 166 goals in 515 games throughout his career.
As for Paulino Alcantara who dedicated his entire career to Barcelona, the legendary striker earned his place in the all-time XI thanks to impressive 369 goals in 357 matches for the Catalan giants.
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