Sunday 25 February 2018

Lennon: We can't all play like Barcelona

CELTIC boss Neil Lennon has joined a number of leading managers in warning against attempting to replicate Barcelona's much-lauded style of play.

Barca have been labelled as one of the best teams of all time with the likes of four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi at the heart of their dominance.

The Catalans have dropped just two points in the Primera Division this season, despite Tito Vilanova taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer, and are favourites to lift the Champions League for a third time in five years.

Lennon, who aside from Jose Mourinho is the only manager to beat Barca this season, believes, however, that copying the Catalans is fraught with danger.

Instead the Northern Irishman believes clubs should try and cultivate their own style, because Barca's is beyond the capabilities of most teams.

"I think Barcelona set the template. It's a dangerous template because I think a lot of managers strive to play like that," Lennon, who was speaking during for the inaugural European Managers and Coaches Forum at St George's Park, told the League Managers Association's website.

"I think you have to understand the culture that you're playing in.

"I think what we're seeing now in terms of the current Barcelona team and the current Spanish team, are probably the best footballing teams I've seen, ever, with Messi arguably the greatest player ever.

"So, that's what we all strive to be now. We can't all be that way, we have to cultivate our own styles."

While the likes of Guardiola and Mourinho have been at the forefront of tactical progress over the past decade Lennon believes a British manager can take over the mantle.

The 41-year-old memorably led Celtic to a 2-1 Champions League win over Barca at Parkhead in November, which helped seal the Hoops' place in the knockout stage, and believes the cyclical nature of football means the Catalans will eventually be replaced as the blueprint model.

"Jose Mourinho brought a new revolutionary style to the game roundabout the middle of the decade," he said.

"Guardiola's kicked on from that with his style of football. France had their cycle late 90s.

"Then maybe an English team or an English manager or an English club may set the template for the game over the next 10 years."

Lennon's comments were echoed by the likes of former England boss Fabio Capello, David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers.

"I do see a different style which has been coming in for quite a while, the style that Barcelona have introduced," Everton boss Moyes said.

"But I am sure there will be another style, there will be something else, the next future. A new type of players will develop."

Capello offered similar caution, although the Italian thinks Barca's defensive strategy can at least be replicated.

"Tactically the new style is Barcelona, but if you try to copy the style it is a big mistake because the style you can only play with the players of Barcelona," he said.

"But some (aspects) you can copy, the defensive style. When you lose the ball you go forward together to win back the ball quickly, never go back, never return to midfield.

"They lose the ball, they go forward. For me this is something new."

Rodgers revealed he has been listening to CDs by legendary Liverpool boss Bill Shankly since his arrival at Anfield, and said he had drawn parallels between his style and that of the current Barca team.

"I've listened to Bill Shankly since I've been in at Liverpool and you'd think he was the current Barcelona manager, because of how he played the game with Liverpool," he said.

"I just think the game is based on the top players at the leading age of the game. As a coach you're teaching your players and you're trying to win games, but the game is normally coached and based around the best player and best teams and you'll go through cycles of that.

"So you had the French team at that time and everyone went for big, powerful, pacey players that were strong.

"You know, you look at the Liverpool team back in the 70s and 80s set the standard, 'the Liverpool way', that was the leading light."

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