Sergio Busquets: Barcelona’s Latent Heat


It is widely recognized that Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets is one of the best midfielders in the world, but there are still very few who watch him closely enough to fully understand and appreciate the true extent of his genius.

What better day to write about Sergio Busquets than on my birthday? My face is all smiles as, finally, I can compose myself to put to paper my thoughts on the classy midfielder, whom I have watched and admired since 2008. Science and football are two of the three main things I do with my life at the moment – the combination of my knowledge in both fields seems to be the only possible way I can write about the 29-year-old Spanish genius.

Latent heat is (thermal) energy released or absorbed by a substance or a thermodynamic system that changes its state without changing it’s temperature. It is derived from the Latin word “latere” which means (to lie hidden) and, unlike sensible heat, cannot be measured with a thermometer.

You watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game

– Vincente Del Bosque

Since his breakthrough as a professional, Busquets has been a mainstay in both Barça and Spain’s midfield. Coaches have come and gone but his position is ever guaranteed. Superficial statistics, no matter how detailed, cannot accurately analyse his effects on his teams. I have carefully encapsulated his effects on his teams, after years of study, into three areas, which are explained below:

BONDING: Every good defensive midfielder is a link between the defense and the attack. Busquets is more than a link, he is a bond. Tiki taka, to its fullest, is played in Spain and Barcelona only when he is available. He is like a transformer: he steps up or down the frequency of play in appropriate proportions. The chemistry and tempo of the midfield lies on his shoulders. The whole idea of playing from the back is not feasible without him at Barça and Spain. He is the transition point; the connection between defense and attack. The effect of the bond he provides leads to a well organized defense, midfield and attack which has players perfectly positioned to give and receive passes, a concept central to Barca’s philosophy.

BREAKING THE LINES: This is perhaps Busquets’ finest quality. He is probably the only midfielder I know that has the ability to break lines consistently with zero effort – it gives me goosebumps. Just as he is a bond for his team, he breaks the bonds of opposite teams. Until just recently, coaches were ignorant of this secret hence they failed to reduce Barça’s dominance of matches. Busquets often receives the ball from Pique just outside the box, and he then holds it like he’s going to lose it at the slightest of pressure – that’s the bait. The attacking midfielders of the opposing team are tempted to pressure Busquets, which they do more often than not. The two or three players who go to try to dispossess him leave spaces. Then, Busquets in his wisdom and utmost composure, with one or two magical touches and turns, gets the ball past them and gives it to Iniesta/Rakitic/Alves/Messi or whoever it is who now have 3 players less marking them, hence breaking the opposition’s bond and instigating a Barcelona attack. The enormous time and space created as a result can cause havoc at the other end of the pitch. As simple as it seems, it has broken the organization of the opposing team; it will take some time before they can regather their shape, and once they do, they better hope that Busquets does not find the ball once more.

Busquets routinely passes his way out of intense pressure with ease and composure (Photo: Everything Barca).

LUBRICATION : You don’t need to be an engineer to be able to differentiate between a well oiled machine and one that isn’t; It’s crystal clear. Lubricants don’t fuel the machine, neither do they increase the output, they only ensure that it works optimally with the least possible resistance and cost of maintenance. When Busquets came in on Saturday for Barça against Girona, the midfield that was grumpy and noncoherent became oiled; everything became smooth. Iniesta, Who was negligible all through the match, started showing some spark. This is the effect that Busquest has on his teammates.

As Barça prepares to take on Sporting today, I expect another Busquets masterclass, something which we see so often that we almost take it for granted. Make sure you watch for him and observe what he does. The more you watch him, the more you will appreciate his every touch of the ball.

Written by @Shinaspeaks