Ray Hudson, former player, coach and now commentator for beIN Sports, once had a chance to interview former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
The ever-effusive Hudson said he turned it down.
“I would have said to him, 'I hate you because of what your team was,’ because Guardiola's Barcelona for those four astonishing, staggering years (2008-12) spoiled the game for me,” said Hudson, whose over-the-top commentary on La Liga matches hits an 11 on the dial when the Catalonia giants and Lionel Messi are playing.
Barcelona under Guardiola’s tenure won 14 trophies, including three Spanish La Liga titles and two Champion League crowns (2009 and 2010). Guardiola left Barcelona for Germany's Bayern Munich before becoming manager at Manchester City, where he's won consecutive Premiership titles.
“Barcelona spoiled the game because I knew watching those games and watching Messi as an operatic high note there never would be another team like it," Hudson said. "Barcelona (since then) has come consistently close to that. Their methods and this wonderful pyrotechnic show they put on with their passing and movement is something ultra special, and that is something that has never left them.”
FC Barcelona — minus five-time Ballon d’Or (Best Player in the World) winner Messi, who is out with a calf injury — rolls into Michigan Stadium this Saturday to play Italian Serie A club SSC Napoli in a friendly.
The teams met Wednesday in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in the first leg of the exhibition series with Barcelona prevailing 2-1. The La Liga-Serie A Cup is not part of the annual International Champions Cup competition, which is also a Relevent Sports Group production.
Despite Messi’s absence, Barcelona’s roster of stars for the Ann Arbor match is extensive.
Many are casting their gaze at French international forward Antoine Griezmann, who arrived at the Nou Camp in a €120 million ($135 million) transfer from rivals Atletico Madrid last month.
The 2016 La Liga Player of the Year had 94 goals in 180 appearances during five seasons (2014-19) with Atletico. Before joining the Madrid club, Griezmann compiled 46 goals in 180 appearances with Basque outfit Real Sociedad.
Griezmann was named man of the match in France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final, converting a penalty kick in the 38th minute while setting up two other goals.
The French international will be joined upfront by Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez, whose notoriety for biting incidents has somewhat overshadowed his brilliance as a goal scorer.
The former Liverpool standout has been the beneficiary of Messi’s uncanny passing ability, amassing 131 goals in 163 appearances since arriving at the Nou Camp in 2014.
Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, who reportedly turned down a move to England's Premier League’s Tottenham, provides flair in Barcelona's midfield. Coutinho posted 13 goals in 51 appearances last season after joining Barcelona following six seasons at Liverpool.
At the back, defender Gerard Pique is the stalwart and calming presence. The 6-for-4 center back is entering his 12th season at the Nou Camp.
“They have set a standard and they have maintained a standard of beautiful football,” Hudson said. “It's that hypnotic rhythm, the possession and the damaging penetration that they show in front of goal. Their unique way of defending, which is by attacking and by possession of the ball.
“Under Guardiola, they basically reinvented that part of the game. Barcelona has never ever lost the awe.”
The soccer friendly will be the fourth hosted at The Big House, which has drawn the international spotlight for drawing crowds of more than 100,000.
In August 2014, Manchester United defeated Real Madrid 3-1 before 109,318 spectators at Michigan Stadium, which set a U.S. soccer attendance record.——
Real Madrid knocked off Chelsea, 3-2, before 105,826 spectators in July 2016 while Liverpool downed rival Manchester United, 4-1, in front of 101,254 fans in July 2018 despite both teams missing many of their star players.
La Liga-Serie A Cup
FC Barcelona vs. SSC Napoli
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Tickets: $45.00 - $150.00/www.mgoblue.com/tickets