"Imagine the club not as a theatre of dreams but as a workplace. What is office life like day to day? Who are the people who run the club? How much power do they actually have over the players? What should the players eat, and how can you persuade them to eat it?"
Since the early nineties, when FC Barcelona was still under the charge of sporting legend Johan Cruyff, journalist Simon Kuper has had an intimate connection with the football club, and unprecedented access to staff and facilities.
In this book, Kuper tracks the history of FC Barcelona from Cruyff to Lionel Messi. He analyses the largely unchanging structure of the club (from its Catalan merchant-class directors down to its impressive pool of footballing talent), and reveals the localised, long-term focus that has long guided its workings. He studies how the revolutionary "Barcelona Innovation Hub" is shaping the club's future, how the football philosophy is built on a cross-pollination of different sports such as waterpolo and basketball, and, crucially, how a nutritional revolution is constantly optimising the fitness of the players.
Along the way, Kuper also studies the personalities that have shaped Bar a - in particular, Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and the current enigmatic leading man, Lionel Messi, whose quiet nature in public belies his formidable role in shaping the direction of the club.
This is truly a book 30 years in the making, which establishes how an army of coaches, medics, data analysts and nutritionists have built the foundations for one of the outstanding successes of the modern game.
"This is my view of Bar a: generally admiring, often critical, always curious, and, I hope, without illusions..."