thumbnail Hello,

The Catalan club sent seven players to Euro 2012 with Spain and then signed another. And those eight champions could see the side return to winning ways in La Liga in 2012-13

ANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

Barcelona sent eight players to Euro 2012 and ended up with nine. All but one came home happy.

Although club captain Carles Puyol and striker David Villa missed the continental competition through injury, there were still seven Barca footballers in Spain's squad for Poland and Ukraine - and eight after Jordi Alba agreed a deal to join the Catalan club just before the final.

The other Barca representative was long gone by then. Netherlands' Ibrahim Afellay endured a desperately disappointing competition as he and his team-mates suffered defeat in all three of their group games. A promising performance against Denmark aside, he did little to boost his chances of staying at Camp Nou beyond the summer.

But given the rest of the Blaugrana players' performances in Poland and Ukraine, Barca fans will hardly care.

BARCELONA'S EURO 2012 STARS

IBRAHIM AFELLAY
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
140
SERGIO BUSQUETS
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
570
CESC FABREGAS
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
315
ANDRES INIESTA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
550
GERARD PIQUE
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
570
PEDRO
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
89
VICTOR VALDES
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
0
N/A
XAVI
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
536
All except goalkeeper Victor Valdes were prominent. Valdes is unlikely to dislodge captain Iker Casillas for Spain any time soon and, arguably, is also behind Liverpool's Pepe Reina in the pecking order. But the Catalan provided healthy competition, support and camaraderie as Spain retained their continental crown. At Barca, he is the undisputed No.1 anyway - and that won't change in the foreseeable future.

In defence, there were concerns about Gerard Pique following his below-par performances with Barca in 2011-12 and a reported rift with Sergio Ramos. There was also a worry he would struggle to shine in the absence of club colleague and mentor Puyol. But such doubts were dispelled with six assured appearances in the tournament. Spain conceded just one goal in the entire competition and Pique returns to Camp Nou with his reputation restored despite a far-from-convincing run last campaign in which he struggled with injuries, a loss of form and a rocky relationship with coach Pep Guardiola at times.

In midfield, meanwhile, Sergio Busquets made light of his tender years - he is still only 23 - with impressive maturity and some astute positional play. He remains a guarantee for club and country - and he can still get even better.

Xavi, however, came in for some criticism after the semi-final against Portugal for a subdued showing which saw him replaced. And after Spain's last-four success, he revealed his frustration at having played only a bit-part role in La Roja's run to the final. But against Italy that all changed as the metronomic midfielder looked back to his brilliant best, providing assists for Alba and Fernando Torres, the latter just as he had done in the 2008 final. Xavi will be 34 by the time the 2014 World Cup comes around, but revealed his desire to carry on until the date in South America. "If I still feel good, I will be there," he said. And that's great news for Barcelona.

Even better news for the Catalan club was the form of Andres Iniesta at the Euros. The midfielder failed to score and managed only one assist, but was a constant threat throughout the tournament and the heartbeat for the Spanish side, claiming three Man of the Match awards (the same as Italy's Andrea Pirlo) and also the Player of the Tournament prize. He was often surrounded by numerous defenders, drawing men away from his team-mates, and his imperious displays will have made very happy viewing for incoming coach Tito Vilanova as Barca look to claim La Liga back from Real Madrid in 2012-13.

Iniesta began in an advanced role on the left-hand side for La Roja at Euro 2012, but Spain's system was all about movement, interchanging of positions as well as passing and possession. Just ask Cesc Fabregas.

The former Arsenal midfielder was utilised in the role of a false nine for strikerless Spain in the opener against Italy, when he failed to completely convince but did score his side's only goal of the game. Left out for the 4-0 win over Ireland in the second match, Fabregas came on and netted a fine fourth and punched the air with rage in response to his critics. Coming off the bench again in the next match, against Croatia, it was the 25-year-old's impudent lobbed pass to Iniesta which created the all-important winner for Jesus Navas.

Restored for the quarter-final win against France, Cesc linked up well with his team-mates in the 2-0 win. He was left out again in the semi-final versus Portugal, but his night ended in triumph as he dispatched the winning penalty - via the post - in the shootout. Back in the team for the final, Cesc's brilliant run and cross set up the opener for David Silva, after he had latched on to Iniesta's pass. The duo's astonishing association for Spain promises much for Fabregas' second season at Camp Nou - wherever Vilanova decides to use the 25-year-old next term.

Last but not least came Pedro. The Tenerife-born forward had not been expected to make the cut at all following an injury-hit and largely low-key campaign for the Catalan club, but a two-goal display in the final of the Copa del Rey convinced Vicente del Bosque to include the 24-year-old in his squad. And he didn't disappoint, coming on to win a penalty against the French and helping to swing the momentum in Spain's favour in extra time versus Portugal in the semi-finals, giving the champions a much-needed boost ahead of the penalty shootout. A fully fit Pedro will be a huge asset to Barcelona in 2012-13.

And so too will Alba. Described by Johan Cruyff as the revelation of Euro 2012, the former Valencia full-back will be officially unveiled by Barcelona on Thursday, capping a wonderful week which began with his brilliant display in the final against Italy. Not only did he score a stunning second for Spain after latching on to a Xavi pass, but his tireless running down the flank is set to give the Catalans an added attacking dimension in the coming campaign. Making Barca better is a tortuous task - but Alba can do that.

Losing La Liga last term will be all forgotten now and Euro 2012 has proved a big boost for Barcelona. On this evidence, the Catalan club appear in great shape for the 2012-13 season.

Follow Ben Hayward on

Related

From the web