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Team Sport

Saturday’s Champions League final between Manchester United and FC Barcelona is being touted in many American media, at least, as a showdown between two of the sport’s superstars:  Wayne Rooney of Man U, and Lionel Messi of Barça.

As The Economist points out, however, Barça’s success and Messi’s success at Barça are due at least as much to the club’s philosophy — team first — as to individual brilliance:

Barça has provided a distinctive solution to some of the most contentious problems in management theory. What is the right balance between stars and the rest of mankind? Should you buy talent or grow your own? How can you harness the enthusiasm of consumers to promote your brand? And how do you combine the advantages of local roots and global reach? …

Barça’s management style chimes in with the thinking of two admired theorists. Boris Groysberg, of Harvard Business School, has warned that companies are too obsessed with hiring stars rather than developing teams. He conducted a fascinating study of successful Wall Street analysts who moved from one firm to another. He discovered that company-switching analysts saw an immediate decline in their performance. For all their swagger, it seems that their success depended as much on their co-workers as their innate talents. Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great”, argues that the secret of long-term corporate success lies in cultivating a distinctive set of values. For all the talk of diversity and globalisation, this usually means promoting from within and putting down deep local roots.

(Complete piece here.) 

For all of that, for reasons that I can’t completely explain (something to do with Ryan Giggs), I’ll be rooting for Man U.

2 thoughts on “Team Sport”

  1. Stars sell better teams in the US, I guess.

    I’ll be rooting for ManU as well, even though it will come close to killing me to do so. Barcelona are a wonderful team to watch play, but for the last couple of years they have also turned into a team that works the refs non-stop by embellishing any foul (or anything that might look like a foul) and by surrounding the ref with an angry mob of players after every foul.

    I was hoping for a Real Madrid v. Manchester United final – not so much because of how Barcelona play and act, but because of how Ferguson plays his team against Messi. In the past he stacked four midfielders five yards in front of his defenders in order to shut Messi down, with only the rare counter-attack thrown in. It’s worked for him in the past. So I will not be surprised to see it again. Unfortunately, it makes for a much duller spectacle (and I’m someone who enjoys tactical approaches).

    Maybe he’ll do something different for a one-off game as opposed to a two-legged affair. Maybe it being at Wembley will change his approach. I certainly hope so.

    As to the article itself, I’d be more convinced that Barca’s “approach” proved what the author’s thesis if Barca was in the final without the best player in the world, or if they had developed him entirely rather than finding him and bringing him into their academy. Or if Messi left Barca, and they didn’t dip.

  2. Exactly Scott. Normally I root against ManU, but Barca lost me with all their dives, whining, and gamesmanship against Real. Still, can’t wait for the game though!

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