On October 22, 1899 swiss businessman Hans Kamper (Joan Gamper in Catalan) placed a short advertisment in local newspaper Los Deportes. His goal was to attract others in Barcelona to play pick up football. Swiss, English and Catalans showed up to play. In a meeting held November 29, 1899 eleven footballers who answered the advertisiment sat in a gymnasium and formed FC Barcelona. They were founding member of La Liga in 1928, and, together with Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, they have never been relegated from the top division.
Legend says that Gamper was inspired to choose the club colours, blaugrana, by FC Basel’s crest. However, the other swiss teams Gamper played for, his home canton of Zurich, and Merchant Taylors’ School in Crosby, England have all been credited with or claimed to be the inspiration. FC Barcelona quickly emerged as one of the leading clubs of both Catalonia and Spain, competing in both the Campeonato de Cataluña and the Copa del Rey. In 1902, the club won its first trophy, the Copa Macaya, and also played in the first Copa del Rey final, losing 2-1 to Club Vizcaya.
In 1908 Joan Gamper became club president for the first time. Gamper took over the presidency as the club was on the verge of folding. The club had not won anything since the Campeonato de Cataluña of 1905 and its finances suffered as a result. Gamper was subsequently club president on five separate occasions between 1908 and 1925 and spent 25 years at the helm. One of his main achievements was to help Barça acquire its own stadium.
On March 14, 1909, it moved into the Carrer Indústria, a stadium with a capacity of 8,000. Gamper also launched a campaign to recruit more club members and by 1922 the club had over 10,000. This led to the club moving again, this time to Las Cortes, which inaugurated in the same year. This stadium had an initial capacity of 22,000, later expanded to an impressive 60,000.
After the Spanish Civil War, the Catalan language and flag were banned and football clubs were prohibited from using non-Spanish names. These measures led to the club having its name forcibly changed to Club de Fútbol Barcelona and the removal of the Catalan flag from the club shield. During the Franco dictatorship one of the few places that Catalan could be spoken freely was within the club’s stadium. Despite the difficult political situation, CF Barcelona enjoyed considerable success during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1945, with Josep Samitier as coach and players like César, Ramallets and Velasco, they won La Liga for first time since 1929. They added two more titles in 1948 and 1949. In 1949 they also won the first Copa Latina.
The 1960s were less successful for the club, with Real Madrid monopolising La Liga. The completion of the Camp Nou, finished in 1957, meant the club had little money to spend on new players. However the decade also saw the emergence of Josep Fusté and Carles Rexach and the club winning the Copa del Generalísimo in 1963 and the Fairs Cup in 1966. Barça restored some pride by beating Real Madrid 1-0 in the 1968 Copa del Generalísimo final at the Bernabéu in front of Franco, having as coach Salvador Artigas, a republican pilot in the civil war. This match will always be mentioned for what was throwen and not for what was happening on the filed. The club changed its official name back to Futbol Club Barcelona in 1974.
The 1973/74 season saw the arrival, as player, of a new Barça legend – Johan Cruyff. Already an established player with Ajax, Cruyff quickly won over the Barça fans when he told the European press he chose Barça over Real Madrid because he could not play for a club associated with Francisco Franco. He further endeared himself when he chose a Catalan name, Jordi, for his son. Next to players of quality like Juan Manuel Asensi, Carles Rexach and the talented Hugo Sotil, he helped the club win the 1973–74 season for the first time since 1960, along the way defeating Real Madrid 5–0 at the Bernabéu. He was also crowned European Footballer of the Year in his first year at the club.
In June 1982 Diego Maradona was signed for a world record fee from Boca Juniors. In the following season, under coach César Luis Menotti, Barcelona and Maradona in an unforgettable final won the Copa del Rey, beating Real Madrid. However Diego’s time with Barça was short-lived and he soon left for Napoli. At the start of the 1984/85 season, Terry Venables was hired as manager and he won La Liga with stellar displays by German midfielder Bernd Schuster. The next season, he took the team to their second European Cup final, only to lose on penalties to Steaua Bucure?ti during a dramatic evening in Seville.
In 1988 Johan Cruyff returned to the club as manager and assembled the so-called Dream Team, named after the US basketball team that played at the 1992 Summer Olympics hosted by Barcelona. He introduced players like Josep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, Txiki Beguiristáin, Jon Andoni Goikoetxea, Gheorghe Hagi, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário and Hristo Stoichkov. Under Cruyff’s guidance, Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994. They beat Sampdoria in both the 1989 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final and the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley with a legendary free kick goal from Dutch international Ronald Koeman. They also won a Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Super Cup in 1992 and three Supercopa de España. With 11 trophies, Cruyff became the club’s most successful manager to date. He also became the club’s longest serving manager. However, in his final two seasons, he failed to win any trophies (not to mention the disastrous 4-0 defeat in the UEFA Champions League 1994 final against AC Milan) and fell out with president Núñez, resulting in Cruyff’s departure.
Cruyff was briefly replaced by Bobby Robson who took charge of the club for a single season in 1996/97. He recruited Ronaldo from his previous club, PSV Eindhoven and delivered a cup treble winning the Copa del Rey, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the Supercopa de España. Despite his success, Robson was only ever seen as a short-term solution while the club waited for Louis van Gaal to become available. Like Maradona, Ronaldo only stayed a short time and he left for Inter Milan. However, new heroes such as Luís Figo, Patrick Kluivert, Luis Enrique Martínez and Rivaldo emerged and the team won a Copa del Rey/La Liga double in 1998. In 1999 the club celebrated its ‘centenari’ winning the Primera División title and Rivaldo became the fourth Barça player to be awarded European Footballer of the Year. Despite this domestic success, the failure to emulate Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League led to van Gaal and Núñez resigning in 2000. The next three years saw the club in decline and managers came and went, including a short second spell by Louis van Gaal. President Gaspart did not inspire confidence off the field either and in 2003 he and Van Gaal resigned.
After the disappointment of the Gaspart era, the combination of a new young president Joan Laporta and a young new manager, former Dutch and AC Milan star Frank Rijkaard, saw the club bounce back. On the field, an influx international players, including Ronaldinho, Deco, Henrik Larsson, Samuel Eto’o and Rafael Márquez, combined with a nucleus of home grown and Spanish players such as Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, and Víctor Valdés led to the club’s return to success.
Barça won La Liga and the Supercopa de España in 2004–05, and stars Ronaldinho and Eto’o were voted first and third in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
In 2005–06 Barcelona repeated their league and Supercup successes. The pinnacle of the league season arrived at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in a 3–0 victory over Real Madrid, Frank Rijkaard’s second victory at the Bernabeu, making him the first Barça manager to win there twice. Ronaldinho’s performance was so impressive that after his second, and Barça’s third goal the Real Madrid fans felt compelled to applaud him. In the Champions’ League Barça beat English club Arsenal 2–1 in the final. Trailing 1-0 with less than 15 minutes left they came back to win 2-1 for the club’s first European Cup victory in 14 years.
Despite being the favourites and starting strongly, Barcelona finished the 2006-07 season trophyless. The 2007-08 season saw Barcelona finish third in La Liga and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey, both times losing to the eventual champions Manchester United and Valencia, respectively. A day after a 4-1 defeat by Real Madrid, Joan Laporta announced that Barça B coach Josep Guardiola would take over Frank Rijkaard’s duties after June 30.
In the pre-season of 2008–09, a motion of no confidence was raised against club president Joan Laporta. The no-confidence motion received 60% support, just short of the 66% required to oust him, prompting eight of the directors to resign.
Laporta not only added legendary former midfielder Josep Guardiola as the club’s new manager, but he also made major changes to the playing staff. Gianluca Zambrotta, Deco, Edmílson and Ronaldinho were all sold. Nearly €90 million was spent rebuilding the squad, with Begiristain and Laporta purchasing Seydou Keita, Gerard Piqué, Martín Cáceres, Dani Alves, and Aliaksandr Hleb. Despite this, the club retained its home-grown nucleus of players, such as captain Carles Puyol, Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández, Víctor Valdés and Andrés Iniesta.
On 17th January 2007, Barça set the record for the most points obtained in the first half of a La Liga season (50) after winning 16, drawing 2 and losing just 1 of their first 19 league games. The club also reached the Copa del Rey final for the first time since 1998 after defeating Mallorca in the semi-finals. Six days later, on 23 January, the International organization IFFHS ranked Barça first in their list of the greatest football clubs of the last 18 years. The All-time Club World Ranking was determined by taking into account all the results of the national championships, the national cup competitions, the club competitions of the six continental confederations and the FIFA.
For the second time of the season, Barça played Real Madrid in El Clásico, this time at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Barça won the historic match 2–6, which amounted to the most goals ever scored in El Clásico by Barcelona and the biggest margin of victory for Barça since the 1970s, when Johan Cruyff led Barça to win 0–5. On 6 May 2009, immediately after the historic victory over their biggest rivals, Barcelona played against Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals. Following a scoreless first leg, Chelsea led the game at Stamford Bridge 1–0 from the 8th minute, until injury time, when Andrés Iniesta scored an equalizer in the 93rd minute from the edge of the penalty area, sending Barcelona through to the final on away goals.
On 13 May, Barça beat Athletic Bilbao 4–1 at the Mestalla to win the Copa del Rey for a record 25th time. Just days later, as Real Madrid lost to Villarreal, the domestic double was confirmed for Barcelona and the club was crowned La Liga champions for the 2008–09 season.
With a largely homegrown squad in which seven players of the starting 11 were products of their youth system (Víctor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergi Busquets and Lionel Messi), inspired by Guardiola’s philosophy of attacking possession football, Barça defeated the defending champions Manchester United 2–0 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on 27 May 2009, to earn their third UEFA Champions League title and achieve The Treble, having already won the La Liga and Copa del Rey in the same season. Barcelona became the first Spanish team to win the three competitions in the same season and the third ever in the world.