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Few knew the name of Sergio Busquets when on 13 September 2008 coach Josep Guardiola decided to include him in the first team squad for the second league game of the season at home against Racing Santander.
Wearing the number 28 shirt, Busquets was named in the starting XI to make his first team debut. Alongside the likes of Víctor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué and current Barça coach Xavi Hernández, the midfielder came of age as a Barça player.
Despite being held to a 1-1 draw that day at Spotify Camp Nou and having lost the season opener away at Numancia, Sergio soon became a fixture in a side that started to click under new coach Guardiola. That 2008/09 season ended with the midfielder making 41 appearances for the first team, winning the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Sergio Busquets’ emergence as a first team player came alongside that of Pedro Rodríguez. The two players had been key figures in a Barça Atlètic team coached by Pep Guardiola in the 2007/08 season in which they had gained promotion to the Second Division B from the Third Division.
In 2010, just two years after promotion with the B team, both players could say that they had won all there was to win, including a World Cup with the national team. At just 24 years of age he already had a list of honours worthy of the most vaunted veterans
Since then, coaches have come and gone; Josep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setién, Ronald Koeman and Xavi Hernández but all of them have had one thing in common: a reliance on the midfield metronome that is Sergio Busquets at the heart of their side.
He won trophies under all of them. That's 31 so far, and a new Liga title (the ninth) could arrive this very Sunday at Espanyol. But his finest era was surely the first of all, when he won 14 titles in four seasons under Guardiola as part of a midfield trio that has already gone down in history: himself plus Xavi and Iniesta. Albeit in three very different roles, they will all be together again next June 6 for the friendly between Barça and Vissel Kobe in Japan.
The three of them played together until 2015, when Xavi announced his retirement. After that, Sergio became the third captain, and he became the number two when Iniesta left two seasons later. From 2021, when Messi departed, he has been the first captain, guiding the club through difficult times but always rising to the occasion.
His importance to the team has never been in question. Indeed, the team has continued to base itself around its midfield maestro. If he has a bad day, the team has a bad day. If he has a good day, the team has a good day. His recoveries, his first touch passes, his extraordinary ability to read the game and his long, tireless legs have made him the engine of the team for a decade and a half.
Very few people knew about Sergio Busquets on 13 September 2008. Now they all do. Possibly the best defensive midfielder in Barça history. And some might say in the entire history of this game we love.
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