Rio Ferdinand has claimed Sergio Busquets made him ‘feel like a conference player’ in Manchester United’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2011.
The two titans of European football met at Wembley a decade ago, with Pep Guardiola — then manager of Barca — locking tactical horns with Sir Alex Ferguson and getting the better of him, as goals from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa cancelled out Wayne Rooney’s equaliser.
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Busquets, 32, formed an inexorable midfield wall in front of Barca’s backline, dictating the tempo and functioning as a springboard for attacking moves, something he is still doing to this day, 10 years on, with his performances for Spain at Euro 2020 once again catching the eye.
The Catalonian was sensational alongside Pedri and Koke for Luis Enrique’s men as they reach the semi-finals, losing out to Italy on penalties at Wembley, and Ferdinand remembers a time when he was on that hallowed turf getting made to look ‘like a conference player’ by Busquets.
Ferdinand said: “It was here at Wembley, and we got abused in that game by Barcelona, they were brilliant.
“So your confidence is low and I was trying to get the ball back from him [Busquets] at a throw-in and he just said ‘ah Ferdinand, Vidic, boom, boom, boom’ [imitating long passes]. I felt like a conference player.”
It will come as no surprise to hear Ferdinand’s assessment when you consider Steven Gerrard once described him as an “absolute nightmare” to play against because you can’t get near him. Ferdinand has also previously said Busquets could even go on the pitch with a pair of velvet slippers and still perform.
Luis Enrique: Why “unique” Pedri is better than Andres Iniesta was at 18
Busquets was not the only player to impress for Spain at the Euros, with teenage wunderkind Pedri rising to the occasion and announcing himself as a future Ballon d’Or contender, performing with distinction in a midfield trident alongside his Barca team-mate and Koke.
The 18-year-old has completed more final third passes than any other player at the tournament (177), emphasising just how progressive and daring he is with his approach, a sentiment not lost on head coach Luis Enrique, who believes the starlet is a better player than Andres Iniesta was at 18.
Enrique said: “It’s unique what Pedri has done. People have not seen anything like this before, never. Andres Iniesta was not like this at 18-years-old.
“We have another 18-year-old in Ansu Fati to come back too. We have to look after these young players.”