Last summer, two major transfers were played out like soap operas within the throngs of mass media. David Villa (signed) and Cesc Fabregas (who didn't) both pledged themselves to Barcelona, leaving Valencia and Arsenal looking like a man whose girlfriend had just been pinched by an entirely charming, beret-wearing poser, who also managed to do a really good job of assuring them they should be entirely flattered by all the attention. Barcelona are experts at this. The most widely fawned-over of all clubs, theirs is a velvet-gloved type of imperialism. It is time someone took a stand against all this, and showed the world what Barcelona really are: the world's most annoying club.
Mainly, it's to do with their swooning self-entitlement; not so much the idea, but the manner in which they paint themselves as 'mes que un club'. The fact is, all football teams are 'more than a club'. Oxford United do some cracking work in the community.
Even more annoying is Barcelona's unshakable conviction that they are intrinsically better. Never mind the fact that they are such tyrants in Spanish football that they negotiate their own television deals. They've even now neglected their one redeeming feature, and gone from Mother Theresa to Bono with the signing of a $400 million sponsorship deal with the nation of Qatar. No other football club anywhere insists with such needy, weepy fervour that you love it. This is an intense batting of eyelashes and I refuse to swoon.
Then there is Barcelona's cultural imperialism. This a more subtle form of home invasion, than say, a shirt-flogging friendly in the Far East. Instead, Barca style themselves as an elite product: the kind of brand-obsessed people who feel they are above buying brands. Barcelona are an iPad team, a Bang & Olufsen team; something undeniably good, but yet somehow tarnished by the accumulation of universal approval. With this in mind, it's easy to be annoyed by manager, Pep Guardiola. He's clearly bright, probably very nice, but he spoils this by looking like a smug advertising-type; the sort of person who owns a vintage, stylishly chipped wall-length mirror.
Above all, I dislike their tippy-tappy, non-contact style of play; deemed, like Barcelona themselves, as intrinsically 'good'. The popularity of this style owes a lot to the fact that it looks good on TV: a televisual style, suited to the armchair fan. It is so obviously and demonstrably high end. Ohh look - a backheel. This is good football, even if you know nothing about football. Accessibly high-spec, like a bottle £50 Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, it's nice to watch, but that doesn't mean it's 'better'.
Those who know me will see this as a complete contradiction; for when Arsenal take to the pitch, I always see myself drawn to them. "It's beautiful to watch", I'd say; "there's nothing like them in the Premier League". But really, it's the fact they've won nothing playing that type of football that draws me in. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing something beautiful smashed in to a thousand pieces.
And perhaps that's the point: Barcelona have won trophies. Barcelona are brilliant. And Barcelona know it.