When Johan Cruyff returned to Barcelona as the manager in 1988, the club was in tatters. The board was in conflict with the players and all the trophies were somehow heading to their arch-rivals Real Madrid.
But then Cruyff invented a unique style of football which led Barcelona to their first-ever European triumph and also, four consecutive league titles. And 12 years after Cruyff left Barcelona, his protege Pep Guardiola revived that style to dominate the whole world with the Blaugranas.
Here is the story of tiki-taka, how Cruyff created it and Guardiola brought it to perfection.
The Netherlands and Ajax team managed by Rinus Michels and led by Johan Cruyff enjoyed loads of success in the early 1970s. They were crowned European champions three times in a row and almost won the World Cup in 1974.
All of this came courtesy of their unique playing style, total football, a system where the players keep on changing their positions both vertically and horizontally, press the ball like a pack of wolves and play neat and quick passes.
During his playing days at Barcelona, Cruyff played the same style under Michels there too. When he returned as the manager in 1988, Barcelona were in dire need of something new, they needed a revolution and Cruyff did exactly did.
Tango, more renowned as a dance form, is also a specialised style of football which grew in the plains near the Argentina-Uruguay border. This style mainly used small, swift passes down the two wings to initiate their attacks and thus, the most important players in this style were the full-backs who were the initiators.
Cruyff fused total football and tango together after he became the manager in Barcelona and started using tiki-taka. Tiki-taka took the swift passing system from tango but in this style, the attacks were initiated from the centre of the park, making the midfielders the most crucial part.
Tiki-taka had the flair of total football as the players switched positions and revolutionised the idea of the offside trap.
Cruyff used a 3-4-3 diamond formation where his two wide centre backs were often found doing the job of a full-back. The ringmaster on the field for Cruyff's side was Pep Guardiola, who occupied the centre of the field and envisioned all of Barcelona's gameplay.
Cruyff's style brought Barcelona their first-ever European trophy and four consecutive league titles. But it was his disciple Guardiola, who menaced the football world.
Guardiola came back to Barcelona as the manager in 2008, once again when the club was in tatters. But he had Cruyff's blessings, and not just metaphorically.
Cruyff had instructed Barcelona during his playing days there to build an academy like Ajax's for long-term success. Hence, 'La Masia' came into life and that was Guardiola's biggest asset.
Guardiola himself came through the ranks of La Masia and so did Carles Puyol, Gerrard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez. This was a huge advantage for Guardiola as these players were born and bred within tiki-taka and they did not require extra time to adapt to his style.
Pep used a 4-3-3 formation and this time, the ringmaster for him was Xavi. Guardiola did not use the extravagant attacking style Cruyff used but he brought numerical advantage in the midfield by using Messi as a 'False Nine'.
Guardiola revolutionised the use of 'half space', the space between the different zones on a football pitch. These half spaces were often left unguarded due to the lack of knowledge of what it is. Guardiola used a bunch of triangular formations in the attacking phase to unlock these half spaces and deploy his attackers there to create a goal-scoring opportunity.
Pep's perfected tiki-taka was called 'Juego de Pocision', an even more complicated style than his master's. This brought Barcelona 14 trophies in Guardiola's four-year reign and also, a few more in the next years.
Many say tiki-taka is dead as football continues to move forward to being even more tactically complicated. But Guardiola is still continuing with his style and getting success. Many will say tiki-taka is boring but maybe it was for them that Cruyff said, "If I wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better."