Messi, Suárez and Neymar lead the line on the pitch for Barcelona. Yet away from the pitch the work of Raúl Peláez, Head of Knowledge Management at the Camp Nou, could appear to be directing the Catalan club away from its roots and towards technology.
Peláez, however, insists that his role involves embedding computer innovation into the Barça way, not tearing it apart. “My main role for the club is scouting the latest technologies and working out how we implement them.
“Our sports science department has a different view to others. We are focused on tactical and cognitive aspects of the game and our players, not physical or medical.
“We use technology like virtual reality to help us understand these cognitive elements and then educate younger players.”
In the Premier League it is often claimed that there is an obsession with physical statistics like distance run and sprint speed in matches. Barcelona do collect this data, but Peláez explains it is not at the forefront of their thoughts. “Look at a Barça player, say Iniesta. He’s not a speed man, he doesn’t have great endurance and doesn’t score many goals. He knows how to play football and this is important to us, to make decisions correctly.
“It’s not important if he is not physically fast. What is important is his brain speed and that he understands the game better than anyone else.”
It is a tradition that stretches back to Viennese men discussing a footballing eutopia. Today at Barcelona this stands as an ideal to strive towards and Peláez identifies this succinctly. “For us in football all that matters is the ball and the players. The rest is not important.”
Barcelona’s més que un club (more than a club) ethos looks set to be preserved yet enhanced by VR and technology for many years.