In the eyes of many, there has arguably never been a side quite so dominant nor downright revolutionary than Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona between 2008 and 2012. In terms of sheer technical ability, unrelenting style and boundless worldwide notoriety – the proud Catalonians certainly had a lot going for them back then.
With the ever indomitable Carles Puyol playing a captain’s role at the back, and the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi working their almost otherworldly powers of like-minded telekinesis in the middle of the park – it comes as no surprise that each of David Villa, Thierry Henry and Pedro could prove oh so effective up top for Guardiola’s tiki-taka inspired outfit.
Add the seemingly superhuman natural footballing talent that is Lionel Messi to the mix, and you have one team capable of taking the Spanish top flight by storm, whilst also thoroughly asserting their unquestionable dominance upon the European scene.
Having said that, one member of Pep Guardiola’s remarkably impressive Barca squad is rarely viewed in the same sanctified light. Despite winning numerous trophies throughout his rather fruitful spell at the Nou Camp, the name ‘Jose Manuel Pinto’ is one that some football onlookers may not remember without a push.
Every great team needs its unconventional characters of course, but in the case of Barcelona’s former back-up keeper Jose Manuel Pinto, never before has such a underwhelming footballer been greeted with one of the most rewarding top-flight careers among the European game.
The word ‘underserving’ is commonly associated with Pinto through no actual fault of his own. Despite making less than 40 individual league appearances for Barca and remaining firmly behind Victor Valdes within the preferred pecking order – the now-41-year-old former shot-stopper can still seemingly boast an incredible 16 illustrious trophies to his name.
Pinto’s healthy honours list consists of four separate La Liga titles, a couple of well-fought Copa del Rey cups, alongside two extremely enviable Champions League trophies. When you consider that each of Ronaldo, Pavel Nedved, Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gianluigi Buffon failed to land a single Champions League triumph between them – the gravity of Pinto’s all-round success becomes all too apparent.
He may have arrived at the Nou Camp with fair ounce of modest potential, after moderately impressing with Celta de Vigo and captaining the plucky Spanish side on several different occasions – but even from the most understanding and compassionate of viewpoints, Jose Manuel Pinto must ultimately go down as one of the most fortunate shot-stoppers to grace the modern game with his presence.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that his time with the Blaugrana passed completely without comment. On the odd occasion that Victor Valdes was injured or unavailable for selection, Pinto could often be found rushing off his line and giving opposing strikers as tough a time as possible. He could be witnessed gesticulating to the officials like some kind of madman when things failed to go his way, sometimes even handling the ball illegally in the process and facing a stern telling-off from the referee.
But despite causing the Nou Camp faithful all manner of near scares and heartaches thanks to his distinctly off-beat style, many Barca fans eventually grew to love their second choice keeper as a hopeful entertainer above all else.
Today, Jose Manuel Pinto can be found exercising his eccentric nature away from the hallowed turf at the Nou Camp. Under the alias of ‘Wahin’ – a no-nonsense hip-hop producer from the mean streets of Barca – the former Blaugrana representative has carved out a decent career for himself as a surprise musician with the hope of setting the Spanish rap scene alight.
People can laugh at the sheer absurdity of such a spectacle, but alongside his team down at Wahin Makinaciones – the self-titled label responsible for Pinto’s growing musical career – the once disregarded Barcelona shot-stopper has enjoyed several successful releases, with one of his more recent projects appearing on the soundtrack of Hollywood’s Fast & Furious 8. Let’s face it, that’s not bad going for a once near-permanent fixture upon the Barcelona subs-bench.
Clearly the former goalkeeper was keeping himself busy all those times he found himself locked down upon the side-lines. His trophy-laden career may arrive as something of a joke to some – but whether it be for attempting scorpion kick saves in training, openly intimidating opposing strikers among the dreaded penalty shoot-out, or simply releasing new tracks with a selection of his old Barcelona teammates – Jose Manuel Pinto ultimately won the hearts and minds of the Blaugrana faithful one way or another.
Even if it wasn’t exactly for his supposed prowess between the sticks mind you…