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Lionel Messi? Oh, he's just too last year, daddy-o

AS a young lad growing up in Barcelona, Guillem Balague presumably could never have imagined a day when football fans would hang on his every word as if it were a proclamation from a burning bush.

Balague, right, and Mendieta  in Glasgow with Ally McCoist.  Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
Balague, right, and Mendieta in Glasgow with Ally McCoist. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

Sky Sports' Spanish football expert was in Scotland recently for a flying visit and it is fair to say the locals were pleased to see him. Balague was given a tour of both the Celtic and Rangers' training grounds, and the Glasgow pub where a Q&A session was held was packed full of inquisitive punters, further confirming Balague's burgeoning popularity. The best reaction most journalists can hope for from the general public these days is mild indifference, but here was one given a welcome so warm it was if he had just invented a magic, self-refilling Buckfast bottle.

Gaizka Mendieta, who won 40 caps for Spain and also appeared in two Champions League finals, was also there but Balague was undoubtedly the star attraction. For that, he has football's growing band of hipsters to thank.

Just as in other walks of life – fashion, music, films etc – there will always be those determined to be ahead of the curve, to be different from the pack, to say they saw it first. Those of us who struggle to keep up with yesterday's trends, never mind those of today or tomorrow, clearly have no place among their number.

If there is a match taking place anywhere in the world, at any time, there is a chance that in a darkened bedroom somewhere a hipster will be studying it closely and taking notes. Widely available internet streams and satellite television broadcasts mean there is access to global football like never before. Twitter, Facebook and internet forums then give like-minded parties the chance to talk about what is floating their particular boat at that moment. Naturally, the more obscure the better.

Scottish football is not cool to your discerning hipster, unless it involves spending a Saturday afternoon watching Albion Rovers in a deeply ironic way. Teams still playing 4-4-2? Tackling? Muddy pitches? None of these tick any boxes with today's modern fan.

English football is similarly a turn-off. Spending millions on players? Urgh, how vulgar. The Bundesliga and La Liga are where it's at, daddy-o. Barcelona are the hipsters' favourite team, although of course they were into them, like, aaaaaaaaaages ago. You know, when Johan Cruyff was manager and the blessed Pep – duh, Guardiola, of course – was mastering the Makelele role way before anyone had even heard of the bold Claude.

Balague shrewdly chose to hitch his wagon to the Guardiola star, penning a book about the former Barcelona manager that had the football Twitterati excitedly snapping up copies.

To a Scottish public denied a glimpse of Guardiola in recent times, Balague's visit was the next best thing, a fellow Catalan missionary spreading the Barcelona message. And, of course, enjoying the accompanying hero worship by proxy.

Guardiola's gone from Camp Nou – never, ever call it the Nou Camp – of course, and many of the hipsters have moved on, too. Barcelona have become too mainstream. Instead, there is excitable blogging and tweeting about Athletic Bilbao and the tactical genius of Marcelo Bielsa.

"I mean, a 3-3-1-3? Wonderfully inventive, although it does leave them very narrow and is very draining physically, I tend to find. Messi? Over him. More of a Falcao man myself, and Cavani, too. I've followed him since his Palermo days, of course. And isn't Ganso developing fantastically at Sao Paulo?"

The hipster has little time for newspapers and their out-of-date analysis (the Guardian is acceptable but only the online version). A subscription to World Soccer is a must, while the Blizzard is, like, massively enlightening. And, of course, no football trendy would be without a copy of tactical bible Inverting The Pyramid. "Did you know it was Queen's Park who invented the passing game? Ahead of their time."

Hipsters can tell a fellow hipster by the language used. Nod sagely whenever anyone talks about a false nine. Get excited by a reference to a nine-and-a-half. Drop in frequent mentions of trequartistas, pivots, registas and inverted wingers. Purr appreciatively at Andrea Pirlo's mastery of the quarterback role. Frown at such primitive talk about playing "two up top" or "in the hole". That's so last year. Now, what about that title race in the Slovakian third division.

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