FC Barcelona has been a football club with an eye on the future ever since its inception in 1899. Mixing the world’s biggest stars with home-grown football talent, Barcelona has managed to take home a treasure of silverware despite facing some considerable challenges in recent years. Find out how the Catalan club achieved this and bet on its upcoming fixtures at LV BET.
- Brief History of FC Barcelona
- Barcelona’s talent factory
- Barcelona’s young talent
- La Masia’s tools to grow talent
- 10 of the best La Masia products
- Challenges faced by La Masia
- Bet on Barcelona at LV BET
BRIEF HISTORY OF FC BARCELONA
Hans Gamper was the man behind it all. The Swiss football executive was responsible for kickstarting FC Barcelona through a simple advertisement, proclaiming his wish to form a football club. The first steps of the Catalan club were some casual matches held biweekly. Suffice to say that Gamper would be pleasantly surprised at the spectacular growth of what was once his very casual creation.
Also known as ‘Blaugrana’, FC Barcelona has always been a force to be reckoned with. The team is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and it has enjoyed a great deal of large-scale success that transcends its domestic rivals. FC Barcelona has locked horns with several of the world’s football giants, and it has regularly come out the other with a trophy in hand.
Many have speculated about the source of Barcelona’s success, but few realise that the answer has been under their nose the entire time.
WHAT MAKES FC BARCELONA A TALENT FACTORY?
The key to the club’s success is an 18th-century farmhouse. Allow us to expand.
In the mid-20th century, FC Barcelona purchased a farmer’s house named ‘La Masia de Can Planes’ (nowadays referred to as ‘La Masia’) and turned it into a residence for its youth academy players. In 1957, Barcelona unveiled its 99,354-capacity Camp Nou built exactly next to La Masia.
The purpose of La Masia shifted over the years. Although it started out as a residence for its youth players, the premises became the club’s headquarters before later reverting back to catering to its young players as a dormitory. In 1979, it was transformed into an academy facility.
The year 2011 marked an end to the old La Masia. The so-called ‘New Masia’ was inaugurated in October 2011 — a new 6,000-square-meter building with five floors and a capacity to host 83 players. This multi-purpose training complex cost FC Barcelona around €11 million, but what the club had created was an impeccable framework to produce large crops of talented players.
Over the years, La Masia went on to achieve its desired goal: to produce several world-class players through the impeccable youth system under which it operates. Evidence of that statement was presented to the world in November 2012, when FC Barcelona fielded eleven players who had all been brought up through its youth academy: Víctor Valdés, Jordi Alba, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Martín Montoya, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Pedro, and Lionel Messi.
Most of the players mentioned above went on to contribute greatly to FC Barcelona’s trophy cabinet, which goes to show the level of efficiency attained by the club’s youth development system.
HOW DOES FC BARCELONA GROW YOUNG TALENT?
La Masia is the key to FC Barcelona’s successful cultivation of talent, but an €11-million building is only the skeleton of this very rigorous enterprise.
What separates FC Barcelona from other clubs is its unique philosophy hammered into its youth players from an early age. Although winning games and titles is the general goal, doing so in an attractive fashion is a must.
Better yet, winning titles while playing spectacular football through La Masia prodigies is perhaps the closest we can get to describing La Masia’s objective as a youth academy.
WHAT TOOLS DOES FC BARCELONA USE TO CULTIVATE PROMISING YOUNG PLAYERS?
Through a holistic project set to discover good players with exceptional potential, La Masia doesn’t focus exclusively on football. La Masia students undergo education classes (including English, Mathematics and Science), football conferences held by experts and obligatory 90-minute training sessions.
FC Barcelona’s commitment to La Masia is showcased by the €10 million annual expenses that don’t include the U19 or Barcelona B team.
This, combined with all the cutting-edge technology at its disposal, is what makes Barcelona’s academy a very fruitful system that can produce some of the world’s biggest talents — as we’ve seen over the decades.
WHAT DOES LA MASIA LOOK FOR IN YOUNGER PLAYERS?
Whether it is La Masia or an FC Barcelona scout, the Catalan club gauges a player’s potential on three factors:
- Vision of the game
FC Barcelona is well-equipped when it comes to identifying each pre-requisite — ones which have catapulted the team to great heights within both Europe and the entire content. Here’s a breakdown of what each of these traits entails.
How many times have past legends of the game showcased their timeless talent in a friendly match between old teammates? Although technique can be cultivated, some players are innately gifted with a sensational touch. After all, it is said that form is temporary but class and technique are permanent.
Speed on the ball and off the ball can be decisive in a match. While not a compulsory trait for every player position—namely, goalkeepers and central midfielders—the ability to catch up to opponents or fly past them is an exceptional quality to have.
VISION OF THE GAME
Although many players can pass a ball to a teammate, few have their heads on a swivel to pick out the unthinkable passes. One player with such vision was none other than Andrés Iniesta — a product of La Masia who went on to conquer the world with Barcelona.
10 OF THE BEST HOME-GROWN PLAYERS PRODUCED BY LA MASIA
La Masia has produced some of the best first-team players in the world, let alone in Spain. This has allowed the club to overcome several European clubs in their quest to conquer titles of the calibre of the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. The icing on the cake was the fact that Barca didn’t have to spend a single dime on transfer fees when it comes to these great players, although they did spend a great deal of money on discovering and training them.
The towering centre-back started life at La Masia in 1997, and he remained there until a move to Manchester United saw him pack his bags for an experience in the Premier League. A short loan to Real Zaragoza was his last experience away from the Blaugrana, since he later returned to his boyhood club and went on to achieve immeasurable success.
During his time at Barcelona, Piqué has won eight La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, six Supercopa de España titles, three UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cup titles and three FIFA Club World Cup titles.
IVAN DE LA PENA
Although not among the top players of his generation, De la Peña enjoyed a moderate level of success with both Barcelona and Lazio. He joined La Masia at the age of 15 and spent quite a few seasons at the club before heading to Lazio owing to a lack of regular football. This isn’t to say that the Spaniard left Barca with empty hands, since he won at least one title in almost every Spanish and European cup.
Having avoided the tempting transfers to other teams throughout his career, Busquets is one of the few loyal players remaining in the modern game. The Spanish defensive midfielder was part of Barca’s golden generation who hauled in dozens of trophies under the management of Pep Guardiola, including several La Liga, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup titles. Apart from that, Busquets enjoyed success with Spain as well — winning both the World Cup and the EURO in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Fans of 1990s football will definitely remember Albert Ferrer — a reliable right-back who emerged from La Masia to win several titles with both club and country. A brief stint on loan at CD Tenerife and six years at Chelsea prior to his retirement were the only two times Ferrer played with colours that weren’t Barcelona’s. His time at Barcelona saw him win five La Liga titles among several European titles.
Also a product of Barca’s youth academy, Amor was a central midfielder who saw his fair share of success during his time. He was part of the very successful Barca side that won four back-to-back La Liga titles in season 1990/91 through 1993/94, but this doesn’t account for another two UEFA Super Cup wins and four Copa del Rey titles.
When talking about club captains, Carles Puyol has to factor into the conversation at some point. The centre-back was widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation, mostly owing to his outstanding leadership and spectacular defending. After graduating from La Masia, Puyol spent his career wearing a Barcelona kit, with whom he won it all: the World Cup, the EURO, the UEFA Champions League as well as all the Spanish trophies possible. Puyol’s first season with the club was that of 1996/97, whereas 2013/14 was his last season. This goes to show why he is one of the club’s most-capped veterans.
Another product of the Barcelona youth system is none other than Guardiola. An innately gifted defensive midfielder, Guardiola rose through the ranks of La Masia to eventually break into the first team. The Spaniard was part of the so-called ‘dream team’ led by Johan Cruyff, which ended up conquering the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1988/89. His status as a player was later matched by his managerial prowess, leading Barca to two UEFA Champions League titles and several Spanish titles. He also won plenty of titles as a Bayern Munich coach.
Certainly no stranger to the Camp Nou is Andrés Iniesta: a superb central midfielder who used to dazzle teams with his effortless skill and manoeuvrability in tight spaces, often proving key to winning games. The Spaniard broke into the first team at just 18 years of age, with which he ended up conquering the La Liga nine times and the Copa del Rey seven times, along with a trove of other prestigious trophies. Together with Xavi, Messi and the rest of the golden boys of his generation, Iniesta helped create a relentless force of football prowess that will never escape mention in future discussions about football.
With over 500 appearances in La Liga and a further 151 appearances in the UEFA Champions League, Xavi is an unquestionable club legend who rose through the ranks of La Masia before eventually breaking into the first team. Xavier Hernández Creus — usually referred to as Xavi — was a playmaker like no other. Although not imposing in stature, the Spaniard was an assist man who conquered Europe many times over. He bagged the UEFA Champions League trophy four times and the UEFA Super Cup trophy twice, but this isn’t to mention his national feats, which included a 2010 World Cup win and two EURO wins in 2008 and 2012.
This list wouldn’t be complete without arguably the best player in the world. Seven-time Ballon d’Or-winner Lionel Messi was the world talent among generational talents at La Masia, and he broke into Barca’s first team with very little effort at the age of 16. The young Argentinian was taken under the wing of Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, which made his transition to the highest rung of the club’s ladder easier than ever. With a whopping 681 goals in 810 appearances with the Blaugrana, Messi solidified himself as a club legend before heading to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. The Argentinian’s trophy cabinet is as full as it gets, with 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles and a treasure trove of other valuable accolades.
CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES FACED BY LA MASIA
Barcelona fans are the first to admit that their club has seen a dip in first-team talent brought in from La Masia de Can Planes. Although the likes of Sergi Roberto, Thiago Alcántara and Héctor Bellerín are products of La Masia, there seems to have been a dry patch when it comes to discovering and cultivating world-class talent.
Moreover, most La Masia products seem to have a hard time breaking into first-team football — swept aside by expensive signings that, however, do not necessarily boast more talent. Splashing big money on first-team players has now become somewhat of a bad habit for Barcelona, which now faces considerable financial turmoil. The signings of Ousmane Dembélé for €140 million, Philippe Coutinho for €135 million and Antoine Griezmann for €120 million highlighted some very preoccupying faults within Barca’s ambitions, which, in turn, placed the Catalan club in the proverbial financial bog.
All this has cost the Blaugrana not only on the international stage but on the national one too. Rivals Real Madrid were quick to capitalise on their nemesis’ dry patch, which is why Barca has to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. The answer to that is keeping one eye on the future and taking the time to develop talented young players who can break into the first team without the looming shadow of the team’s recent signing.
Apart from that, Barcelona can put its club legends to good use by placing them in key management positions so as to cultivate the current crop of La Masia recruits. Not many teams in the world can boast such a large number of knowledgeable club legends, which is why their know-how must be made fruitful in the academy.
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