About Barcelona’s youth system: “The player who has passed through La Masia has something different to the rest, it’s a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child.”
But how much of La Masia is fact and how much is spin? How many players do Barcelona produce who then go on to populate the first team and win trophies? The answer may surprise you. What we’ll ask:
- How many star players have come from La Masia
- How many of these players at any one time populated the first team
- How many of these players won anything or were key elements
- How much of the current first team is from La Masia
- Are Barcelona still producing top players?
- Was it all just based around one golden generation?
How many top players have actually come from Barcelona’s youth system at La Masia?
And we mean ‘top’ players’. Not Nayim or Barjuan. Let’s look at a list:
Honourable mentions then to: Bojan, Pedro, Valdes, Luis Garcia, Ivan De La Pena, Celades, Javi Moreno and Ferrer. So all of these players. Looks like a good list? This is everyone since 1979. so almost 40 years. 13 top players. And almost all of them in the last fifteen years.
How many first team Barcelona players come from Barcelona’s youth system?
What we mean here is players whose careers were mainly at Barca. Well, less than you’d think. And even then often only after they leave to perform well elsewhere. Busquets, Messi, Iniesta, Puyol and Xavi. Pique and Alba are established Barca players but they had to learn the ropes, make the grade, at Valencia and Man Utd respectively. Fabregas went to Arsenal to come back but couldn’t hack it. Guardiola pretty much played out the guts of his career at Barca in fairness, before finishing in Italy while he collected his coaching badges. so he makes it 6 players with established Barca careers after La Masia, in almost 40 years.
How many of these guys from Barcelona’s youth system won anything or were key elements in success?
Well, actually all 6 of those guys were huge, huge players for Barcelona. Most of them still are. They won it all, and brought their success to national level (other than Messi).
How much of the current first team is from La Masia? Busquets, Messi, Iniesta, Munir El Haddadi, Sergi Samper, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Masip, Lee Seung-Woo, Fabrice Ondoa. Which is actually not that bad. Admittedly a few of those guys do drop to the B team from time to time. And a lot look to be on the verge of being sold. In fact, it’s not impossible the only guys guaranteed first teaam barca football this season are the first three names above. Which leads us to ask a very important question:
Are Barcelona still producing top players?
If so where are they? Because they’re not in the first team. They’re not transferred abroad. They’re not rising to the Spanish national side any longer. only 10 players in the squad are Spanish. There are young guys coming through but they’re not winning any awards, not beating the current batch to places. So it seems the question must be asked:
Is Barcelona’s youth system myth all based on just one generation of players?
The answer looks like a resounding yes. The generation just before this one, including Puyol and Xavi mixed in with the current three main stars. Which is pretty sobering, when you consider how many football teams are basing their whole ethic on La Masia. The question you have to ask is, why even have a youth academy if this is what happens. Man Utd has relied on transfers since their golden generation of Scholes, Beckham et al, Liverpool haven’t produced anyone near the likes of Owen or Gerrard in two decades, Ajax comes through with the odd Sneijder, but seems a long way from the team that last won the Champions League. Why even bother?
So what do you think?
Photos Courtesy, Christopher Johnson,