This article was suggested by Gianfranco Borroni.
By Dominic Vieira
Spain has an astronomical football culture, a culture where most of their players started kicking a ball on the streets. In Barcelona it is easy find a group of “niños” kicking a ball around, this is where it all begins. Barcelona is a football city, everywhere footballs can be found being kicked and almost all of the boys represent a team, from a low level to the top youth divisions. All the boys in Catalunya dream of playing in the Nou Camp one day, but only the most talented and hard working make it happen. FC Barcelona are currently World, European and Spanish champions and one of the key reasons for this great achievement, is their world class players they have. The majority of them were produced through their own cantera, known as ‘La Masia’, which is currently the best in the world. Do the names Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and Puyol sound familiar?
In recent times Barcelona’s cantera has been flourishing, each season they manage to promote another highly talented player who immediately makes an impact on the team; this season Pedro has been in flying form. Their current squad consists of 10 home grown players, 8 of whom are Catalan. In comparison to their arch-rivals, Real Madrid’s squad consists 5 home grown players; however, there hasn’t been any indication of young players being launched into the first team. Real Madrid may have the best facilities in the world but instead of benefitting from it, they decide to spend millions on some of the world’s best players.
La Masia is a symbol of FC Barcelona; the excellent and highly successful academy saves the club millions of euros; Barcelona doesn’t need to spend 96 million euros on a winger when they have Lionel Messi. La Masia the home for Barcelona’s youth players who live and grow up in the residence. Many of Barça’s most prolific stars have live there, and it is part of the club’s culture, history and etiquette. What is it that makes La Masia a success? Their style of coaching is like no other, they focus on technique, controlling the game and playing the ball on the ground. If you would watch any of their youth teams play, you would see that they all play a very similar game and style; this makes it easy for the players to adapt easily when they are promoted. From the early ages of 8, the players start learning to play the Barcelona way, the famous tiki-taka game, where the players play with 2 or 3 touches on the ball and always have many direct options to pass the ball; it is a fast style and one which requires high levels of concentration. The club’s philosophy plays a key role in the development of their players, Messi has stated in several interviews “As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barca, we trained every day with the ball, I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.”