Sunday 5 July 2009

La Masia : Where Champions are Made

by: Anurag

The team that lined up to collect the Champions League winners' medals in Rome was special.

Special because of their scintillating performances throughout the season.

Special because never had they given up their philosophy of playing good, attacking football.

Special because they were the first Spanish team to do the treble.

But this team was special for another reason. It was the team with the maximum number of homegrown players, who were taught the beautiful game and nurtured into talents in an 18th century estate right next to the gigantic Camp Nou stadium.

The team was Barcelona, and it was special because of La Masia, the most legendary youth academy in the world.

La Masia, which means "estate" or "country house" in Catalan, was built in 1702. It was originally a country residence. When the Camp Nou was built right next to it in 1957, La Masia was remodelled into the club's social headquarters and inaugurated in 1966. In 1979, it became the residence of youth players who lived and plyed their trade at Barcelona.

It has become so legendary, that Barcelona's youth academy is now known simply as La Masia.

At La Masia, children are brought up to play the most beautiful version of the beautiful game. They are taught the skills that are necessary to make them into legends. And truly, many of these children are now household names in world football.

"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," says Pep Guardiola, Barcelona manager and La Masia graduate.

"[In the youth academy] you feel the colours, the club and its crest. Above all it's about values, not only in football but on a personal level. I think the fans feel more connected to the team because of all of the home-grown players," says Gerard Pique, another La Masia graduate.

Sporting director Txiki Begiristain sums up La Masia's importance by saying, "The kids here are brought up to demand victory even in friendly matches. Take a look at Lionel Messi, he's from Argentina but he comes with the stamp of La Masia; he was formed in our house."

Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Puyol, Pique, Busquets, and Valdes all started the Champions League final for Barcelona. They all had one thing in common—they were brought up and made into world class talents by La Masia. The substitute bench also had its fair share of La Masia graduates in Bojan, Muniesa, and Pedro.

By contrast, Manchester United had only three players in the entire squad who were from their youth academy: Paul Scholes, John O'Shea and Ryan Giggs. These statistics show the gulf in class between the two academies.

It is also interesting to note the number of quality players who have come through La Masia's ranks over the years. Josep Guardiola, Guillermo Amor, Barjuan Sergi, Cesc Fabregas, Fran Merida, Jose Reina, Ivan de la Pena, and Luis Garcia are just some of the names that form this list.

There are a few foreign players in Barcelona, agreed. Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o, Dani Alves, Seydou Keita, Yaya Toure and Gabi Milito being among them. But when you see the homegrown players to foreign players ratio, you begin to realise how good La Masia truly is.

The ratio is exactly 1:1, which means the team contains as many homegrown players as foreign players. No other Champions League team has such a high ratio of homegrown players.

I have heard many complaints from Barcelona's critics that they are successful because they have many superstars. It would be nice if they just sat back and realised that these stars have, in fact, been carefully nurtured, honed, and sharpened into the world class talents that they are by the legendary youth academy of La Masia.


PD said...

1:1... thats pretty cool... and btw i wonder the ration of madrid... but after spending so much this season and seeing that they have no patience when it comes to players i think they can close their youth academy... this season they bought huntelaar... and now after just 6 months he is up for sale.. if they show little confidence in player of his standard i can imagine why very few players make the first team from madrid's youth academy.... :-)

skanjos said...

great article anurag :). thats one thing i love about barca.i wish someday we make it 2-1 ratio homegrown to foreign players.lets hope gai/thiago/muniesa and the younger lads will have the chances bojan/messi/pedro/busqets had.

Don Luis said...

Wow you forgot Rafa Marquez and you call yourself a cule, when you dont know the foreigners?

I guess you also forgot that Rafa has been playing in Barca for a long time now, and was very good this season?

Oh BTW you forgot Sylvinho,Hleb, and Gudjohnsen...

LMAO man.....

SimonP said...

It's great that you write a article and particully on a great subject like La Masia but you should check the facts once or twice.

Besides Giggs, Scholes and O'Shea also Jonny Evans are from their academy. Technically Ronaldo and Rooney received their education from United as well.

I guess you can make the argument that United bought their talents but the same can be said for Barca. Puyol moved to Barca at the age of 17, Busquets 16, Iniesta 12, Messi 14, Pedro 16 etc. etc.

Anurag said...

@Don Luis - Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o, Dani Alves, Seydou Keita, Yaya Toure and Gabi Milito being ""among them.""

among them means it upto you to see who the others are.

@SimonP - i checked my facts on Wikipedia. I had added Jonny Evans in the original article but I forgot to make the edit here. Rooney was already a starter when bought from Everton and same with Ronaldo. Iniesta 12, Messi 14 etc. Rooney 17, Ronaldo 20. How is that youth?

And Rooney and Ronaldo are not mentioned as youth products on Wiki too

Marcos said...

Nice read Anurag.
A little harsh on Man Utd though, they've just come to the end of an era of great homegrown players, Giggs, Beckham, 2 x Neville's, Scholes etc.
Also, Fletcher is another product who would have started if he wasn't banned.

Unknown said...

LOL simon. How was it CR and Rooney MU youth products?

@ Marcus. Yes, that was then, before they have the money to splurge. Now they just don't really bother.

zealot said...

CR and Ronney are not MU's youth product, because, simply, they never played for their youth teams ;)

Marcos said...

Man U have always had money to 'splurge'. It's not that they don't bother now, i'm sure Fergie would love a new crop of Beckhams and Giggs' but these things tend to be cyclical.

Also, the rules on young players changed in England making it harder for them to recruit the most talented youths.

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