European football giants FC Barcelona have a rich history of producing world-class talent and this is down to the La Masia Academy.
La Masia (The Farmhouse) is the name associated with the youth development system at the Catalan club. Many rank the youth academy among the top in the world and his home to over 300 young gifted players.
In 2011, a record 7 La Masia graduates helped Pep Guardiola’s side win the Champions League, which was unheard of in football. Confirming FC Barcelona’s youth system as a frontrunner among the world’s elite.
However, recent years have been difficult for the youth of La Masia, with opportunities to break into the first team rare.
La Masia History of SuccessThe on pitch success of FC Barcelona over the past 15 years is thanks to their La Masia Academy. The Barcelona Youth Academy set up has long been a factory for producing technical players, who understand the style and philosophy of the great Catalan club.In 2010 the quality of Barcelona’s youth production peaked as a first team built around a core of La Masia graduates, won 12 out of 15 competitions. To top off a year of La Masia graduated success, it was also the first time the top 3 players in the Ballon D’Or – Iniesta, Xavi and Messi – all came through the same youth academy.
FC Barcelona’s La Masia Philosophy
One key to the seamless transition from youth to first team football has been the strong ideology adopted throughout the whole club. This holistic approach ensures La Masia players develop to one day representing the first team.
La Masia’s Philosophy and Vision
The development of the FC Barcelona (La Masia) football philosophy is based on 3 principles:
- Principle 1: Winning as many titles as possible (La Liga, Supercup, Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Supercup, FIFA Club World Cup).
- Principle 2: By playing attractive football
- Principle 3: Whilst using the greatest amount of La Masia training players as possible.
What Is a Typical Day like for a La Masia Player?So, for FC Barcelona to produce so many world-class players, their Academy must focus on football and only football…right?Well, no.If fact, youth players only spend a maximum of 90 minutes training, with the majority of time spent on schooling.An average day for a La Masia student may look something like this: 6.45 am – Wake up, shower and brush teeth. Then head down for breakfast 7.15 am – Players swipe in for breakfast, with a choice of nutritious foods on offer 7.30 am – School bus pick up 8 am – 2 pm – School – FC Barcelona understand how important a well-rounded education is to player development 2 pm– Lunch 3 pm – Players free time, players can enjoy downtime. This time may also be used for professional players and football experts to hold conferences on specific areas of the game 3.30 pm – 4-30pm – Back to school for the players, this time may on academic lessons such as English, Maths or Science 5 pm – Training Starts – Players training is no longer than 90 minutes 8 pm – Players free times. During this time players can enjoy playing on the internet, reading or playing video games 9 pm – Dinner/Supper time 9.30 – 10.30pm– Free time 10.30 pm – Time for bed for the playersCheck out this behind the scenes video of life at La Masia:
How Much Does La Masia Cost FC Barcelona Per Season?FC Barcelona has always put huge emphases on bringing through young talent, and this is evident in the amount financed they invest in La Masais per season.The Catalan club invests around €10 million per season on the youth department (not including the U19 or Barcelona B).This is a considerable amount if you compare it with other major clubs such as Bayern Munich (€3 million) and Arsenal FC (€3 million).These sums of money seem minor compared to some of the latest transfers for mediocre senior players.Surely, other major teams should invest in youth development to improve home grown players, that understand the clubs DNA and philosophy?
Barcelona’s La Masia Scouting PolicyUnlike other European giants, FC Barcelona’s complete belief in producing home-grown technical players emphasizes the need for accurate scouting criteria. The main 3 attributes an FC Barcelona youth scout looks for is:
- Vision of the game
FC Barcelona La Masia GraduatesOver the years FC Barcelona has produced some of the worlds more talented players. However, there are a few players who have set the world alight with their positional excellent and game intelligence.Here is a rundown of the top 10 players who started their football journey at the La Masia academy.
Number 10 – Gerard PiqueFC Barcelona’s current centre back Gerard Pique began life at La Masia back in 1997, where he spent 7 years learning what it takes to play for FC Barcelona.A move to Manchester United in 2004 allowed the young Spaniard to gain first team experience before the Catalan club came calling to resign him in 2008.Pique has since starred for both club and country (Spain) and as of 2017 has won the following competitions:
Number 9 – Ivan De La PenaAlthough not part of the golden age of La Masia graduated De La Pena is still a fan favourite amongst the FC Barcelona faithful.Having joined La Masia academy at 15 years, the young midfielder made his debut for the first team at only 17 years old.This talented player may not have as many winners’ medals as the more recent crop of graduates, however, his cult status will live on for years to come.De La Pena Career Trophies include: 1 x Italian Super Cup Winner 1 x Copa del Rey Winner
Number 8 – Sergio BusquetsOften seen as FC Barca’s unsung hero over the past 10 years, Busquets is the rock in midfield that allows the creative players to flourish.However, Busquets talents go further than just strong tackling. His La Masia upbringing taught him how to dictate the pace of the game, which goes hand in hand with his accurate short and long passing ability.Sergio Busquets has won many trophies with Spain and FC Barcelona over his career including:
Number 7 – Albert FerrerDuring the 90’s FC Barcelona achieved success on both Spain and on the European stage. Throughout this period Ferrer was ever present in the right back position.His reliability for FC Barcelona, Chelsea and for Spain, cements his place on the top 10 La Masia graduates list. Here is a list of his career honours:
Number 6 – Guillermo AmorAmor was a versatile midfielder who joined La Masia in 1978. Spending 10 years with the FC Barcelona youth academy, he finally made his debut for the first team in 1988.His 311 appearance and 47 goals help Barca to a hatful of titles and confirmed Amor as a club legend.Club Honours: 5 x Spanish La Liga Winner 3 x Spanish Copa del Rey Winner 4 x Spanish Supercup Winner 1 x European Cup (Champions League) Winner 2 x Winner of UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup 2 x UEFA Super Cup Winner
Number 5 – Carles PuyolWidely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, Puyol was/is an FC Barcelona man through and through.Captaining his club and country to countless trophies, this one club man is the epitome of determination and leadership.With over 392 appearances for FC Barcelona and 100 caps for Spain, Carlos Puyol has succeeded in all areas of the game, since joining La Masia in 1995.Puyol’s Career Honours include:
Number 4 – Pep GuardiolaAnother former Barcelona captain, Guardiola was a technically gifted midfielder, who has since gone on to achieve exceptional feet’s in management.Having joined La Masia in 1984, his 6 years at FC Barcelona’s Academy helped him become one of the clubs most accomplished graduates.With over 263 appearances for the Catalan giants, Pep was an integral part of Johan Cruyff’s “dream team”, helping them win the European Cup in 1992.His club legend status grew in his first season as manager, as he led his former club to the treble. This was the start of a trophy packed 4 years at the club before he moved overseas to manage Bayern Munich.Pep Guardiola’s Playing Careers Honours
Number 3 – Andrés IniestaIniesta spent 6 years perfecting his craft at La Masia before his debut for the first team in 2002.Since breaking into the team at 18 years old, Iniesta has been an integral part of the team ever since. Becoming one of the first names on the team sheet and forming a formidable partnership fellow La Masia graduates Xavi and Busquets.To date, Iniesta has played 412 times for FC Barcelona and has 119 caps for Spain.In 2010 he was part of the incredible La Masia achievement of having all 3 Ballon d’Or finalist trained by the same youth academy. Iniesta came runner up to team mate Lionel Messi, with Xavi finishing 3rd.Andrés Iniesta Career Honours
Number 2 – XaviThe assist king Xavier “Xavi” Hernández Creus has set up over 180 goals throughout his career.Often referred to as the embodiment of tiki-taka football, he has been the pioneer of both FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team success over the past 15 years.Playing over 500 times for Barca and 133 for his country, this humble midfielder would have been the greatest La Masia graduate if it wasn’t for a certain record breaking Argentine.
Number 1 – Lionel MessiThere could only be one winner, and his story is still not complete.Messi’s La Masia journey started in experimental circumstances. As a child, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency with experts claiming he would not grow taller than 4 ft 9 in. However, La Masia’s recruitment team saw the potential in this young Argentine and offered to pay his medical treatment, if he joined the Barcelona’s Academy.Messi progressed speedily through the ranks and made his first team debut aged only 17 years old. After a few injury prone season early on in his career, Messi soon became arguably the best player in the world (and perhaps of all time).And here are some of the honours he has won since graduating from La Masia:
What Is Causing the Talent Drought at Barcelona’s La Masia?The golden La Masia era of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi has been positive and negative for FC Barcelona. On the one hand, this extremely talented group of home produced players have won countless trophies and reinvented the way football should be played.However…The level at which the team has performed and the quality of players La Masia produced has:
- Set an incredibly high standard at the club
- Increased the expectancy of the fans week in week out
- Created a blueprint for other major La Liga and European clubs to follow