It all starts from a Farmhouse named ‘La Masia’, this is the name of FC Barcelona training facilities located near the Camp Nou in the Les Corts district of Barcelona. This is also the term adopted to generically describe the youth academy.
La Masia is where it all started for many of Barca’s greats, including Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Pique. The youth academy of Barcelona holds more than 300 young players, and has been praised since 2002 as the best in the world, being a significant factor in the club’s European glory, on top of the Spanish national team’s success at the 2010 FIFA world cup. In 2010, La Masia achieved a record breaking honour becoming the first academy to have trained all three finalists for the Ballon d`Or in one same year, with Andres Iniesta. Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez.
In the 1990`s the so called “dream team” played a style called tiki-taka philosophy, derived for total football. This has been a key part of the Barcelona philosophy ever since, and became the source of success for later midfielders such as Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas.
La Masia received a lot of publicity after Barcelona B’s success with its home grown players – it quickly replaced the fabled Ajax academy as the football factory. In 2000 Louis Van Gaal, who coached the Barcelona first team, was widely ridiculed by the sports media for his dream to win the Champions league with 11 home grown players. The first team won the trophy in 2009 with eight home grown players.
In the 30 years La Masia inauguration, more than 500 youngsters have left their homes and families to stay at the academy. About half of them were from Catalonia and the rest came from other regions of the Kingdom of Spain and beyond. Including 15 from Cameroon, 7 from Brazil, 5 from Senegal and 3 from Argentina. Of those 500, almost 10% made it to the first team.
La Masia’s current upcoming stars:
1) The most known out of these five players is Thiago Alcantara. Born in Italy and grew up in Spain, his farther, Mazinhio, was a former Brazilian World cup winner. Thiago is a central midfielder who plays very similarly to Xavi Hernadez. At 21-years-old, he is only young and will therefore only get better. At the moment he lacks the decision making side to his game – he has all the tools but his brain does not function as an experienced midfielder’s would. Will he be better than Xavi ? NO is the answer, Xavi is a remarkable individual and a player of his calibre will not come around every year, Thiago will be similar but not better.
2) Gerard Deulofeu a winger only 19 years old, he is currently playing for Barcelona B where he has made 27 appearances, scoring 18 goals. These stats are very good for such a young winger. He made his first official debut for the first team in October 2012, replacing David Villa in the 63rd Minute in a 5-0 win against Mallorca. Gerard is thought very highly of by Tito Villanova and by the Barcelona B manager. He is very quick and loves to run at the full backs. Who would I compare him to? Maybe Pedro but I feel he will have more quality than him in 4 to 5 years time. Gerard is still very young and I’m expecting big things from him.
3) Jean Marie Dongou, a 17 year old striker, who at the moment is making more noise than Leo Messi at a similar age. Dongou came to Barcelona in 2008 through the Samuel Eto`o foundation at the age of 13. He made his FC Barcelona B debut when he came on as a sub for Rodri in the 85th minute; he scored his first goal for the B team against CD Alocoyana on 25th March. His goal to game stats isn’t the best at the moment with 35 appearances only 6 finishes in total. I’m going to make a big statement hear and say Jean Marie Dongou will be better than Samuel Eto`o. The two are very similar players but as he has come through La Masia I think he will be a much better footballer than the latter.
4) Sergi Roberto, 21 years old, arrived in La Maia aged 14, Currently plays for Barca B. Roberto is a kind of Cesc Fabregas player; energetic, good on the ball and can do anything in the midfield. He first made an appearance in La Liga against Malaga last season during a 3-1 win. His first start came against FC BATE Borisov in the Campions League under Pep Guardiola where he opened the scoring in a 4-0 home win. I think next season is when he will make his step up as a rotation option for the first team.
5) My last player is Rodri. He is slightly older than the four other players mentioned. Earlier in the season, Rodri went out loan to Sheffield Wednesday where he made 11 appearances scoring 1 goal for the Championship outlet. However he had may problems adapting to the physical side of the English game, whilst the language barrier also caused issues. The striker is currently playing on loan at Real Zaragoza, here he has made 4 appearances and scored 1 goal. I think later in his career, in maybe two or three years, he could become an established striker for a top European side.
Look out for part 2 in my article series. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions in the section below.