• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Made in La Masia: Barcelona’s talent factory keeps delivering

ByKitty Moreno

Nov 10, 2023
FC Barcelona Badge

In the year 2000, a teenage football prodigy moved halfway across the world from Argentina to Spain, after signing a contract on a napkin with FC Barcelona’s development academy. Twelve years later, a girl from a small Catalonian village, having outgrown her local teams, joined the same institution. This year, they were named the best footballers in the world at the annual Ballon d’Or Ceremony. Their names, of course, are Lionel Messi and Aitana Bonmatí, and the academy that birthed them is La Masia.

A week earlier, 23 seconds into his official senior debut, 17-year-old Marc Guiu broke records with his 80th-minute winner against Athletic Club. His spectacular La Liga inauguration was the most recent example of La Masia talents breaking into Barcelona’s squad. La Masia graduates continue to make waves, and it’s clear to see why it’s labelled the world’s best youth academy.

Formed in 1979, it has a rich and significant role in the history of FC Barcelona and football globally and has produced some of the best talents the game has seen. Barcelona’s legendary 2009-10 UCL-winning squad featured numerous La Masia alumni, from Andrés Iniesta to Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets. Even former player and coach Pep Guardiola was a student of La Masia, and the imprint of the academy on its players is clear to see.

Barcelona has become famous for its short passing, possession, and pressing the opposition when the ball is lost, and it’s no coincidence that technical players like Xavi and Iniesta, or Guardiola, whose name is synonymous with ‘tiki-taka’, are graduates of La Masia. Speaking to EgonZehdner’s Paul Ingendaay, Barcelona’s former director of youth football, Guillermo Amor, emphasised that “from a young age, our lads learn not to be afraid to hold onto the ball.” Barcelona manager Xavi told Champions magazine in 2010 of the “football philosophy of this club [that] was drilled into me from the off,” with La Masia coaches teaching him to “play triangles and move the ball around.” The techniques that form the DNA of FC Barcelona are imbued in La Masia’s coaching philosophy, and, clearly, they stick.

The Golden Generation might (mostly) have hung up their boots, but La Masia is proving just as fruitful today. Pablo Gavi, winner of 2022’s Golden Boy award, and Alejandro Balde, who ranked sixth in 2023’s prize, were fixtures of Barcelona’s 22/23 League-winning squad. In the last few months, several of Barcelona’s under-18 players have made remarkable first-team debuts. Lamine Yamal, Fermín Lopéz, and Héctor Fort are just the latest products of La Masia’s seemingly never-ending supply chain.

With huge debt and recent spending limits disrupting new signings and existing contracts, Barcelona’s commitment to youth development has proven invaluable. No other club replicates La Masia’s unique approach to coaching and style of play, and Barcelona is reaping the rewards. With the exceptional performances of their young talents in recent months, surely Culers won’t have to wait too long before another La Masia graduate accepts their own Ballon d’Or.

FC Barcelona, FC Barcelona” by coreycam is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.