Barcelona FC aka Barca is arguably the best team on the planet at the moment. There is a current debate whether they are the best team ever. The haul of trophies over the last few years attests this claim. In 2009, Barca won all six trophies that they contested for, and a few weeks ago, they won the European Club Championship for the second time in three years. Also, their style of football has won many admirers worldwide and become the template that fans and owners desire their clubs to emulate.
But what makes Barca so good? Well they have talented players but so do many other top European clubs. The key to Barca’s current dominance in Europe is La Masia – the club’s youth academy. Most European top clubs spend heavily to acquire top players; Barca prefers to grow them in-house and then buy to strengthen. Academy players are not fringe but core members of the first team unlike other top clubs’ approach. For instance, eight of the first team are home grown, even the coach is a La Masia graduate. They were all groomed as young boys at La Masia.
La Masia’s success has not developed overnight but it is a result of over three decades of investment of time, effort and money. The academy’s home grown talent management is a long-term strategy.
The club went through a trophy drought in early 2000s when the current crop of first team players were being groomed and developed at La Masia. Barca is now reaping the reward of their investment in these players as well as the patience to believe that they would come good in the end.
Pep Guardiola, the coach of Barca, confirmed this in a Daily Telegraph article by Henry Winter.
“When they were 12 and 14 in the youth team they won nothing. For six years they didn’t win anything and they could have been kicked out of the club. But we were patient. We believed that home-grown talent was important and we took strength from Real Madrid in the 1980s when they won so much with local players. So we waited.
Players like Xavi and Iniesta were not that good as youth players and developed. At 18 and 19 they had lost more games than they won. Now look, a beautiful team. The hard work by so many people has paid off. The fruits of our work is before you.
They have gone from zero to big success and I am grateful to these players. It is not easy to win so much and stay committed in every competition. It is a privilege for me to be their coach.”
Barring injuries to key players, complacency and serious bad luck, Barca looks set to dominate Europe for the foreseeable future. The current team is still relatively young and the club’s long term success will depend on the quality of players that La Masia produces to replace this golden generation.