Once upon a time, La Masia ruled the world. In 2010, the ballon d’ or podium had three La Masia graduates as the finalists; Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Messi is still ruling the world, Xavi and Iniesta have successfully made their mark in the world of Football as the greatest magician ever; they were from La Masia. We don’t need much example to know the potential La Masia has. Pep Guardiola, the manager who has decorated the Golden years of Barcelona as a manager, himself, is a La Masia product.
On 25 November 2012, what happened had never happened before and is unlikely to occur in the coming future. It was the date when Barcelona fielded all 11 players from La Masia. What an outstanding achievement for a club. La Masia, which was formed in 1979, then called as the farmhouse was glorified to the utmost level that day.
The coach, Tito Vilanova, himself the La Masia product started with 10 La Masia players and only one outsider, Dani Alves. At around 14th min, Alves came off injured and then came in, Martin Montoya marking the historical moment of FC Barcelona.
ESPN then had stated, “Fielding the 1st ever La Masia eleven will go down as one of the proudest moments in over 100 years of Blaugrana History.”
And just see, where we are now. Messi, Busquets, Alba, Pique and Roberto from La Masia play at Barcelona regularly, and except Roberto, all are above 30.
About a week ago, Koeman had stated about not having a 21-year-old bright midfielder Riqui Puig in his plans. Puig is now staying according to rumours; he will stay at Barca B and maybe develop a bit. But, Why there is even a question about his continuation when he already has shown his potential in the mins he got? Says a lot about the Crisis at Fc Barcelona and the decorated academy La Masia.
Let me pen down some big names that came from La Masia, who has made some remarkable impact in Footballing world.
LA MASIA STARS
- Lionel Messi,
- Xavi Hernandes,
- Andres Iniesta,
- Pep Guardiola,
- Carles Puyol,
- Cesc Fabregas,
- Gerard Pique,
- Pedro Rodriguez,
- Sergio Busquets,
- Luis Gracia,
- Mikel Arteta,
- Jordi Alba,
- Victor Valdes.
These are just a few known names; the list can go even longer and is still not enough to describe quality La Masia possesses. There just isn’t any other academy which has made an impact as much as La Masia in the world of Football.
THE STORY OF LA MASIA
“From the outset, the boys learn not to be afraid of having possession. In fact, they learn to love the ball.”
– Guillermo Amor
“They learn to love the ball,” said Guillermo while talking about what exactly is taught in La Masia that makes it unique. A key midfielder of the Cruyff era, Amor made over 400 league appearances for the club. He arrived at the La Masia as an 11-year-old and stayed around for a full eight years. He had also said back then, “If there’s any club that truly believes in its youth academy, that’s us.”
“There are two key figures in this process,” Folguera said, “Beyond the coaches, we work side by side with their families as players adapt to their surroundings, as well as the teachers, who accompany our residents throughout their stay with us.”
“What makes us different is that we attend to our athletes 24 hours a day, way beyond the two hours of daily training, making sure that their sports training and their education are fully compatible.”
Training methodology at La Masia is much more different than others. Their focus is on developing the artists first, then athletes. Like Armor had said, from an early age, they learn to love the ball, stick to the ball. With beliefs in 3 P’s; pressure, possession and positioning, they slowly furnish themselves with these traits then, learning those extra-terrestrials pass to set their vision of Football to whole another level.
So basically, the potential of La Masia is much more than we all anticipate. Not every La Masia indeed reach that level of quality, but why is the hesitancy to trust even those who show their potential?
Let’s see some examples.
TAKEFUSA KUBO(19 years old)
Kubo, famously known as Japanese Messi, had joined Barcelona’s academy at the age of 10. He had to leave the club in 2015 after Barcelona was investigated for breaking FIFA regulations related to signing young players. He returned to Japan, joining Fc Tokyo’s youth system.
8MD had stated, “They had met for four times but couldn’t reach an agreement.” Kubo’s agent then had responded, saying,” The meeting was 20 mins long where we were only listening.” He admitted about having met for trying to reach an agreement, but he made it clear that money was never an issue as Kubo had better offers from other teams.
This is why Real Madrid have signed Takefusa Kubo 🔥🔥🔥
The 'Japanese Messi', ladies and gentlemen 😎 pic.twitter.com/HZjbdYCmy5
— Goal (@goal) June 14, 2019
He’s currently loaned to Villareal after spending a year loan at Mallorca. We had seen the potential this kid had when he played for Mallorca. We are yet to understand how Barcelona managed to lose out the player of our academy with much potential that too, to the rivals.
Marc Cucurella(22 years old)
Cucurella, the left-back from La Masia had a bitter time at Fc Barcelona. After spending six years in RCD Espanyol’s youth team, he had moved to Barcelona in 2012. Cucurella made his first-team debut on 24 October 2017, as a substitute for Lucas Digne in a 3–0 Copa del Rey game against Real Murcia. But, he was left untouched ever since.
On 31 August 2018, Barcelona loaned Cucurella to Eibar, for a year with a €2 million buyout clause. At the end of his year loan, Eibar exercised Cucurella’s clause, to make him a permanent player for the Basque team; with that, Barcelona added a €4 million buyback option.
On 16 July 2019, after only sixteen days as a permanent Eibar player, Barcelona triggered Cucurella’s €4 million buyback clause, just to loan him out to Getafe two days later, with an option to buy for €6 million and 40% of the rights remaining to Barcelona.
On 3 March 2020, Getafe triggered his option to buy for €6 million. The club fully exercised his option to buy on 30 June with 10m + 10% of the future sale for Barcelona.
What’s surprising was while Barcelona didn’t have too many options for the Left-back, they could have tested Cucurella and given his opportunities, but maybe because La Masia is all about making money these days, which is why he wasn’t even tested much before going out for cheap sale to the Laliga team.
The potential replacement for Alba that Barcelona signed from Betis back on Aug,19 for a sum of 18m +12 m variables, Junior Firpo is yet to show his potential; he hasn’t lived up to the expectations of fans as well as the previous coaches. Meanwhile, Cucurella has already established his quality at Getafe, making Barcelona regret letting him go.
Marc Cucurella looks to be some player 🌟
Will Barcelona regret letting him go? 🤦♂️pic.twitter.com/yA93AKAg5b
— Goal (@goal) September 10, 2020
Back then before Barcelona vs Getafe game, Cucurella had expressed the bitterness he felt about he didn’t get the minutes or recognition he deserved at Barcelona. He said, “Maybe they lack the patience they had. I expected them to be more confident in the academy.”
We know Cucurella, we do know!
My only problem with this is if you are going to buy a player who is yet to make his mark known, they why can’t you test a player of similar calibre coming from the academy?
When Thiago joined Liverpool for just a sum of 20m with 5 m in add-ons, culers felt a sharp pain in their chest; It felt like Thiago just moved from Barcelona to Liverpool. We all are well-known about the quality he possesses, the visionary plays he can manage and the confident ball control he has.
Barcelona already had made a huge mistake when the La Masia graduate, Thiago joined Bayern back in 2013 for 25m. He recently was given a new contract making his clause 90 m. But, Barcelona failed to fulfil the clause in the contract about his playing time, which made his boy-out clause drop to 18m and make a move to Bayern.
While he was decorating dreams of becoming a big thing at this club of so-called big philosophy, he was made to leave the club in a very bitter manner.
Had he gotten his deserved mins, he would have stayed and had he stayed; he would have easily made his mark at Barcelona like Iniesta and Xavi.
When the rumours had surfaced about Thiago not negotiating the contract with Bayern and seeking his way out, Culers were seeing the hopes of getting him back at Camp nou, an optimistic belief that maybe, Barcelona would correct the wrongdoing that happened in the past around Thiago. But, to make it worse, Barcelona instead took in Pjanic, a player of similar age, giving out Arthur shattering the hearts of Barca fans.
We just cannot say maybe Thiago wouldn’t do good even if he had joined in. He made his debut for Liverpool a few days ago and has already made history in the Premier League in his debut game. With 75 successful passes, Thiago had the most passes completed by a player in a half of Premier League football since Opta started producing passing statistics in 2003.
He also had an outstanding career at Bayern. In the season 19/20 for Bayern, Thiago had managed 90% passing accuracy on average and 86% successful dribbles per game.
Barcelona should never have let go of a gem like Thiago; he is an exceptional player, more impressive because he had that La Masia gene, that typical creative, visionary mindset.
Apart from the examples as mentioned above, the list of former La Masia players who rejected tons of offer, waited, just so that they can try to make their place into the first team is awfully long.
Carles Perez, a 22 years old La Masia graduate, who played a few games as Barca’s winger is a permanent Roma player now after a year loan. He felt it unfair as because he had offers while he was in Barca B; he had chosen to stay and fight for his place.
Carles Alena, whom fans had put their faith on since a long time, has just returned from loan at Betis. In the past, he had said how he struggled to get his minutes. Riqui Puig, I don’t need to word it to describe the quality and potential he carries, yet Koeman would prefer him to go around and develop himself on a loan deal.
What Barcelona seems to have forgotten is, Iniesta made his first-team debut aged 18, two years later, he’s already a regular player; Xavi made his first-team debut at the age of 18 too, and after a year, he already makes his place in the team; Messi made his first-team debut aged 16, and at age 18, he is already the starter for Fc Barcelona.
What I am trying to explain is, a player can develop at the club itself without necessarily going out on loan. La Masia seems to be losing its identity from how it appears according to the past couple of years.
It is also indeed a fact that, just because someone’s from the academy, he isn’t necessarily that good or needs to stay, for example, Sergio Roberto; but every year, there are these names, those few stars from la Masia who are eager to and are capable of making It into the first team.
Barcelona is lucky. They don’t need to go out hunting for talents; there’s this whole academy that can produce varieties of talents in all sort of forms and they just seem to be unable to retain or make fair use of it. They go around spending 100 and more of 100 million without seeking the options that we already have.
The wage issue, failed signings, all these could be minimized to a great extent if Barcelona could rely a bit on La Masia like how they used to.