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What's happening to Barcelona's Masia?

Several players are leaving the cantera blaugrana, which in recent years has failed to turn out top-level talent

What's happening to Barcelona's Masia? Several players are leaving the cantera blaugrana, which in recent years has failed to turn out top-level talent

When someone thinks of the youth teams of a team, as a prince example the cantera of the Barcelona is always called into question: all the ears of the young talents of the Blaugrana begin to whistle in unison, while the other societies try to replicate the elusive Barça model in hope to see the new Messi, the new Iniesta, the new Busquets grow (to then resell).

The problem, however, is that the names are always the same: Messi, Iniesta, Busquets, the youngest of whom (Busquets) is anyway an '88 class. And so, while Mbappé is just exploded (1998), Barcelona in terms of production of (real) champions seems to have stopped ten years ago, when today's champions came out of Masia. So, the question arises: what is happening to the blaugrana academy?


From U21 European Championship to the last big (?) names

A news that has made quite a stir: among all the Spain U21 squad who recently won the European Championship, there was not even one player from Barcelona. This was one of the reasons that triggered the reflection on Masia and its alleged crisis: is the cantera blaugrana still capable of producing talent at the level of world football? Or that of the "Generation of '87" of the various Messi, Piqué and Fabregas is only a unicum in the history of Barça?


To understand if and how many talents Barcelona has actually produced in the last few years, we have to go and look at the last "big" names coming from the cantera blaugrana. It goes from Deulofeu to Rafinha, passing through Montoya and Bartra: good players, perhaps also very good, but still quite far from the levels of Messo & Co and for this reason often forced to seek fortune elsewhere.

Currently the only Sergi Roberto seems to have followed the cantera-first team course in a natural way, even if in any case his qualities are not comparable to those of the greatest players coming out of the Masia. Meanwhile, however, Barcelona has to deal not only with what comes out of the cantera, but also with what is taken away from it. A factor that inevitably influences the odds of "autochthonous" players who actually find space in the first team.

Good talents runaway

One of the last names is that of Mateu Morey, a right-back born in 2000 who left Barcelona for Borussia Dortmund. The player, who won the Youth League with the blaugrana jersey and has already put a European U17 title on his personal bulletin board with Spain, after having decided to move to Germany said he had chosen "a fantastic club that focuses much on young people". So, does that mean he didn't feel confident enough to have his say on the first team? Hard to say, but the fact is that these multiple departures from the blaugrana youths are no exception. In the past years the add-returns of Piqué and Fabregas have caused a sensation, but recently the matter seems to have become even more serious.

Another round, another young man left: one of the current symbol of the Barça's academy, Xavi Simons (do you know why his first name is Xavi? It's easy) moved to PSG, with the intercession of Mino Raiola, agent of the 16-year-old Dutch midfielder. The French club has put a very convincing offer on the plate to bring the young talent to France: about half a million euros net, more than double than what Barça proposed.

For its part, the Catalan club has been able to do little: as explained by El País, Barcelona has repeatedly tried to "block" its players by inserting clauses in their contract, but each time it has found itself clashing with FIFA regulations on the subject. According to the Spanish newspaper, the Blaugrana company will try to get out of this impasse by offering more attractive contracts to some key elements of the cantera. Will this be enough to convince them to stay?


There is another aspect of the discourse, let's say psychological, that deserves to be taken into consideration: all the young talents of Barcelona probably dream of becoming "the new Messi", but this same dream may have turned (at least in recent years) into an immense shadow hanging over the careers of each of them. For example, in a world where everyone expects to find the new Messi, how difficult can it be to live with Bojan Krkić? A player certainly not up to expectations, which in any case from the parts of the cantera blaugrana at the moment seem to be too high.


Because as long as you insist on looking for the new Messi, the new Busquets or the new Piqué every time, this game of labels will only charge you with excessive responsibility of the boys who should live those names as models to be imitated, and not as monsters by defeat to prove that you are up to the first team. First team in which, among other things, each of them at the moment would find it difficult to find space, since the historical block still continues to make it (rightly) as master in the eleven owner, assisted by very expensive champions who arrived not from Masia, but from the transfer market.

Route change

After all, is also a matter of choices. And this is what it is: Barcelona, ​​perhaps, after realizing that a golden generation like the one mentioned above would not be repeated soon, preferred to change its attitude and invest directly in ready-made players, rather than waiting explosion of absolute talents from the youth. A choice that is more reminiscent of the famous Galacticos policy used for years by Real Madrid's rivals. This revolution essentially began with the purchase of Neymar, which arrived in 2013. Since then, Barça has spent more than a billion Euros on the market, and the latest purchases of de Jong and Griezmann once again demonstrate how the gap on which the leadership has been moving for years.

An attitude, this, that obviously starts from the head, that is to say from the upper echelons of the management and from their decisions. Decisions that, among other things, would have led to heated discussions within the blaugrana offices: Jordi Mestre, a vice-president with strong responsibility for the sports area, has resigned after nine years. Officially, the manager left because he was responsible for the hoteliers in Barcelona, ​​but according to the Gazzetta dello Sport the reasons would be others, linked in this case to a difference in programmatic visions of the present (and future) of the club. Mestre was opposed by the leadership, which criticized its work more oriented towards large purchases than the development of the youth sector.

Mestre, among other things, began to be part of the blaugrana leadership in 2010, settling along with then-president Rosell, his great friend and other figure criticized by elements inside the Barça world. For example, Albert Benaiges, Iniesta's soccer father, according to whom "since the arrival of Sandro Rosell as president the club's values ​​have changed: Barcelona will continue to win but its inner identity has changed". Benaiges at the time was one of the leaders of the youth sector of Barça, and it was on this role he had to say: in his view, "the loss of interaction between the cantera and the first team came from the division of the youth sector in two blocks, with the consequent appointment of two different sports directors who ended up ruining a work previously carried out harmoniously, because neither of them knew the environment and its dynamics well”.

The last managerial change dates back to a few days ago, when a former blaugrana like Patrick Kluivert was called to the base: back from the conclusion of the relationship with the Cameroon national team, the Dutch was appointed the new technical director of the cantera blaugrana. Will he be able to transmit his DNA?

Different perspectives, same philosophy

In the meantime, however, as some have rightly pointed out, Spain U19 just won the European Championship with as many as 8 players raised in the Masia. And around Europe, the youth teams of Barcelona and Real Madrid have sown more players than all the other teams in the major European championships. In addition, the friendly match played against Iniesta's Vissel Kobe was decided by a double by Carles Pérez (1998), a Masia product, and six other players from the young Barça took to the field in the same game.

And if on one hand it's true that just over a year ago Barcelona went on the pitch for the first time in 16 years without even a single player from cantera in the starting eleven, it's also true that today the Blaugrana can boast among their ranks new talents: Carles Alenà (1998) and Riqui Puig (1999) are undoubtedly the most ready, but still too far from the standards of the first team and too strong to play in the reserve team of Barça B, slipped to third division in 2018. Are we therefore worrying unnecessarily? Or is the problem that our expectations remain too high because everything always leads back to the new Messi?Are we therefore worrying unnecessarily? Or is the problem that our expectations remain too high because everything always leads back to the new Messi?

Certainly something has changed in recent years, especially in terms of business strategy. This, however, does not mean that Masia has stopped producing talent. Perhaps in the coming years we will see more and more parts in and out, as now many of the big lights are aimed at the youth of Barcelona. And this is precisely because it is from there that some of the greatest talents of the current football scene have come out. If Barça still manages to find ways to enhance them, it will be good for the Spanish club; otherwise the "new Messi", after having been raised on bread and Masia, will bloom elsewhere, always bringing with them that winning philosophy thanks to which the Blaugrana society has written (and continues to write) its history.