FC Barcelona – Why the Masia must be rethought after the advent of Pedri, Fati or Nico?

We have often seen fire from the old volcano that we thought was too old. The Camp Nou lawn looks like scorched earth but Xavi Hernández must quickly yield more wheat than a better April. The combination of circumstances often do the business of young players and, between the state of finances and the questioning of the game model, the Blaugrana bottle class has seized an unexpected opportunity to prove itself and symbolize the renewal of the Barça style. . Many elements of this “Dream Teen” as the club soberly baptized it are either not Catalans, or post-trained in Sant Joan Despí. An emergence which is not without calling into question certain aspects of the Masia.

Gavi, Nico, Fati: these Masians from outside

An Andalusian and a Galician. When you know the Catalan fishpond… Everything is going crazy! But hey, after all, Andrés Iniesta was not born on the banks of Llobregat, that did not prevent him from achieving two-three things at Barça. Gavi and Nico González joined the cantera blaugrana at the age of 11, coming respectively from fútbol base Betis and Atlético Coruña Montañeros. Like Ansu Fati, who came to 10 years after playing for Sevilla FC or Álvaro Sanz who arrived at 14 from Zaragoza, they learned to play with the characteristic Blaugrana style. They have learned their role through repetition and hard work because, obviously, talent is not enough, even for them who are phenomena of maturity and precocity.

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Currently Kuwait U20 coach Carles Martínez has worked in the lower categories of FCB. He explains : “There is no precise age to establish whether a player leaves the Masia or not. The process is not only about the duration of the training but also about the lived experiences. Talent is the basis for understanding the learning of this very specific position game. For a young player, it is sometimes difficult to understand and assimilate it. It is likely that it will be easier in another cantera than in Barça“.

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However, their explosion at a very high level is also due to a notion outside FC Barcelona. Unai Emery put it very well: competition is very important. “This is one of the reasons why we are witnessing the emergence of 17-18-year-old players already prepared to play in La Liga.“, advances the technician also passed by Espanyol. For nearly 15 years, the Catalan clubs propose a quality adversity, inspired by the model blaugrana become identity. Carles Martínez speaks knowingly:”it is a chain where each club feeds on the club below. For example, Granollers takes players from surrounding villages, then Damm takes players from Granollers. And the players who go to Granollers know they can join Damm because that’s what will bring them closer to Barca or Espanyol“.

This local network is the strength of Catalan football, especially at FC Barcelona which favors local players. This does not prevent him from looking outside the autonomy but, according to the technician’s own admission, “convincing canteranos from Seville, Villarreal or elsewhere is now much more difficult“. These non-Catalan Masians could therefore become fewer in the future, even if the club have just recovered Fabio Blanco, trained in Valencia and returned to Spain after a hook by Eintracht Frankfurt. Now even if transfers from minors are prohibited, things are much more locked upstream and movements are much more difficult to achieve. Bugarín (12 years old), Celta de Vigo’s nugget, at Real Madrid.

Fabio Blanco Gomez

Credit: Getty Images

Post-training, a new blaugrana fashion?

This season, elements recruited initially to reinforce the subsidiary which evolves in Primera RFEF were propelled on the front of the scene. The trend that has emerged in recent months at Barça is that of post-training with players able to evolve already at the third level in Spain but also likely to gain playing time depending on the circumstances. with the first team.

Arrived from the Hercules last summer, Abde was launched in La Liga by Sergi Barjuan on October 30 against Deportivo Alavés (1-1) and was confirmed by Xavi who started him 5 times in the last 8 days. . In addition, one could have been captain of Espanyol, to have embraced the perico badge after having equalized during the “mini derbi” against Barça B and to make great debuts with the Culés a few weeks later. Ferran Jutglà, also landed in the offseason, took advantage of the injuries of Fati and Memphis to make a place for himself, after a good start to the season with the subsidiary (4 goals and 4 assists in 15 matches).

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Jutglà spent many years at Espanyol and other Catalan clubs like Sant Andreu, details Carles Martínez. He was already listening but he needed a chance to give him a chance. This season, many young players realized that they could have opportunities and that they would have the chance to prove their worth.Other players, like Espanyol and Reus-trained Estanis Pedrola who made their debut last week against Mallorca, may well be added to the roster soon.

All follow the path dug by the Uruguayan Ronald Araújo, who came from the Boston River at 18 to join the B. Promoted by Ernesto Valverde from October 6, 2019 against Sevilla (4-0), he has become a regular at summons after the break due to coronavirus. However, the story started badly: the Charrua had been excluded a few minutes after coming into play! Likewise, Pedri had to, despite a full season in Segunda with UD Las Palmas, either join B or be loaned as Ronald Koeman initially wanted. Injuries in the middle, especially that of Philippe Coutinho, gave him an opportunity that he did not let slip. All these profiles are shots made by Ramón Planes, the club’s sporting director from July 2018 to November 2021, much more lively on these choices than with the big investments in the transfer market.

Pedri poses in front of a poster after his extension at Barca until 2026

Credit: AFP

Does Barça B still have a use?

From then on, did the subsidiary still play an important role in the process leading up to the first team? In previous seasons, the B had as objective to reach in Segunda, even if it means recruiting players who had no chance of integrating the first team. Because paradoxically, joining the ranks of B is not a guarantee of future success but more like a waste of time. At the end of his contract in June 2021, Nico González almost left and, without the joint work of Ramón Planes and Mateu Alemany to convince him to stay, the player would have set sail.

For many elements (goalkeeper Iñaki Peña, captain Arnau Comas, midfielder Jandro Orellana for example), the experience acquired with the B did not serve as a springboard. Currently on loan at Getafe, central defender Jorge Cuenca, however renowned for having the best projection, preferred to sign for Villarreal to finally have his chance in La Liga. He is not the only one to have taken the tangent. In recent years, Konrad De La Fuente, Álex Collado, Juan Miranda, Monchu (we could even go back to Marc Cucurella who became international while playing at Getafe) have not benefited from real opportunities with the first team and these are unlike younger players who were catapulted. Indisputable holders with Sergi Barjuan, Alejandro Baldé and Mika Màrmol (left Masia at 14 before returning 3 years later) have they already missed their chance despite their very young age?

Konrad de la Fuente

Credit: Getty Images

The club’s desire to absolutely get the team up in Segunda as well as the accumulation of more or less timely transfers, to put it mildly, have contributed to the impoverishment of the role of the Blaugrana subsidiary. Fired at the end of last season after missing the climb following an elimination on penalties on a field of patatas bravas against UCAM Murcia, Francisco García Pimienta, considered more Cruyffist than Cruyff himself, n ‘ has never been able to have a full force under his command.

The links between his work and the first team were severed when they should have been restored. All the presidential candidates have also emphasized this, which testifies to the urgency. “Barça B’s goal is for players to have the profile to join the first team if they need to., he assured in the columns of ¡Furia Liga! last october. It happened for Óscar Mingueza, Araújo, de la Fuente, Collado, Riqui Puig, Baldé, Miranda, Cucurella, Monchu… Not all of them succeeded but they were there. We always ask to win but, at Barça B, we could not always count on Ansu Fati, Ilaix Moriba, Mingueza, Gavi. We had to recruit from outside, which doesn’t make much sense because it costs money and the rookies don’t understand football like us“.

Xavi must therefore achieve the amalgamation between several categories of players with the model of play that he has mentalized and matured since he became a coach. The teaching of the precepts of the game facilitates adaptation, even for players who arrived late. The degree of requirement must be combined with patience, which is never easy at a time when a qualification in the Champions League is of capital importance in the survival of the club. FC Barcelona will always sound Catalan but perhaps not with the same intonations.

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