Ten years ago, Louis van Gaal started his second period as FC Barcelona coach, a period that ended with him being sacked during the winter, and the team enduring its worst season in its centennial history. Despite the bad run, van Gaal left a very recogniseable legacy and a dream that almost became reality last Saturday against Getafe.
As with other lengendary coaches born and raised in dutch football, van Gaal believed in the power of homegrown teams. Yes, he signed many dutch players for Barça (as he also believed a homegrown team must be improved with talents brought in from other teams), but he left us four gifts we enjoy until this day: Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol, who made their debuts in his first period as Barça coach, and Víctor Valdés and Andrés Iniesta, who debuted in 2002, ‘the awful season.’
Over the last ten years these four players dominated, propelling Barça to the top of history’s football hierarchy, while winning every trophy possible, including Spain’s continental and global titles at the Euros and the World Cup. Fortunately, van Gaal’s legacy remains. Braver managers endured who, like him, gave young players from La Masia a chance at first team glory just like Xavi and Iniesta once had.
Thus we saw last weekend the likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Thiago Alcântara, Martín Montoya, Cristian Tello, plus Gerard Piqué and Cesc Fàbregas, who returned to their boyhood club after spells abroad. These players, alongside Valdés, Puyol and Xavi, comprised the lineup of a historic nearly-all-La Masia-starting lineup we saw Saturday. Adriano was the only player that was not raised and born at La Masia, who was covering for the injured La Masia graduate Jordi Alba. And later Messi joined the bunch!