FC Barcelona could, this season, have a starting eleven entirely from the academy with all the players having learned their football at the famous La Masia.
The dream of seeing a starting eleven, all graduates from the academy is close to becoming a reality. The first team squad for the 2012-2013 season, at present, has 17 of its 25 members from the Masia. This makes up 68% of the first team squad. The remaining 8 (32%) in the squad are signings.
It is notable that, the then coach of the first team, Louis van Gaal, once said in an article published in late November 1998, “I still believe that my goal is to win the European Cup with eleven Catalans in the team, but I know if I’d tried this year, it’d be terrible.” Fourteen years later, that dream is closer than ever. The policy of incorporating youth team graduates into the senior squad continued with great commitment by Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola has left the current coach, Tito Vilanova, with a team in which the majority has learned the trade at La Masia. Seventeen of the 25 Barca players, at some point or another in their career, were in the youth squads. There are many talented young players coming through and with a philosophy that stays true to these young talents, the number is destined to increase.
Vilanova has players who graduated from La Masia in all positions, starting from goalkeeper to any of the front three. Quite a few are international players who have also become World and European Champions. And it is not just the first team squad that is composed of home grown players, the coaching staff is as well. In the past five years the board has not hesitated to give technical positions to coaches who know the philosophy. The first to accept the challenge was Guardiola. Now, Vilanova has assumed the mantle and is surrounded by people he trusts, starting from his assistant Jordi Roura, and the head of physical preparation, Aureli Altimira. Also, the goalkeeping coach is former player José Ramón de la Fuente , as is one of the technical analysts, Alex Garcia.
It is no longer utopian to think that the idea launched by Van Gaal will indeed, in a few years, become a reality. Barça are working in that direction.
Source: Sport; Image: M.Creus/C.Javierre/Bwokaa