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Messi, Iniesta, Guardiola, Arteta, Xavi, Puyol: these are the heralded graduates of the famous Barcelona youth academy, La Masia. Some of these names have made ground-breaking changes to the game.

The highlight of the academy’s success was during the Ballon d’Or in 2010 ceremony that saw Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi Hernandez finish in the top three. 

This was a notable achievement, highlighting FC Barcelona’s dominance and style of play during this period.

old la masia graduates

Following the Messi era, FC Barcelona and La Masia went through a period of decline culminating in a tumultuous debt-ridden period of failure as the club drifted from its usual tradition and opted to splurge just like rival European giants. 

However, a recent crop of players is driving the train of the renaissance of La Masia and FC Barcelona’s reliance on youth today.

What spurred the resurgence of La Masia?

Just when it felt like Barcelona would suffer the same barren spell as Manchester United and Real Madrid in recent years, several stars have aligned to lift the hopes of the club’s fans.

Here are the factors that spurred La Masia’s resurgence. 

Financial Difficulties

FC Barcelona’s recent financial difficulties stem from a high wage bill, the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, poor financial management, and accumulated debt from failed transfers and lofty wages. 

To address this, they reduced player salaries, sold assets, and sought financial restructuring. To stand a chance at survival, they had to get rid of club icon and all-time great Lionel Messi.

The financial constraint also spurred the club to dig into its youth ranks to bolster its senior squad and replace outgoing players. The top La Masia prospects received a vote of confidence to play for the club.

Failed Transfers

In recent years, FC Barcelona has spent big money to acquire the signatures of some of the best players in the world. 

Names like Phillippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Paulinho, Arda Turan, and Antoinne Griezmann all failed to live up to the expectations.

These failed transfers, which further contributed to the club’s financial debacle, have prompted the club to examine its youth ranks and put faith in its most promising prospects to keep the club afloat and fight for silverware. 

It eventually turned out positive, as these La Masia products excelled beyond expectations, and a couple of these prospects eased into the professional scene. 

*Pedri

Source: Barca Blaugranes

Despite not being a La Masia graduate, Pedri González is the face of Barcelona’s resurgence. The young prospect joined FC Barcelona from Las Palmas in 2020.

This was the peak of Barca’s financial troubles, so Pedri had the opportunity to shine in a lacklustre midfield. And he made a lasting impression.

The following summer, he represented Spain at the Euros and won the Young Player of the Tournament award. One month later, he joined Spain’s Olympic squad.

Pedri’s year ended with his winning the Golden Boy Award, which had evaded Barcelona since Lionel Messi won it in 2005.

However, Pedri’s mismanagement during the remarkable 15-month run almost ruined his career. Due to cramped fixtures, he accumulated a ridiculous number of minutes.

This finally caught up with him in the form of multiple injuries, but he has since bounced back to his 2021 form.

Ansu Fati

Source: FC Barcelona

For a brief period, Ansu Fati was the next wunderkind considered the “New Messi” — and being a product of La Masia didn’t help. 

At 16 years and 318 days, he became the youngest Barcelona player to assist and score in the same game. In 2020, he joined the first team and made the Spain squad for the Nations League. 

However, injuries and fitness issues doused the flame of this blazing-hot prospect. In 2023, Ansu Fati joined Brighton and Hove Albion on loan.

Gavi

Source: FC Barcelona

Gavi performed way above what was expected of newly promoted players, and this brought the spotlight to the academy.

His partnership with Pedri in the midfield earned him the Golden Boy Award just after his teammate won it. 

Just like Pedri, Gavi waltzed into Barcelona’s starting XI and ended up featuring for the Spanish National Team before his injury. 

The Pedri-Gavi midfield duo might lay the foundation for the next regeneration of Xavi and Iniesta.

Fermin Lopez

Fermin Lopez burst onto the scene as an intelligent attacking midfielder. His exceptional skill and on-field intelligence impressed both fans and experts, as well as Barcelona’s coaching staff, who were convinced enough to hand him his senior debut. 

Fermin’s versatility as a midfielder and often playing higher up the field as a centre forward, combined with his remarkable vision and ability to dictate play, has set him apart from his contemporaries.

Playing time has been a challenge as the club has a plethora of midfield options, but whenever he is summoned to play, his quality is always on display.

Lamine Yamal

Source: CNN

The youngster, born to a German mom and a Nigerian father, has surpassed even La Masia’s standard. 

Currently aged 16 years and a couple of days, this mercurial young winger is starting for the Spanish national team while being the youngest player to start for any nation at the European Championship. 

Still above stars like Raphinha in the pecking order, Yamal’s performances have been rewarded with a new contract and increased playing time. 

Often the preferred choice to start, one could expect a man-of-the-match performance from this young forward as he can beat opposing fullbacks, wiggle his way through opposition defence, and also create goal-scoring chances for himself and teammates. 

Playing with Nico Williams for Spain, both players provide the vibrancy and cutting edge for the team’s attack.

Pau Cubarsi

Source: SPORT

Pau Cubarsi is another prospect from the La Masia academy who plays centre-back. Similar to Yamal, Cubarsi emerged as a very young, promising player who has the potential to be one of the world’s best in the near future. 

He made his debut for Barcelona at the age of 16 in a La Liga game against Celta Vigo, and a few games later, he is pictured winning the man of the match award in a Champions League fixture against Napoli while playing at the centre-back position.

His performance was impressive, without a doubt, but surprising as well due to the degree of composure and calmness displayed by the teenager while playing in a high-octane match. 

Visibly seen as the conservative archetype of central defenders, his decision-making and excellent timing allowed him to perform at a level befitting a first-team player and be one of the best players on the pitch. 

With his significant playing experience from the academy prior to his Barcelona debut, a lot of the credit goes to the lessons he learned while playing and learning at La Masia.

Alejandro Balde

Source: SPORT

Alejandro Balde is another prospect who leveraged his speed and attacking mindset to earn his place in FC Barcelona’s senior ranks. 

During his early development in Barcelona’s youth academy, he initially played as a winger. His speed, dribbling ability, and attacking mindset were key attributes in this role.

However, as he progressed through the ranks, he transitioned to the fullback position, where his attacking prowess, combined with defensive skills, made him an ideal modern fullback. 

This positional switch allowed him to leverage his offensive capabilities while contributing defensively, leading to his success at senior levels. He continues to feature on a regular basis at the fullback position, often playing at left back when fit. 

The New Era

As the club progresses, more youth players will make their senior debuts. Promoted players will receive new contracts, allowing the club to build its future around them. Alex Valle and Pablo Torre have also featured for Barcelona’s first team.

With proper development, these players should help the club return to the top level. This resurgence is welcome as Real Madrid seem poised to dominate with their own crop of young talent.

Who wrote this?

Ebuka is a tech enthusiast, writer, and eSports guru currently working with a team of daring Africans to revolutionize the writing scene. He enjoys answering questions, brainstorming new ideas, and discussing the future of sports and esports.

Ebuka Agbasi
Ebuka is a tech enthusiast, writer, and eSports guru currently working with a team of daring Africans to revolutionize the writing scene. He enjoys answering questions, brainstorming new ideas, and discussing the future of sports and esports.

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