Issues at La Masia: Is Barcelona's famous academy still delivering?
By Guillem Balague, Adam Bate and Adam Smith
Last Updated: 29/08/17 7:27am
Is Barcelona's famed academy still delivering? Guillem Balague looks at why Real Madrid are now leading the way in Spain.
The 2010 Ballon d'Or ceremony will be remembered forever in Barcelona. The game's top three players were named as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Three Barca players and three graduates of La Masia. Confirmation that this was the greatest academy in the world.
Globally, that reputation remains.
However, within Barcelona, it soon became clear that things were going wrong at La Masia. The youth teams were not impressing as they had before and not as many quality players were emerging through the ranks.
A look at this list of players to have broken through at Barcelona in the past five years reveals the problem. Only two players have started more than one game for Barca in that period and nobody has really established themselves as a first-team regular.
So what are the reasons for the decline? Some fear that the educators of the past have been replaced by former players, not on merit but as favours from the board. Are they really the right men to develop young talent?
Since Pep Guardiola, the B team has had coaches who are more interested in developing their own careers than getting players into the first team.
Coaching always evolves, but at Barcelona, old ideas have been repeated rather than refreshed. The same exercises are being done. Coaches do not want to challenge themselves. Nobody wants to be the one to change it and lose their job.
The club recognises there is a problem and has begun to bring in teenagers from elsewhere to supplement the youth teams. But unless there is a carefully planned long-term solution, that could just be a desperate measure.
Look at the regulars in Barcelona's B team. Four of the six players to play 30 or more games last season came through other academies. These are players in their early-to-mid-twenties, not La Masia youngsters who are waiting to burst through into the first team.
The good news is that Pep Segura, the man who changed the academy at Liverpool, is now in charge of football matters at Barcelona and he is someone who has strong ideas about how to change things at the club. But it could take a full decade before we see it working.
Whisper it but maybe they could even learn something from Real Madrid?
Madrid has long been annoyed by the idea that La Fabrica was inferior to La Masia. They have argued that they prepare players for all types of football - different styles of coaching, different styles of play and different formations. There is evidence that this is true.
A report by Marca last season revealed that there were 42 players in La Liga who had passed through the doors of La Fabrica compared to only 27 from La Masia. It is not a coincidence. This ratio was also repeated among second tier players in Spain.
Everyone from Valencia captain Dani Parejo to Atletico favourite Saul spent time there. Alvaro Morata and Jese are already off the mark in the Premier League.
What is new is that Madrid are also producing more players for their own first team now too.
Nacho, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal are all in the Real Madrid squad. Remember that list of Barca debutants since 2012? Well, Madrid has more of them, they have been given more starts and played more minutes. And they are the ones winning titles too.
La Masia will come again. There is too much talent, too much history and too much money for it not to. But the next time somebody tells you that Barcelona is all about youth and Real Madrid is all about Galacticos, just remember that the true story is not that simple.