La Masia has produced endless talents for FC Barcelona over the years. Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas all came through the ranks of the club’s youth academy. However, Barcelona pivoted away from La Masia after those elite teams of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Barcelona spent money on transfers aggressively. The team’s performances at the time were satisfactory, but the club lost its future and its finances.
Now, with Barcelona struggling for money and desperate for success in a new era, La Masia is back producing elite players at an alarming pace. In its most recent game against Athletic Club, three of Barcelona’s starters came through La Masia, Gavi, Alex Balde and Fermin Lopez. However, they were just three of the pivotal players on the day. Xavi substituted on 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, and he provided 17-year-old Marc Guiu with his debut.
With Barcelona unable to find a goal, it took Guiu seconds to score his first goal for Barcelona. That goal proved to be the winning goal for the Catalan club. As a result, Barcelona shrunk the gap with Real Madrid at the top of the table to a single point. Guiu’s celebrations, and the reaction of his parents, fit the moment of a teenager being the difference for Barcelona.
This season, Gavi, Balde, Yamal and now Guiu have had massive impacts on games. The best news for Barcelona is that entering the season, each of those four was a teenager. Three of them still are, but Balde turned 20 just before the Athletic Club game.
Barcelona has relied on these players in an injury-riddled and money-tight season. In doing so, it may be turning the fortunes of the club for the better.
La Masia setting up the present and future of Barcelona
In the current season, Barcelona has faced a conglomerate of injuries. Moreover, these are injuries to key players. For example, Pedri, Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, Raphinha, Jules Koundé and Sergi Roberto missed the Athletic Club game. Despite that, Xavi has managed to keep Barcelona afloat in LaLiga while picking up a pair of wins in the UEFA Champions League.
These players will return. Pedri, Lewandowski and Raphinha are possibilities for this coming weekend’s Clasico. However, that is not the significance of what the La Masia players have been able to do for Barcelona. The Spanish side always had an issue with quality depth. With the expectation to compete in and win multiple competitions this season, Xavi needed more options.
The first portion of the campaign has solved his issues. Not only does Barcelona have elite options across the field that came out of La Masia. These young players have a desire to play for a club legend in a time of need. As stated, Guiu’s celebrations and those of his teammates showed what his goal meant to him and the club.
Balancing the revamped squad
Xavi now has the much-welcomed task of ensuring these young players are content sitting behind the proven first-team talents. Lamine Yamal took advantage of his early opportunity this season when Raphinha picked up a three-game ban for a red card. Guiu has now done the same in his lone appearance with Robert Lewandowski on the sidelines. Fermin Lopez has a goal in the current campaign, and he has shown early potential.
In all likelihood, these La Masia graduates understand their role in the Barcelona system. With rapid development happening at Barcelona, La Masia is back to being a key piece of one of the best teams in Europe.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto.
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