It’s easy to say that nothing is fundamentally wrong when you are the champions of your country and this past weekend you just scored 8 goals against an opponent, but Barcelona one of the greatest teams in the history of football are losing their identity as a club.
That identity is wrapped around their academy known as La Masia and the cold harsh facts that the Catalan club have not produced a player from within that has gone on to the first team in 10 years.
Currently there are just five players that make up the entire Barcelona A squad that came from the academy, they are; Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Roberto, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique. At the beginning of the year that figure was six but Andres Iniesta has since moved on to pastures new playing in the Chinese league.
So why are Barcelona not producing more players from the academy level? One theory is written within the clubs recent successes. So good has it been that top European clubs have no longer wanted to raid the A team but go after the youth before they make the step up to play at the hallowed turf that is Nou Camp. So teams are coming in for the young players, tempting them with more wages and better contracts. To counter this Barcelona at the start of this year increased youth team wages by a whopping 160%. It remains to be seen if this will have a lasting effect.
But that is just one opinion, the other could be that the club are failing in their academy system because they have indeed lost their identity and have just become another big spending European heavyweight. And of course there is evidence to back this up. In the last 4 seasons despite selling players such as Neymar for almost £200m they still spent almost £700m. Now if you are spending that type of money why would you even look at players that are in the academy?
Sergio Busquets remains the last home grown player that Barcelona have developed at the academy and he made his debut 10 years ago, and youth players continue to be lured by other clubs because they see a lack of opportunity.
A worrying trend has seen quality players leave the club, no matter how big Barcelona are they are wising up to the fact that they are not wanted. Take Sergio Gomez who was voted the 2nd best player at the U17 World Cup last year, he now plays for Borussia Dortmund. And then there is Pablo Moreno who scored 200 goals in five years at the academy, where is he now? Playing for Juventus.
Whilst splashing out millions of euros on todays superstars is a problem, the root seems to stem from the managerial side of things. The last two coaches of Barcelona Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde did not come from the academy and so do not have a connection to it. Plus La Masia is in effect no more, the players now train elsewhere so a special relationship has stopped, and in today’s football world it wouldn’t be a surprise if it never came back.