here is a translation of an article about the cantera, made in recognition of the new Masia (article by Sandra Sarmiento & Jaume Marcet, photos by Miguel Ruiz)
Homegrown 11: Success from the Basics
With the return of Cesc and the promotions of Thiago and Fontas, players from the cantera form the majority of Guardiola’s Barça. A homegrown eleven.
A few years ago, it almost seemed like a utopia. But with effort, patience and talent, something historic has been achieved. The first team has a solid base in the cantera. Up to 11 players who speak the same language. People taught to handle the ball well. And educated in the values of discipline, work, sacrifice and respect. They learn according to a model of playing and of the Club. And they identify and commit to this idea.
“Look closely at their faces. At their expressions,” says Andoni Zubizarreta, while examining the photograph of the 11 first team players. “I feel that they are proud of the new Masia. Happy. I’m sure they have gone through a myriad of emotions. They know that it has been difficult to reach the top. In addition, this image is a stimulus for those who are just beginning. They know that it is possible to fulfill the dream, but there is work and effort behind it. The photograph is the result of the Club’s policies in the last 20 years, and the historical moment of the new training center.”
Can this picture become a reality? Can this be Barça’s starting eleven in a competitive match? When we pose this question to Tito Vilanova, Guardiola’s assistant smiles. The satistaction is evident on his face, but he has his feet on the ground. “We will never get the eleven just so we can put all the homegrown players in, but we also cannot rule it out because they form part of our squad.”
What makes Vilanova and Guardiola most proud is the level of players trained at home. “If you look at the rest of our competition, you will see that their lineup includes one or two players from their cantera, and we usually play with seven or eight,” says Vilanova, who shared dreams of La Masia with Guardiola and the current physical trainer Auereli Altimira when they were teenagers. “At that time, we saw that players from the cantera could play in the first team, but we never imagined this, and what is happening now is that the cracks emerge from home.”
From Xavi to Cesc. Passing by Puyol, Valdes, Iniesta, Messi, Pique, Busquets, Pedro, Thiago and Fontas. Homegrown eleven. They symbolize the cule soul. The love of the colors. They are the result of a long journey. A course of maturation simmered. And the starting point was La Masia de Can Planes. The eighteenth century farmhouse that President Josep Lluis Nuñez converted into a residence for young athletes. Guillermo Amor was one of the first players trained at La Masia who later came to play for the first team. Now he is in charge of football training. “Barça is a club of heart, of feelings. I started my career when I was little, and I’ve gone through all of the stadia. And now I have the opportunity to work in a field that is very nice, very passionate and highly vocational,” he comments fervently.
Guillermo Amor, with the help of Albert Puig, is in charge of supervising each one of the coaches tasked with inculcating Barça DNA. A language different from the rest. Oriol Tort, the emblematic maestro of the blaugrana cantera, started it all, and Guardiola has converted it into something that the whole world can regard with admiration. A model that, as Director of Professional Football Andoni Zubizarreta always says, “is undisputed: the objective of the first team is to win, but equally important or even more important is how the final result was achieved.”
Fran Sanchez is one of the coaches with more experience in the cantera. He has worked for 15 years with the youngest players. He trained Pique and Cesc in the Alevin A level as the assistant of Rodolf Borrell, and Thiago in the Cadete B level as the head coach. “I instill this offensive style, using all the concepts. They should know that the ball is the one that should run, not the player. And I also tell then that they should always try to broaden the field, to occupy all the space, not to want to reach the opposite goal in any manner or to recover the ball near the goal.”
Education: Primary Objective. The matches are a practical class of ideas that have been worked on during the week. Regardless of the outcome. Because the principal objective of football training must be education, insists Fran Sanchez. “The Club does not value if we win or do not win. Our mission is to improve the virtues of each player and enhance their qualities always linked to our manner of understanding football. Of course, we are Barça and when we compete, we go out to win.” A response that is linked to the proposal of the academy. “First, we have to train people and players. That is the most important,” says Guillermo Amor. “But as the norm and for the level of players that we have, we often win. But our job is to train players to face the future.”
Pique, Cesc and Messi were trained at the Club. They grew up together and were together Batch 87, which many consider as one of the best batches of the academy. Tito Vilanova was a a witness to the birth of a generation that all cules now enjoy at the Camp Nou. Vianova led the Cadete B during the 2001-02 season, taking over after Albert Benaiges. About that team, Vilanova recalls that “Pique was a very bold center half, and with sensational technique, Cesc a unique #4 with incredible impact, and Messi, after solving some bureaucratic problems that did not allow him to play, finished the season as the best in the team.” An extraordinary group that, apart from their football talent, surprised Vilanova in one key aspect: “What stood out about them and what they already had at that time was the competitive gene. Here they were educated in a very definite style since they were very little, but they are also honed in a winning atmosphere that made it easy for them to withstand the pressure that surrounds the Club.”
Education as the key to success. In the training grounds of the Ciudad Deportiva, promising futures are made. But, undoubtedly, footballing success is linked to studies. In the teaching of values. Carles Folguera, former Barça hockey goalkeeper, has run La Masia since 2001. He saw two of the first team captains, Iniesta and Valdes, as they grew up. Two players who represent effort, commitment, discipline, respect. “When I meet them, it is as if no time has passed. We are still in sync. We talk about other things but we do not forget how we lived within those four walls,” says a satisfied Folguera. The Club gives a lot of importance to education. A lot. We train players but we also train people. They must balance hours of training with intellectual growth. Such is how we cultivate a discipline, habits of behavior. If you invest everything in the sporting aspect and you fail, the fall is very significant.
Folguera is proud when he sees that the base of the first team was formed in La Masia, and above all has much praise for the boys of the B team: “The players of the first team, in the field like in the pressroom, transmit the values of humility, hard work, always respecting the rival. And the message goes to the boys in the cantera. And those from Barça B, who are still closer to being kids, some 12 or 14 of them now have college degrees. A few years ago, this was unthinkable.”
A few weeks ago, Folguera transferred to the new residence. He lived within the grounds during the entire process. The new Centro de Formacion Oriol Tort mixes functionality with tradition. A building that is almost 6000 square meters that has single rooms and hosts 80 residents. “They have much more light, larger spaces, more classrooms and above all, we have improved a lot in terms of time management.” It is the new factory for cule dreams. “The new center helps in the process,” assures Andoni Zubizarreta. “It answers all the needs. We have more resources and a good foundation.” Also, it is near the training grounds and the first team. An important stimulus.
“The new Masia gives them strength and more so now that there are so many homegrown players,” assures Guillermo Amor. “There is a very good relationship when they train with the older ones, because they also lived there and it creates much needed family ties.” An opinion shared by Fran Sanchez: “The young ones see that if they work and they strive hard, they can have the opportunity to be promoted. It’s a boost of confidence.”
La Masia has many references in which a player realizes that his dream is not a utopia. In this aspect, the promotion of Busquets and Pedro to the first team at Guardiola’s hand has been very beneficial, as Tito Vilanova admits. “We are talking about two players who, when they were undergoing training in football were not identified as players at first team level.”
This, far from demoralizing them, was a motivation “to work hard and never give up: they are the example that we should not set a limit at 17 or 18 years, that patience is a great virtue.” The path to the first team is different in each case, Leo Messi started a blazing path (debuted at 17 years of age), which Bojan and Giovanni followed, but in other cases, promotion is a long journey. Puyol, Busquets, Pedro or Fontas were not child prodigies. In fact, they are all alike in that they were in the lower categories when they were youth players, an age when Xavi or Messi were already playing in the first division and already had professional titles. But their passage through Juvenil A, Barça C and Barça B also led them to the first team, though not in so striking a manner.
The Club is very devoted and careful with the cantera. A seleccion that has no end and that has its most glorious stage in the first team. “This is a continuing process, one in which there is conviction from Pep, that the most important thing is to first look at home rather than outside,” recalls Zubizarreta. The result is 11 players formed in the cantera who have followed different paths to the top but all having technique, talent and the same football language. DNA has transformed Barça into a unique species.
here’s one of the insets in the article:
Thank you to the Club for Molding Us – It’s not a long way from the dressing rooms of the first team to the new Masia. The distance between two of the most emblematic spots in the Ciudad Deportiva is less than a minute away on foot. A journey where they could not stop laughing and joking around. Valdes, more serious, was reflecting aloud while the group was being photographed: “Thanks to the Club for molding us.” A statement that evokes gratitude and pride as players and people under the tutelage of La Masia. Everyone knew about the new residence and, therefore, had reasons to praise it. “How nice that the guys can stay here,” murmured Xavi, while Puyol and Busquets played futbolin in the gardens in front of the façade. They felt comfortable, they were home.
(hmmm… never pictured valdes as the emo type, but softie moments like this always add heaps to his appeal!)
another inset, from the man who promoted Puyi to the first team 12 years ago –
Van Gaal: Proud of the 4 Captains
Young people from the cantera have always risen to the first team, but to do so or not depends on talent, the times and also a little on luck. I had Xavi make his debut because my captain, Pep Guardiola, was injured often, I had the courage to gamble on him, but all the credit goes to Xavi and his quality. The same goes for Puyol, Valdes and Iniesta. They protect the culture of the Club and their commitment is natural. They have been educated in the same philosophy and now, the whole world enjoys the football of Barça. Guardiola also grew in the same model. The whole world is proud of FC Barcelona, and the difference between them and the other clubs is that for many years, they work in the cantera with the same idea of playing. And they have never changed.
I would never have imagined that these four players would now be the leaders of the team. Xavi was very shy, but when he was 18 years old, he already dominated the game. His style has not changed but his personality has. In contrast, Puyol was about to leave the club when I told him that he could work to have a place in the team. The qualities of Xavi are innate, and Puyol has developed his over the years but he is a fantastic person and an example for his teammates. I have great respect. I feel proud of all of them and I feel that I have contributed to their success.
and here’s a video of the photoshoot from barcatv:
while we’re in la masia mode, here’s a cute vid of puyi as a canterano, curls and all :) be sure you’re seated, because there’s some sexy walking … in slow motion … in a red muscle shirt. lord help me!
goodbye old farmhouse!