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The origins of the youth set-up (III)

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17.07.2010 11:44

The origins of the youth set-up (III)

Miquel Agut

Barça’s youth system has its roots firmly planted in the Dutch experience, but has developed and become defined by the type of players it encourages – technically skilled and with a unique style of play.

As we’ve mentioned in earlier articles in this series, the origins of the youth system are in the Dutch model brought in by Michels , developed by Johan Cruyff and further fine tuned down the years to create a distinctive model.

“The model is very much our own”

Current youth technical secretary at the club, Albert Puig insists: “the model is very much our own – we took the original idea and transformed it into our own Mediterranean, Latin and Catalan style. We’ve created a better product than the original – ours is more competitive and faster than the Dutch model”.

albertpuigok.jpgEx-coach Carles Romagosa reckons: “some teams play fast but without control, rushing from one part of the pitch to another, but we are looking for quick thinking, good positioning, awareness of where the opposition is and fast passing to take advantage. What we do is very different!”. Toño de la Cruz believes “we’ve specialised, because we’ve gone for quality players who can understand the style of play we have here and are able to push it forward”.

Ingredients of success

There are plenty of different factors involved, but as well as some of the more recent innovations, such as aggressive pressing of the opponents as they try to bring the ball out, Albert Puig explains: “it’s how we move the ball, using the full width of the pitch with full backs and wingers, and keeping possession. Our concept of defending by holding onto the ball is a revolutionary concept in football”.

For Toño de la Cruz the key word is “talent”, adding “you have to have it in order to know how to think, to understand the concepts and put them into practice. To play your part in harmony with the rest of the team”. It’s that collective aspect that Carles Romagosa believes makes Barca different: “so many passes in the game and the participation of all the players reinforces the collective as a value above individual aspects. That has to make us feel proud”.

“Nobody’s going to say no to Barça”

According to Joan Martínez Vilaseca, who has been a youth team coach for the last 28 years: “we have a big advantage when it comes to attracting young players. If you offer them the chance to come here, nobody’s going to say no”. Together with Oriol Tort, Vilaseca was the man behind signing players such as Amor Iniesta and Cesc and he explains that on his talent spotting trips: “we look for intelligent and skilful players – lads with a different kind of profile than most teams go for”.

vilasecaok.jpgAlbert Puig describes an example of what this talent spotting can involve: “if we are looking for a centre half, we want one who can bring the ball out and so we go and check out midfielders who we can convert into defenders”.
Photo: FCB archive.
Photo: FCB archive.

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First team is the objective
For all of the coaches, the most important thing is that the work done in the youth teams is reflected in the first team and names like Cruyff, Van Gaal, Rijkaard and Guardiola are on everybody’s lips.

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