The origins of the youth set-up (IV)
In the first two articles of this series we looked at the essential contributions of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff to the youth system and then moved on to examine how the model had evolved. In this final piece, we look ahead to the future.
After all the success under the
, there’s a lot to live up to, but the current crop of youth coaches reckon that
there is a bright future at the Masia.
Even before Spain’s win in South Africa, achieved with a decisive contribution from the
Barca players, the success of the club’s youth team model was clear to see. For Carles
Rexach: “it’s the way it is now because we have followed a route. Many of our first
team players have followed the same system all their footballing lives, from the kids’ teams
up to the first team”.
Albert Puig agrees: “Pep Guardiola has closed the circle. We have
our own players leading the team and Catalan coaches and all the technical staff are Catalans. This
is the Golden Era of the model”
Where to now?
If it’s hard to get to the top, it’s frequently even harder to stay there and the
youth team coaches are clear about what is needed to maintain the production line. Albert Puig
insists: “we have to take on board everything that can be useful, wherever it comes from. If
we think that we have the model fixed and we don’t need to improve, then we will get stagnant
and begin to go backwards”. Rexach echoes this idea, using Guardiola as an example:
“I’m sure when he went to play in Italy there were many things he didn’t like
about the way they do things over there, but I’m equally sure that the things that he brought
back here the things that did impress him”.
Albert Benaiges is certain that: “we won’t lose the essentially skill
based character of our teams, but we do need to improve our defensive solidity a bit”,
Something Rexach is in agreement with; “we have to be true to our model, but if we can with
midfielders of 1,80 metres or more, because the game is getting more physical. We have to look for
lads who play the game well. Maybe they have some areas that are not so good, but the important
thing is that they know how to read the game”.
“The future is guaranteed”
That’s Albert Benaiges opinion and he explains: “I think that at every
level in the teams we have at the club now, we can count on five or six lads who will definitely
become professionals and we’ll have to see how far they go. The best ones will make it into
our first team - the future is guaranteed!”. Albert Puig is slightly more level headed,
believing: “we will continue on the right track, but it’s not easy to find so many good
home grown players to come together in the first team. Now we are enjoying players like Iniesta and
Xavi, but unfortunately, that’s not always going to happen”.
Whatever does happen, Barca will continue to develop the model which has brought so
much success, though Benaigas accepts that: “over the last two or three tears, more and more
teams are trying to copy our way of doing things. But they’ll not steal our magic formula,
because the coaches hold it dear to their hearts and their minds!”.