La Masia de Can Planes also known simply as ‘La Masia’ is the name of Barcelona’s football training facilities and is used in general to describe the Barcelona Youth Academy. The academy which is located near the Camp Nou in the Les Corts district of Barcelona holds more than 300 youth players and since 2002 has been regarded as the best youth academy in the world. La Masia is known to instill in the players’ minds a footballing philosophy which has been vital for the recent success of Spain at the international level. In 2010, La Masia achieved the honor of becoming the first youth academy to have trained all the three finalists of the 2010 Ballon D’or, Xavi, Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
HISTORY OF LA MASIA:
The architectural history suggests that the original building built in 1702 was basically an ancient country residence. With the inauguration of Camp Nou in 1957 the building was remodeled and extended for use as the clubs social headquarters. The clubs expansion resulted the La Masia was converted to a dormitory for young players from outside of Barcelona in 1979. In 1979, it was first used by the club to house the players that originated outside of Barcelona. The idea of the youth academy was proposed by the Dutch legend Johan Cryuff. La Masia received great fame due to Barcelona B’s success and many journalists reported that it had replaced the famous Ajax academy to become the best youth academy in the world.
In 2009, Barcelona first team that won the Champions league became the first team to win it with 8 homegrown players.
In the thirty years since 1979, the club became the home of almost more than 500 players who left their homes and families to stay in the academy. These players not only came just from Catalonia but also from other regions of the Kingdom of Spain and beyond from countries like Cameroon, Brazil and Argentina.
However, in 2011 the club ceased to house players who would train to become part of the club’s professional teams. The doors of La Masia were closed and the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper was delegated the job of training young players.
“The player who has passed through La Masia has something different to the rest, it’s a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child.”–Pep Guardiola
The thing which makes La Masia a jewel of an academy is that it not only teaches football, it teaches football abiding to an underlying philosophy which is a fusion of Dutch legend Rinus Michels ‘Total Football’ system and the Spanish style of one-touch passing known famously as ‘tiki-taka’.
Technical Director Pep Sagura attributes the clubs success to its philosophy of play. The aim is to create one philosophy, one mentality from top to bottom of the club.
La Masia instills this philosophy in its players by considering technical ability as an important pre-requisite in selecting its players for advanced training. Barcelona’s success is often credited to their commitment towards the total football style of play and it is clearly visible in the training methods in La Masia which focus entirely around the underlying philosophy of pass and move
The La Masia graduate, Guardiola reinvented his clubs traditional football philosophy during his four year regime as Barcelona’s manager.
An interesting aspect of La Masia is its marked Catalan national character. The Barcelona fans prefer locally-developed Catalan players over foreign ones if the players are equally talented.
The patriotism and loyalty of the fans towards the local academy and their preference over a traditional footballing philosophy makes La Masia one of the most exemplary academies in the world of modern sports.
One of the most well-known prospects of the academy, Lionel Messi became the first player in 2009 to be awarded both the Ballon D’or and the FIFA world player of the year award. The same year saw Xavi and Iniesta finish in the top five of the award’s balloting.
In July 2010, Spain won the World cup and echoed the sound of total football across the world and they had 8 players from Barcelona in their squad out of which 7 were from La Masia(Pique, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro, Fabregas). A new record was set by Barcelona as the most number of players provided by a club to the national team. Joachim Low admired the Spain side after Germany’s defeat to Spain in the semi-finals. He said,
“Spain plays how Barcelona plays. They can hardly be beaten. They are extremely confident and very calm in the way they circulate the ball”.
La Masia continues to be an example of how inherent belief in ones values and philosophies can not only ensure success but can also win admirations across the world. This belief gave this world a flawless football team as Barcelona in the past decade, gave birth to a living legend in Lionel Messi, inspired the world with the beautiful and addictive style of play and won the national side three international competitions in a span of 6 years. La Masia can be considered the birthplace of almost all the seeds that have led to Spain’s dominance in both club football and national football alike.