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Barca's Youth are STEPPING UP

6 minute read Published October 30, 2023

Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Guardiola, Puyol, Arteta, Thiago Motta - the list goes on and on and on with superstar players that have come through Barcelona's academy, La Masia. For a while, the Barcelona team in general and its biggest stars in particular consisted mainly of procuts of La Masia.

La Masia is Catalan for “The Farmhouse” and located in the outskirts of Barcelona city. The academy is home to about 60 players that come from other places and around 300 players total. The current set up of the academy was instituted by Pep Guardiola as he was making his way up the ladder in management in Barcelona.

And they had amazing successes. The 2008/2009 season team is known as one of the best teams to ever grace a football field. The whole period of Guardiola's first team managerial tenure is one of the best in Barcelona's already success laden history.

Losing Their Way

But then something happened. They sold Neymar for €200+m. And rather than filling spots in the team with the next hottest player from the academy Barcelona opted to fill it with a transfer. Of course, that’s how most teams do it and especially the teams at the very top - they need a finished product to compete. In Barcelona’s case though it didn’t work out as expected.

Management at Barcelona went crazy. They signed the biggest stars to contracts pretty much unseen outside of the petro-clubs but results didn’t keep up. And Barcelona went deeper and deeper into debt. Then COVID came - even deeper in debt. Plus they were bad at transfers. Pjanic, Depay, Griezmann, Coutinho and Malcom all came in for either a big fee, on a big contract or both.

For a while, Real Madrid even had more academy products in their team.

Big Financial Trouble

If you remember the past few transfer seasons, there was a new article pretty much every week about how they were selling off parts of businesses they own or borrowing against future revenue. Barcelona were in deep financial trouble.

That’s where this transfer season started. With Barcelona in bad debt. The only transfer they were able to do was Oriol Romeu from Girona. For $3.4m. That’s it. For one of the biggest clubs in the world. The Joãos (Félix and Cancelo) came in on loan and İlkay Gündoğan and Iñigo Martínez came in on free transfers. 

Meanwhile, they sold players for over €100m including Dembélé, Griezmann and Kessié. Club legends Busquets and Alba left. Ansu Fati, Umtiti and Trincao are out on loan or free transfers.

The Return of La Masia Products to the First Team

But now, La Masia is back. Ending up in this financial trouble has brought one very exciting positive - they’re starting to play La Masia talent again. 

Last week saw the debut of 17 year old Marc Guiu. He scored after 23 seconds. By the way, if you haven’t seen it, someone caught his parents' reaction as he scored.

This weekend El Clasico was played and when Barcelona needed to go for the win, who did they bring on? Lamine Yamal. A 16 year old kid from La Masia. This season, Yamal also debuted in and scored for the Spanish senior national team as the youngest player ever.

Gavi is a nailed on starter. He’s played every game he’s been fit for this year and has featured heavily for the past two seasons. Together with 20 year old Pedri and Frenkie De Jong he makes up the Catalan team's centre midfield. Since he joined at 17, Pedri is not considered an academy product but he is part of the very young contingent of players that are getting regular minutes at Barca.

This weekend, Pedri was injured and didn’t play. Starting at centre mid as his replacement was another La Masia product - 20 year old Fermin Lopex. 

The starting right back for Barca? La Masia product Alejandro Balde.

The average age for Barcelona this year has been the fifth lowest in the league, two full years younger than Real Madrid and more than three years younger than Atletico Madrid. For a long time Barcelona relied heavily on the players from that Guardiola team of 2008-2012. Busquets, Alba, Alves, Messi and Pique all played well into their 30s and all, bar Messi, definitely past their best before date. But they’ve been trying to get more youth into the team for a few years.


Average age















And while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid do have academy players playing for them, the Barcelona products are much more important to the team. 



Academy Products

Total value

FC Barcelona



Athletic Bilbao



Real Sociedad



Villarreal CF



Atlético de Madrid



Valencia CF



CA Osasuna



Real Madrid



UD Las Palmas



Celta de Vigo



Two teams in Spain play almost exclusively with academy products, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad (19 and 14 respectively). That’s because these clubs have self imposed restrictions on the origin players need to play for the club. Even so, the value of Barcelona's seven academy players eclipse them.

Final Thoughts

Barcelona won the league last year but missed out on the latter stages of the Champions League. This summer they lost a lot of players and replaced them with cheap, free or loan transfers. And academy products.

And while the start to the season hasn’t been without its issues - Barca are fourth in the league and, even more concerning, they lost El Clasico - the academy products have stepped up and more players are getting their debut this season than before.

It feels like Barcelona is getting back to their roots. La Masia has historically been a large part of their success and the players that come through the academy often play with more heart. Plus, in a world where the biggest teams spend insane amounts for talent, it’s refreshing to see a team doubling down on local talent and its ability to develop them. In combination with transfers of course.

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