Moriba, Fati & now Gavi – La Masia is back!

Martin Macdonald
Moriba, Fati & now Gavi – La Masia is back!

Ten years ago La Masia was the talk of European football due to the homegrown talent the Barcelona youth system produced.

The famous academy of the Camp Nou club was flourishing under Pep Guardiola, with the likes of Pedro, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Pique joining more senior graduates like Xavi and Andres Iniesta to lead the club to glory.

In the 2011 Champions League final, Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1, and in their starting XI for the game at Wembley they had no less than seven graduates from La Masia – Victor Valdes, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, and Lionel Messi.

In more recent years the club has geared more away from their academy and more to big money signings, with Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, and Philippe Coutinho the poster boys for Barcelona’s mismanaged, extravagant spending.

However, with that extravagant spending has eventually seen La Masia put back in the spotlight.

Barcelona are currently crippled financially, with debts rising to over 1.2 billion in 2021, with the current pandemic leaving much-needed matchday revenue currently at zero.

When Ronald Koeman took over as head coach last summer he was tasked with a squad rebuild which saw veterans like Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic shown the door, leading to a much more trimmed squad.

With no significant incomings other than Sergino Dest at right-back, Barca have had to rely on their youth ranks for minutes, with several La Masia graduates coming through to shine.

Which La Masia graduates are around the Barca first team?

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fatu is viewed as the undoubted future attacking talisman of Barcelona and the heir to Lionel Messi should the Argentine leave or indeed retire. He made his debut for the club in August of 2019 against Real Betis to become the second-youngest player in the club’s history at 16 years and 298 days old.

He has displayed a talent and an understanding of the game beyond his years, and although he has missed the majority of the current campaign with a serious knee injury, he’ll be a vital part of Barca’s squad moving forward.

Oscar Mingueza

21-year-old Oscar Mingueza was originally brought in by Koeman due to an injury crisis at the back at a time when both Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti were out for long periods, while Clement Lenglet has missed games in 2020/21, too.

He has acquitted himself well both at right-back and at centre-back, though only time will tell if he develops into a key player.

Ilaix Moriba

Ilaix Moriba has enjoyed quite the reputation coming through the youth ranks at Barca so it was a matter of time before he debuted for the first team in a Copa del Rey fixture against Cornella this season.

He has a marvellous combination of strength, speed, dribbling ability and a command of the ball which makes him a formidabe presence in midfield.

Ominously for opposition sides in La Liga, he has already struck up a bit of partnership with Messi.

Gavi

Though yet to make his debut for the Barcelona first team, it seems like we won’t have to wait too long as Pablo Páez Gavira ‘Gavi’ has been making waves with the youth squads and eventually Barca B this season.

Like every product of La Masia, he displays a wondrous touch of the ball and poise when in possession. His name has, perhaps unfairly, already started comparisons with Xavi, so we’ll see if he can live up to those enormous expectations…

What is La Masia?

La Masia was originally established in 1979 as a location for young players to be housed who were not from the city of Barcelona and so needed somewhere to live and train.

Originally a stone farmhouse, the literal La Masia ended in 2011 when all youth football business was moved to the state-of-the-art Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which carries on the philosophy of La Masia even if the legendary farmhouse is no longer used.

From a young age, players are taught to play the Barcelona way, with focus on technical skill and command over the ball.

It is the only youth academy in history to have three of its players finish as the top three in Ballon d’Or voting, with Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta earning the honour in 2010.