The best Christmas gift Barça could give us isn’t a signing, but to return to our roots. The best way to do this isn’t by focusing on what we don’t have, but on what we already have: La Masía.
Since Bosman’s ruling in 1995 – which, among other things, prohibited domestic leagues from placing quotas restricting the number of non-nationals allowed on member teams –, Barça’s best years have come from Rijkaard onwards. The common point of all our most successful seasons? That in each of them, the core of the team was composed of at least 5 regular La Masía products, and two or three more reserves in the squad.
Firstly, Van Gaal began using Ajax’s academy more than our own, pushing the ‘Quinta del Mini’ away. That didn’t turn out well, and the following campaigns were disastrous. The major improvement came with the arrival of Rijkaard and the increased influence of La Masía graduates in the team. Then, of course, came Guardiola. Valdés–Puyol–Piqué–Busquets–Xavi–Iniesta–Messi–Pedro were the heart of that side, which contained many more players raised in the academy.
Since Pep and Tito, the number of La Masía footballers has decreased, with Valdés, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro all retiring or leaving. Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto have been added, while them, alongside Piqué, Sergio and Leo, still constitute the 5 starters from La Masía at Barcelona.
But what will happen once they depart? In 4 or 5 years time, when most of them will no longer be at Barça, who will be our starters from La Masía? Aleñá, Carles Pérez, Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig should all become regular starters one day, with the likes of, at least, Iñaki Peña, Collado, Monchu and Jandro Orellana making the senior squad too. But it all depends on the club’s plans and decisions.
La Masía should always have a crucial role in the first team, not only for a matter of style and quality, but also of cultural identity. At a time when football is becoming more global and the sense of belonging is starting to get lost, a club as particular as Barça must trust the home products to not lose its most special trait: its identity.