We talked about the evolution of Manchester United from “Class of 92” until the record-breaking transfer of Paul Pogba. Now, we will move our focus to Catalunya, to its beautiful Barcelona, the creation of a genius called Antoni Gaudi and the home of one of the most prestigious football clubs of all time, FC Barcelona. Throughout the years, several legendary names transformed a simple club into a religion for Catalans and for fans worldwide. In Argentina, the popularity of Diego Armando Maradona is so big that the former football player is considered a true god by the ones who transformed his legacy into a religion called “Maradonism”.
Barcelona has shown that their team is at the same level when they applauded and cheered the players after the painful elimination from the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League after a draw, 2-2 against Chelsea London. The defeat came after a year of total dominance who ended with the 3-1 triumph in the UEFA Champions League final and an authoritarian campaign in La Liga. In that dream-team there were 7 products of the youth academy called La Masia in the first 11, players like Valdes, Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi or Pedro. Another vital piece in the jigsaw was on the bench, Pep Guardiola.
The impact of the famous football school became a must for Barcelona under the guidance of Johan Cruyff, who shaped the mentality of the team: total offensive game, pyramids of passes, creativity, speed and a perfect chemistry. La Masia is one of the main reasons that led to European dominance of Barcelona, after developing football players like Guillermo Amor, Albert Ferrer, Pep Guardiola, Javi Moreno, Ivan de la Pena, Xavi, Thiago Motta, Pepe Reina, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Fernandes, Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Pedro, Bojan or Jordi Alba. At the same time, the dominance of Spanish football at the international level between 2008-2012 was possible because of a squad who contained players trained by the coaches of La Masia, under the winning philosophy.
But that shocking draw against Chelsea showed to the directors of FC Barcelona that investments are needed, not only at their youth academy but also in transfers that will strengthen the squad. As was the case with Manchester United, Barca lost the creator of its modern total football, Pep Guardiola, after the manager ended his 4-year spell with two Champions League trophies, 3 La Liga, 2 Copa del Rey, 2 European Supercups, 2 FIFA Club World Cup awards and 2 Spanish Supercups. Pretty impressive for the former midfielder! His successor was the man that assisted him for four years, the late Tito Villanova, an addicted to show and total football.
It was felt the need for a change since the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. Barca bought Alex Song from Arsenal and Jordi Alba, a La Masia product ”lost” in the beauty of Valencia for some years. In domestic terms, the squad won the La Liga with the same dominant display but lost the Spanish Supercup and the semifinal of the Copa del Rey after a 1-3 loss against the arch rivals, Real Madrid. The heartbreaking moment of the season came in the UEFA Champions League semifinals after Bayern trashed the catalan team with a 7-0 aggregate win. Tito Villanova resigned because of the health issues that led to his sad death in 2014.
Gerardo Martino was appointed as the new coach and his only goal was to win every trophy. His upgrade to the squad was Neymar, the Santos football player being transferred for an impressive 50m pounds. The season was even worse that the last one, the team winning only the Spanish Supercup, losing the final of Copa del Rey to Real and the title and UEFA Champions League dream against Atletico Madrid, the creation of Diego Simeone who became a fearceful force in Spain. Another year, another disappointment end for the Camp Nou side who showed its dependency on Lionel Messi is more than 50% their game.
The change came in the 2014-2015 season which demonstrated that the La Masia philosophy can no longer fight on his own against other football forces. Barcelona spent an enormous sum in that transfer window, 141.71m pounds. A titanic number for a club who used to develop his game on the products of La Masia. The Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez was transferred from Liverpool for 69.46 million pounds alongside other key players like Ivan Rakitic (came from Sevilla for 15.3m), Marc Andre ter Stegen (came from Monchengladbach for 10.20m), Claudio Bravo (came from Real Sociedad for 10.20m) or Jeremy Mathieu (came from Valencia for 17m). On the bench, we had a fresh new face, the former striker of Barcelona, Luis Enrique.
Until January 5th, 2015, the date Barca lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad, the squad seemed to be one of the best from Europe but not the image of total football. Since that moment, the Catalan team started to play the same football we were used to under Pep Guardiola, efficient and fast attacks were transformed into goals and Barcelona managed to win the triple: La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. The European campaign was impressive after the Spanish team knocked out four national champions: Manchester City (England), PSG (France), Bayern Munich (Germany) and Juventus (Italy). The domination was back, after four years of wait.
Even though the first eleven used by Luis Enrique still contains at least four players formed by La Masia, the impact on the 2014-2015 campaign can also be attributed to the new faces. Luis Suarez and Neymar scored together 64 goals all throughout the season, forming the MSN trio with Lionel Messi who scored 53 times. The attack is considered one of the best trios this sport has ever seen, the chemistry between the three footballers being the key for glory. Moreover, Ivan Rakitic became a vital piece as a midfielder of the team whereas Claudio Bravo and Marc ter Stegen had a magnificent season in goal.
Last season, Barca won the two national trophies and failed to qualify against Atletico Madrid but after the transfers made this summer, we might expect another total dominance. As “upgrades” we have Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne, Denis Suarez, Paco Alcacer or Andre Gomes, we already observe two important changes in the team: Umtiti and Suarez are first options for the manager and Alcacer and Digne might have impressive seasons under the guidance of Luis Enrique. La Masia is still present in the team through Pique, Alba, Busquets, Messi or Iniesta. But for how long?