This is the third part of our series on the decline of FC Barcelona‘s famous La Masia.
You can read part one here, part two here and part three here.
2006: Eto’o foundation
FC Barcelona and the football organization of Eto’o (Eto’o Foundation) in Cameroon started collaborating. Barça gave money, lent coaches and prepared PR to receive in turn the best of African talents. This has later resulted in the arrival of Jean Marie Dongou, Bagnack, Wilfried Kaptoum and many more. This symbolizes the first step in a shift of focus towards foreign and more physical players.
Many players came from the Eto’o Academy. For example: Kaptoum, Alexis Meva, Alain Ebwelle, Onana, Armand Ella, Gael Etock, Dongou, Lionel Enguene, Bagnack and Ondoa.
2007: Pep appointed as the B team manager
In 2007, Alexanko and Benaiges still had trouble with the B team, who for eight seasons in a row had competed in the third-best league. Not the optimal league for 17-year-old technical boys, as it is known for physical playing styles and bad pitches. In the 06/07 season, the team was even relegated to the fourth best league for the first time since 1972!
The solution? Pep Guardiola. Guardiola got his first coaching job and he managed to save the mess. He used a system that consisted of older and bought “base players”, which made sure to deliver results and made room for the talents to evolve and make mistakes. However, it was important that they were sold again after about two years so that they would not stand in the way of talents. Pep Guardiola and his assistant Tito Vilanova ensured promotion as the winner of the league and the pair was therefore promoted to manage the first team. Guardiola is still looking back on it as one of his biggest achievements.
– Quique Costas who had been the B team coach three times is this year chosen by Alexanko and Benaiges to participate in the coordination of La Masia. Someone who is described – by some journalists – the best to evaluate a player’s potential. He also gets an impact in this story later.
Quique Costas was first employed as a C-team coach in 1987 and has thus been in the club for a long time
2008: Luis Enrique appointed as B-coach
In 2008 Luis Enrique gets his first coaching job and is chosen to take over the B team. He continues with the ideas of Pep Guardiola’s about base players. Luis Enrique managed to get a promotion to the second-best row in his second season. He stayed for three seasons (until 2011) and developed 25 professional players.
2009: Most resignations in club history?
Youth coaches Rodolfo Borell and Alex García, eight board members and many other employees quit their jobs at the club as a result of Laporta’s decision to continue as president after a vote of no confidence showed that 60% of 40,000 members were against him. This was not enough to force him out (66%).
2010: Sandro Rosell becomes president
With the appointment of Sandro Rosell as president, the effects became clear from the “political turmoil” and hatred between him at Laporta. Naturally, Sandro Rosell could not have all of Laporta’s men walking in his corridors and he replaced many of them with his own men (and Laporta had probably done the same). It was more due to politics than reason and it was defended with the saying that “renewal delights”.
The first ting Sandro Rosell did was actually to fulfill Pep Guardiola’s wish to make all youth coaches full-time professionals. Previously, there were only a few coaches who were full-time employees, and all the others worked two hours a day for a modest salary and had secondary jobs. Therefore, it was clearly limited how much work they could invest in the club. Today, all coaches are full-time employees and they spend much of their time watching video footage from the training sessions and are sharing accurate information and notes with each other.
After that Rosell employed a die-hard Cruyffista named Óscar García as Juvenil A coach (U19). Óscar García was the previous year the assistant coach of the Catalan national team with Johan Cruyff as manager. Óscar García did a fantastic job in his first season for Juvenil A. He will have significant importance later.
Óscar García (born 1973) was a midfielder under Cruyff’s Dream Team, who, like Thiago, was predicted a great future, but had difficulty establishing himself as a starter.
Sandro Rosell tried to copy Laporta’s La Masia recipe with different ingredients. He replaced the Alexanko-Benaiges duo (as well as Albert Capellas who was fired) with his own men: Guillermo Amor and Albert Puig.
Guillermo Amor was the former player to create respect and admiration. Born in 1967, Amor grew up in La Masia, after which he got 10 years for the first team from 1988-1998 and became an important part of Cruyff’s “Dream Team”. He was a favourite for Cruyff who used him until his late 30s. He is also the sixth most capped La Masia player and has more games than Guardiola, Busquets and Piqué.
Albert Puig was the specialist. An idealistic trainer who had been a youth coach in the club since 2003 and who has written the book “The Power of a Dream” where he analyzes which keys, values and conditions that make youth football flourish.
However, Sandro Rosell made an adjustment. Amor and Puig did not get responsibility for all of La Masia. Because at the same time, Rosell fired Laporta’s Txiki Begiristain who was sports director (today he does excellent at Manchester City) and instead employed Txiki’s former teammate Andoni Zubizarreta and his team of Albert Valentin and Narcís Julià. Instead of these two taking care of the first team as usual, they also got responsibility for Juvenil A (U19) and Barça B. The two main teams in La Masia. This structure backfired because it demands cooperation.
Albert Puig and Albert Valentin disagreed about much and could not talk together. Most notable was the disagreement about international players. Puig wanted to create an empire and find the new Messi, Ronaldinho or other globetrotters. Zubizarreta and Albert Valentin rather wanted to focus on the local environment and the Catalan and Spanish players. Rosell solved the discussion by giving all power to Puig and letting Albert Valentin concentrate on the first team with Zubizarreta.
Albert Puig then implemented a very aggressive recruitment system all over the world (as Messi’s integration and subsequent success certainly have been a catalyst for). Puig beat Real Madrid in the race for countless players – like Miranda and Abel Ruiz. The share of foreign players rose a lot, and Puig created a system that made sure they didn’t miss tomorrow’s great stars. However, not quite legal as we will return to. However, these illegalities can be traced back to 2009 before Rosell and Albert Puig, so one cannot blame them 100%.