Editor's Note: This is a guest editorial by We Ain't Got No History's, SB Nation's Chelsea FC Blog, Graham MacAree. He is the manager of aforementioned blog and also doubles as SBN Soccer League Manager. If you're interested in joining the SBN fold - that's the guy you need to contact.
I'm not going to pretend to be a La Liga expert. I'm not. I'm definitely not going to pretend to be a Barcelona fan, because I'm not (mostly because I'm scared that if I stare too long into Dani Alves' eyes, my soul is probably forfeit). What I am is a fan of football, and it's absolutely undeniable that Barcelona have something special on their hands.
At this point, it's churlish to consider the Blaugranes as anything but a historically good team. Over the past two years, they've been far and away the best side in Europe, and they've managed to do so in a way utterly alien to how virtually every other ‘top' team does things.
Every side claiming to be like Barcelona is a sham. There are counterattacking teams and there are possession teams. There are brute force teams and there are finesse teams. But there's only one Barcelona, a club which has taken winning in football to its ultmate conclusion: If we always have the ball, we are going to beat you.
Pep Guardiola's team, then, is reliant on control of the midfield in a way nobody else on the planet is. Certainly, the likes of Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and David Villa are superb players, but they're not what makes Barcelona tick. The reason the team works is because they have a style that demands pefection in the centre of the pitch, and the players to match the vision of a midfield that is stifling off the ball and devestating in possession.
Or, if you wanted to be more concise about it: Barcelona have La Masia.
The quartet of players that make Barcelona the force it is today - Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi (who might as well be a midfielder with the way he works in the centre) - are all graduates of the famous academy. So too are names such as Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, phenomenal talents who have absolutely no chance to break into the first team while the aforementioned four are available.
Simply put, Barcelona's academy appears to be a machine for manufacturing the best midfielders on the planet. Yes, there've been plenty of very good non-midfield players out of La Masia, but with all due respect to the likes of Pedro and Pique, they can't hold a candle to their more central teammates. Someone, somehow has unlocked the secret of finding and nurturing extraordinary midfield talent.
A number of theories on just how this is done spring to mind.
1. Barcelona find the best players in the world and train them with a magical scouting network. We can rule this one out straight away on account of everyone being from Spain or Lionel Messi.
2. Catelonia sits atop a radioactive region of the earth that effects a mutation in children's vision and spacial awareness centres (a.k.a. ‘Barca DNA'). The way one might test this would be removing a player's brain for medical studies. Unfortunately, Cesc Fabregas is too expensive to be expendable. Perhaps you can buy Oriol Romeu back this summer and do a little science.
3. The ghost of Johann Cruyff haunts La Masia, gifting its players with magical powers. Now, strictly speaking, Cruyff isn't actually dead, but since I keep thinking he is and I'm writing this piece, not you, I don't see that as a valid counterargument. This, therefore, is probably the correct hypothesis.
4. An unmatched focus on technical play and intelligence that academies across Europe should use as an example in player development. Plausible, but boring. Use this only as a last result.
At this point everyone is thinking that I'm obligated to say something along the lines of ‘all joking aside' - but I'm not joking. I'm 100% convinced that there's something supernatural at play here. You can throw alien influence into the mix too, if you're so inclined (that might explain why Andres Iniesta looks the way he does).
The midfielders that are coming out of La Masia are just so far above and beyond the reference frame of anything I'm used to that my brain can't process how they're found and how they're trained. When the superstars of the current side are retired, they'll be replaced with equally implacable through-ball machines, and Barcelona will continue to wipe the floor with the vast majority of those who oppose them. And that's all thanks to the implausible productivity of the academy.
Xavi and Messi might be the stars of the show now, and the engine that keeps the best team in the world going, but La Masia is what made them. It is the present. It is the future. Barcelona are in good hands.
You can find more on Graham MacAree & Chelsea FC on We Ain't Got No History