In a recent interview with The Tactical Room, former Barcelona captain Xavi Hernandez criticised the approach of the club towards their youth teams in recent times:
In general Barcelona have been sleeping. They have to boost the cantera and their model of play. Young players have to learn this form of play so that when they arrive in the first team they already have the concepts properly learned. The cantera coaches have to make players, they have to teach them. You have to form them from the youngest ages. If you win, great, but that's not the objective.
In hindsight, Xavi’s criticism is warranted given the recent departures of Thiago Alcantara, Sandro Ramirez and Alex Grimaldo among others. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, however, has responded to the criticism with a short but comprehensive explanation:
No, no. The problem is Xavi, and Iniesta, and Leo Messi, and those players. It is very difficult to be a player, and when you have in front of you Leo Messi, or you have Neymar, or Xavi, Iniesta, [Sergio] Busquets or [Gerard] Piqué. It is very difficult to be there
Xavi was in the first team for 15 years. Those 15 years mean that 15 boys that played in his position had to leave the club. Iniesta, now, I think it is 16 or 17 years. It is very difficult. Or Leo Messi? Who is going to be the new Messi? Well, probably, other players will be Messi, but they have to leave our club because it is impossible. Xavi said “go slowly,” but the problem is Xavi! He created the problem. And Iniesta and Piqué. They created the problem.
The response does appear snide on first glance but once thought over, it does appear rather fair—Barcelona has only so many openings in their line-up and with the need for instant success, patience is rather hard to come by. It is not possible to keep every good player that is produced in the academy since they’re fighting for a spot with someone who is already world-class.
The state of the academy is a polarising discussion with many believing that La Masia is dead.
While it might not apply in all cases, Bartomeu does make a fair point—it’s hard to catch him on this one.