With the ridiculous fees paid in this past summer transfer window, it’s becoming more difficult for a club owned by regular people to compete with clubs backed by sovereign nations or investment firms. FC Barcelona’s mistakes in the transfer market are largely of their own making, true, but that doesn’t take away the fact that their position is in fact more difficult because of this.
This is why FC Barcelona, now more than ever, has to fully recommit to La Masia, the youth academy that produced Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, among others.
Now, of course, La Masia won’t produce a Messi or Iniesta each year, or even every 20 years. But the ability of the academy to create and retain talents has been called into question.
With the B team back in the second division, it’s a good time to get youngsters drilled. Ernesto Valverde worked with youth a lot at his previous job coaching Athletic Bilbao. Of course, because of their Basque-only policy, he was pretty much forced to. But with that being the case, he still could have failed, and he didn’t.
Right now the team will play a lot of games with former La Masia talents, though three were bought back: Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, and Aleix Vidal. Four, if you count Gerard Deulofeu, who was brought back via a buyback clause. But that’s different. If you keep an agreement like that in place, you don’t have to pay over the odds for their return. Thankfully, Pique was bought at a reasonable fee, for example, but Cesc Fabregas wasn’t, Hector Bellerin wouldn’t have been, and neither would Thiago Alcantara come cheaply had he made the trip back to the Camp Nou.
Hopefully the way forward involves loans or the use of buyback clauses, not the continuing buying back of former talents.
The likes of Munir El-Haddadi and Sergi Samper still have a chance, so long as their loans work out. Recently, we have seen the cases of Sandro Ramirez and Alex Grimaldo mismanaged. True, sometimes players just don’t have a place and don’t want to sit on the bench. But if that’s the case, they should be sold for a good value as fees rise, not given away for a pittance or for free.
Looking forward though, there is already plenty of buzz about teenage striker Abel Ruiz, among others. These players need to be given chances, using the loan system if necessary.
The alternative is plowing lots of money for proven stars. We live in a world where fees keep rising despite all logic.
For this and other reasons, a complete reassessment of Barça’s youth policy is in order.