Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mastermind behind Barca's home-grown superstars

The Mastermind

THIS is the man who discovered Andres Iniesta. And Cesc Fabregas.
But above all, Albert Benaiges is the coach who helped create all of Barca's home-grown superstars as head of the Catalans' youth set-up for over 20 years.
Now head of Barcelona's schools, though still working closely with the academy, he said: "A blind man could discover Andres, a player of such quality and intelligence.
"We went to a tournament in a village outside Madrid to watch his team, Albacete, in a youth tournament. We felt he was marvellous. But his first four months with us were extremely difficult. He spent every weekend at my house. He missed his family so badly. He says I was like a second father and I love him as my own son.
"Leo Messi was always quiet. You couldn't get him to say a word he was so shy."
And how did Benaiges discover Fabregas? He added: "The late Oriol Tort, who founded La Masia, came to me and said 'Go and watch this lad from Arenys'. We organised a game and Cesc, then nine or 10, came to play. I thought 'Wow, he's good'. At that time we didn't have taxis, as we do now, to bring kids from around Catalunya back and forth from the academy. But a year later we did and that is when Cesc joined us at the age of 12."

The Philosophy

CARLES FOLGUERA, the head of La Masia, was asked to explain the club's secrets at a conference for all 20 Premier League clubs.
He replied: "I am just explaining the model of Barcelona. It's not the best. It's just our model. The question you have to ask yourselves is 'Do we have a football model, a style of play? Do we have a philosophy and values? Within that, do we have teachers and coaches that are suitable to our model?' If it's like that, your model is the best.
"Why did Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, for example, come out of here who are just 5ft tall? Because our principal value is not the physical aspect. It's the talent. It's the ability. This has nothing to do with height.
"Maybe when our current coach Pep Guardiola started, physically he had difficulties. But his coach put his faith in Pep, because he had other very important elements like vision for the game. And if you don't see that at 14, you will see it at 15, 16 or 17. The one who is best at 12 may not necessarily be best at 17 or 18.
"What is important is to show the football world that you can be someone who has huge talent, money, fame but also can be an excellent person.
"Just because you're the best, it doesn't mean you can't be a good team-mate or humble. That's the philosophy."

The System

THE Barca youth set-up consists of Catalan kids, who mostly live at home, and youngsters from the rest of Spain and abroad who live in La Masia or in the nearby Nou Camp. The name La Masia encompasses the whole system.
Barca have more than 100 scouts all over Spain and worldwide.
Their 'football schools' are separate and anyone can join if their parents pay a small fee to cover costs. Gerard Pique and Victor Valdes were discovered at one.
La Masia chief Carles Folguera explained: "I don't work on their sporting development. I work on their heart, character, and values. The coaching staff do the rest and deal with their development as athletes. If they arrive at their dream, then it's a job well done by the scouts, the coaches and La Masia or the futbol base as a whole.
"Three things give me pride. When they arrive in the Barcelona first team. When one of them speaks to the Press and transmits to the fans positive values. And when a chap who came out of La Masia, regardless of whether he has made it as a player, has an academic development. The majority, of course, don't make it.
"At La Masia they only train a maximum of two hours a day and always with the ball. It's part of the philosophy. This is the great difference with England."

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