What’s attracting Barcelona starlets to the Premier League?
Barcelona’s esteemed youth academy La Masia has produced many players that have gone on to feature at the highest level, but in recent seasons, graduates of the esteemed footballing school have arrived in England.
Everton are hopeful of acquiring Nou Camp duo Adama Traore and Sergi Roberto from the Catalan giants this summer, both of whom featured for Barcelona’s first-team during the historic treble triumph last campaign (10/3 with Coral to retain).
The Toffees have already snapped up Gerard Deulofeu from the Spanish champions, a successful graduate of La Masia in 2011, having endured a difficult loan spell with Sevilla, having previously enjoyed his temporary time on the blue half of Merseyside.
If Martinez was able to lure both Roberto and Traore to Goodison Park, it would represent a genuine transfer coup, with the Spaniard’s squad potentially possessing three of Barcelona’s former youth starlets.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see such a switch, though, with a growing trend occurring in England’s top-flight, as La Masia graduates continue to flock to the division. So what is attracting such a talented crop of Catalan prospects to the Premier League?
Stoke City have managed to revamp their style from the previous long-ball philosophy deployed under Tony Pulis, with Mark Hughes having a great influence on such a huge tactical switch.
The Potters boss has used his reputation and contacts in Europe to deadly effect, having incredibly saw no less than three La Masia graduates arrive in the form of Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa, with Moha El Ouriachi recently signing too (11/1 for top six finish).
Rapid winger El Ouriachi rejected a new contract at the Nou Camp in favour to sign for the Potters, and has linked up with his former Spain youth side teammates Bojan and Muniesa.
It’s clear that, with the unbelievable talent within Barcelona’s senior set-up, it now takes a supremely special youngster to break into the fold, especially forwards, who have Lionel Messi and Neymar as competition for places.
Upon arriving with sides competing for European places in the Premier League, these departing Barca starlets are instantly guaranteed a starting position for an entire campaign, leaving a seat on the Nou Camp bench behind them.
In the case of Everton, who are hoping to link Roberto and Traore up with Deulofeu this summer in their ranks, it’s hard to grasp why these players would swap a sun-soaked Barcelona for the four-seasons-a-day Merseyside.
Despite Barcelona and Real Madrid being possibly the two most attractive clubs to play for in Europe, the Premier League is still highly-regarded, even by upcoming stars in Spain. The chance to showcase their talents on a globally watched stage is obviously a huge bearing on deciding to sign for a Premier League club, after graduating from one of the world’s most decorated academies.
Another factor for the likes of Deulofeu joining Everton, and Bojan choosing to arrive at Stoke, could be the desire and possible chance of returning to Barcelona, where they learnt their trade and sharpened their talents.
In the current climate, even one dazzling campaign in the Premier League can see a young star’s price-tag rocket substantially, with big clubs constantly keeping a close eye over potential superstars.
It seems the chance to arrive on England’s biggest stage for a career benefit is more appealing than remaining within the Nou Camp and battling relentlessly to bundle together a handful of first-team appearances.
With a shift in stance from young stars regarding playing time after graduating, is it a sign that La Masia is actually in decline?
Alongside Ajax’s De Toekomst and, more recently Southampton’s impressive academy, La Masia has been known for frequently producing talent that has gone on to star at international level (6/1 Spain win Euro 2016).
A historic moment in Barcelona history came in November 2012, when Martin Montoya replaced Dani Alves in a La Liga clash against Levante. For the first time ever in the Catalan club’s illustrious history, the entire first-team was made up entirely of players who had graduated through their famed academy.
Victor Valdes, Montoya, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and Cesc Fabregas would all go down in history, as they realised the dream held by every top club in Europe.
The current set-up within Barca has taken a different approach, though, with the club appearing to delve into the transfer market for new acquisitions and relying on their financial power, despite an apparent restriction on new signings.
The club were banned from registering new players until January 2016, but planned ahead by spending over €200m on Luis Suarez, Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Claudio Bravo, Ivan Rakitic, Douglas, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal.
This high-profile spike in new arrivals caused La Masia graduates Fabregas, Cristian Tello, Bojan, Jonathan dos Santos, Oier Olazabal, Isaac Cuenca, Denis Suarez, Deulofeu, Puyol, Montoya, Xavi and Valdes to then depart or retire. An evident shift of system, possibly to rival neighbours Real Madrid for the immediate future.
With Barca seemingly moving away from their previously envied academy-based approach, Premier League clubs such as Everton are reaping the benefits and could soon see a further boost to their ranks for next season (11/4 to finish top six).