FC Barcelona's future lies with La Masia, not in the transfer market
Barcelona fans have been spoilt by their club's success over the last few years.
Living through the glorious Pep Guardiola years and witnessing possibly the greatest team the world has ever seen had left folks with extremely high expectations for the near future.
It wouldn't be so hard to suggest that everyone has been left a little disappointed since. The era under Luis Enrique, while successful on one level, polarized fans.
Many including, me, could see the club beginning to abandon its philosophy of promoting from within and adopt a more "galactico" style to their dealings. This board is at the forefront of this policy, and it has left many fans worried about the direction the club is heading in.
Barcelona's Ship Sunk this Summer
After a summer that left fans heartbroken and upset following the exit of a player whom everyone thought would be the one who would lead Barcelona into their next era, the anxiety among Cules was as to who would step up for the club.
Barcelona's start to the season seemed to have filled everyone with renewed hope, but it's hope mixed with doubt because it's clear that this resurgence is temporary and that there are a number of cracks that need to be filled in.
To Ernesto Valverde’s credit, he didn't give much thought to the bumpy transfer window and dug his heels into the sand, using what he has extremely well.
A Resurgence of La Masia?
Much of the criticism a number of fans leveled towards Gerardo Martino and Enrique, is the lack of emphasis on homegrown talent. Mix that with the pragmatism that developed into Barca's game under both managers, and many fans began begging for a change.
Valverde has been different...so far.
His use of the youth players is exactly what Barca fans have been craving for, and they haven't been disappointed. The game against Real Murcia in the Copa Del Rey saw four players step into the limelight.
Carles Aleña, who sporadically featured last season was great and Marc Cucurella was solid, but it was José Arnaiz who really impressed. But like clockwork, almost immediately after that game, there were rumours linking Arnaiz with a number of big clubs.
This is a cause for concern for the fans. The board tends to acts like it has got a mind of its own with no regard to club philosophy or tradition. It seems that no matter what the team and fans crave for, the board gives no regard to such desires.
It is for this reason that loads of players like Gerard Deulofeu (who has since returned), Cristian Tello, Isaac Cuenca, Andreu Fontas and a number of others have been shipped out.
It’s one thing if players pine for playing time, and choose to leave (like Pedro did), but it’s a completely different story when the board prematurely loses faith in the young talent and deems them not ‘worthy’ of playing for Barcelona.
Valverde - A Man with a Plan
Valverde track record of promoting young players in the clubs he has managed in the past has been excellent. Additionally, it doesn't seem that he is too bothered by what the board wants to do. He quietly gets on with his business and continues his work. He's not afraid to rotate players and shelf others.
It has already been proven that he has a vision of he wants, tinkering with the usual Barcelona formation of 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 to a more compact 4-4-2.
He showed considerable backbone to bench Leo Messi for the good of the team and has given every player opportunities to prove themselves.
He has led the team to a wonderful start to the season, without yet knowing his best team or formation and his pragmatism so far has paid dividends.
But this cannot and should not be the long-term future of this club.
Making use of La Masia and building it back to its former glory should be the biggest focus. Personally, I would take a season or two of relatively small-scale successes to rebuild the Barcelona model.
Looking Ahead for the Fringe Players
Despite Barcelona B languishing in 18th in the Segunda division - one place above the relegation zone, there are plenty of positive to take from that team. Arnaiz, for one, has been phenomenal chipping in with 5 goals and 4 assists in 15 appearances.
He can be one of the next generation of youngsters who can take this Barcelona team forward. His game is very similar to that of Pedro, and what better story could the Barca fans want than another homegrown talent steal hearts. Combine his talents with Ousmane Dembele and Barcelona have a very strong foundation for the post-Leo Messi era.
The squad has talents with a lot of potential, Aleña has been talked up for the last few seasons and is showing a level of maturity to his game that is beyond his age.
If groomed well, he could succeed Andres Iniesta in the midfield trio. Combine his vision with the solidity of young Oriol Busquets, Sergi Samper, Rafinha and Wilfrid Kamptoum and Barca already has a solid midfield line for the future.
At the back, Jorge Cuenca and Cucurella are also ready to make the step up after promising starts to the season and steady growth.
These kids deserve to be given a chance at the first team before the board goes on a hunting spree.
Chasing Mesut Ozil can guarantee the board that short-term success will be more achievable, but it is not the Barcelona way. Barça has always prided themselves on their Catalan identity and their ability to do things their own way.
With the transfer market beginning to overshadow everything, it is now more than ever that Barcelona needs to continue that tradition.