La Masia or La Market - Barcelona's purchases show where the priority lies
The club, Futbol Club de Barcelona, have always prided themselves in their Mes Que Un Club ethos, which means “More than a Club” and for years they had lived up to that billing as they developed and brought up players from La Masia.
The steady stream of world-class talent surprising even the most astute followers of Spanish football, this mode of youth development was supposed to have ended in the '90s because since Real Madrid's Quintre Del Buitre won 5 La Liga titles on the spin, no major Spanish side have had to depend on their academy as much as this Barça side did.
The height of the youth dependence came in a league tie against Levante, for 62 minutes of the 90, La Blaugrana fielded an entire XI made of products of the famous academy. It was a period of unprecedented success for the Catalans both in Spain and in Europe as they won trophy after trophy.
The success they had with that model led to several influential figures both in the squad and on the board sneering towards rivals, Real Madrid, who had at the time spent huge funds to achieve nowhere near that level of success. The consensus was that the conveyor belt of talent wouldn't stop as they had some of the best young players in the world, winning the inaugural edition of the UEFA Youth League, UEFA's version of the Champions League for the academy based players, the good times looked like they would continue forever. Not long after, the bubble burst.
Ever since Pep Guardiola - the major advocate for youth development in the club - departed the Ciutat Esportiva, there has been a slow but sure departure from the Masia ways to the Market ways, where academy players would have taken the place of departing players, now the market looks like offering more chances of success. The arrivals of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Jeremy Mathieu, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and a host of others in the summer of 2014 showed the club had finally gone the way of the other teams, down the lane they had once sneered.
This summer and winter transfer windows have however shown us an even newer Barça, a side who splurge properly to replace departing players and help the quest to compete with other European behemoths in the race for success, spending huge sums in the process.
The figures making the rounds in the aftermath of the completion of the Philippe Coutinho deal showed that Barça have now spent an astronomical €318 million on transfers hereby shattering the record for highest amount of money spent in a season, previously held by arch-rivals, Real Madrid, who spent a mouth-watering €257 million in the 2009 summer as Florentino Perez began his second tenure at the helm of the Madrid club.
The promising talents in the academy were sold for pittances as most have little or no hopes of breaking into the XI, Sandro Ramirez was sold for €5 million, Paco Alcacer was brought in for €30 million as the bench option, Sandro was scoring goals for Malaga, Paco was warming the bench, Jordi Mboula, another wunderkind of last year was also allowed to depart the club as it became ever more obvious that playing at the highest level required more than academy upstarts.
Promising players in the academy now look at the squad and wonder how they're going to break in, a £97m was brought to shore up the attack, another was brought in for £142 million to replace Iniesta down the line, the closest any La Masia player has gone to achieving a constant place in the XI has come in form of Sergi Roberto, a midfielder who has been asked to serve as a makeshift right-back.
Barça is now just like every other club, as market dealings over academy players lead the way for all and sundry, the recent windows have shown us that when push came to shove, their Market over Masia priority became known.