Best Academy Products: 10 greatest graduates of all time from Barcelona's La Masia
In 1979, a proposal by Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff to establish a football academy similar to Ajax’s at Barcelona was accepted by the club president Josep Nunez. Cruyff and Nunez would have never perceived the immense impact that their decision to remodel the football academy at the Catalan club would have on football in the 21st century.Today La Masia is the epitome of a football academy and it is a model that many other clubs around the world would like to replicate.La Masia produced some of the greatest players of recent times and these players played a crucial role in establishing Barcelona as a European powerhouse. The club would go on to win four UEFA Champions League in the space of a decade and become the first club to win six major honours in a single year. Many La Masia graduates also played a crucial role in Spain’s World Cup and Euro success between 2008 and 2012. In fact, six of the starters for Spain in the World Cup final were La Masia graduates.In 2010, all three finalists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or – Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, were graduates of Barcelona’s academy and it was the first time that such a scenario occurred.As part of Sportskeeda’s Best Academy Products series here is a list of the 10 best players to have trained at arguably the best football academy in the world.
#10 Victor Valdes
Victor Valdes has often been unfairly criticised for his occasional goalkeeping mistakes, but there is no denying that he was a top goalkeeper for Barcelona. Many fans who didn’t realise how valuable he was to the team came to know of that after he was injured in his final season with the club because Barcelona’s title challenge and cup runs were affected without his presence.
Valdes had to wait for a long time to become Barcelona’s number one and once he got the chance to prove himself between the sticks, he held on to the number one role for over a decade. He became the undisputed number one from the 2004/05 season and ended the season by winning the Zamora trophy for having the best goals conceded to games ratio.
The Spaniard did have his moments of madness on the pitch, but his overall performance for Barcelona was quite impressive considering the fact that Barcelona’s defence wasn’t always the best. A shuffle or readjustment in the backline was common at one point, but even in those dire situations Valdes performed well.
If all other arguments fail, then Valdes’ performance in the Champions League finals of 2006 and 2009 are enough to give an account of his performances. In 2006 he made two crucial point-blank saves against Thierry Henry to keep Barcelona in the game and in 2009 he would deny Cristiano Ronaldo – a sight that fans got accustomed to later on.
- Zamora trophy winner on five occasions – a joint record
- La Liga goalkeeper of the year: 2009/10 and 2010/11