La Masia is the heart of Barcelona youth system, which located next to the Camp Nou Stadium. It was established in 1979 and now used to develop the young players that have had to leave their families in order to train at Barcelona both in a sporting and intellectual sense.
Apparently they have a total of approximately 260 youth players learning their trade here – Ninety percent of them are Spanish and more than 50 percent Catalans. In fact the current Barca team have 12 first team players who have come from the academy.
There are several youngsters that had lived at La Masia have gone on to play for the first team, such as Josep «Pep» Guardiola (academy years 1984-90), Ivan De la Peña (1991-94), Carles Puyol (1994-98), Andres Iniesta (1996-2001), Víctor Valdes (1996-2000) and Lionel Messi (2000-04).
Pep was touted as La Masia’s greatest product. A charismatic player who played 43 caps for Spain and won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He led the club to six La Liga titles, one Champions Cup in 1992 and two Spanish Cups.
Puyol, a native Catalunyan, is the club current skipper and heading towards his 250th game for the club.
However not all the graduates of La Masia established themselves at Barcelona and some have moved to other clubs to advance their careers.
These have include de la Pena, Luis Garcia, Jose Manuel Reina, Mikel Arteta, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and Albert Luque.
Fabregas, also a native Catalunyan, was persuaded by Arsenal manager’s Arsene Wenger for a brighter and better-paid future at Arsenal, and so it has proved since he joined the Gunners as a 16-year-old boy in September 2003.
Piqué also has been snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson to strengthen his team. He is a defender who not only good for his defensive skills but also gets forward and scores.