FC Barcelona youth academy players
Scouting reports on the best young players from La Masia
FC Barcelona’s academy is arguably the most esteemed in all of football. When you think La Masia, you think Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fàbregas, and plenty more.
Here are brief profiles on their emerging generation coming out of La Masia. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
What is FC Barcelona's academy identity?
La Masia academy is predicated on a style of play that is ingrained in the identity of Barcelona: technical passing football in a 4-3-3 shape, first established at the club by Johan Cruijff.
Barça’s academy typically produces players that are strong technicians, with high-level fundamental skills that underpin their games – think Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta. They’re often relatively underveloped physically, but their priority is, rightly or wrongly, touch and technique.
What are FC Barcelona's academy pathways?
Throughout the generations, Barcelona have not been afraid to integrate academy talent into the first-team from young ages – unlike some of their competitors at the elite level. That enables the best talent to grow into strong starters, or sellable assets.
Their B team competes to a relatively high level in the Spanish football pyramid, usually bouncing between the second and third divisions, which helps bridge the gap between youth and senior football.
Who are FC Barcelona's best academy graduates?
Lionel Messi. In addition to the greatest player football has ever seen, there’s Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gérard Piqué and Carles Puyol, Cesc Fàbregas, Thiago Alcântara, Jordi Alba, Pedro, and countless more.
La Masia has produced some of the best players of their generations. Some of their more recent products include Dani Olmo, Ilaix Moriba, Marc Cucurella, and more.
What competitions do FC Barcelona's academy teams play in?
Barcelona’s youth teams often dominate the underage levels. Their B team also plays to a relatively high level in the second and third divisions of the Spanish football pyramid.
In terms of Europe, Barcelona won the inaugural UEFA Youth League tournament as well, then won it again in 2018. Those teams included Munir El Haddadi, Adama Traoré, Óscar Mingueza and Riqui Puig.
Ilias Akhomach was almost the one that got away for Barcelona. He joined the club as a seven-year-old but was allowed to leave the club in his early teens. Realising their mistake, Barcelona brought the 2004-born winger back to La Masia after his performances at Gimnastic Manresa had attracted interest from Real Madrid.
Ilias Akhomach's style of play
Akhomach is a gifted technician who wants to beat his man almost every single time he takes possession out wide. He sits wide, tries to isolate at stand up his opponent and then more often than not tries to beat them on the inside.
He is very left foot dominant and is always looking to cut inside and attack the box, meaning that defenders can easily telegraph what he is trying to do. It is all a bit predictable. If he does shift the ball outside, he does not have the quality in his right boot to score or create consistently.
But that does not mean he can’t get past his marker though. Akhomach’s changes of pace are rapid and difficult to anticipate. In doing this, he can get past defenders that lose concentration for a second. Above everything though, his key issue is that he does a lot of his best work in areas of the field are not very dangerous; out wide or too deep.
Ilias Akhomach is a gifted technican with excellent close control and changes of tempo. His sharp athleticism enables him to dribble with the ball to a high level, beating players with a distinctive mix of burst, control and flair.
Being a left-footed attacker that plays on the right wing, his decision-making and actions can be predictable. He also lacks some direct output.
You don’t get to wear the number ten at any level for Barcelona if you are not talented. The very miniature Txus Alba is no exception. Though unlike some of his team-mates that have been at the club their entire career so far, he only arrived at Barcelona in 2018 after crossing over from city rivals Espanyol.
Txus Alba's style of play
Txus Alba is a true joy to watch in possession. His control is crisp, he keeps the ball so close to him as he glides across the field, and he can beat his man effortlessly with an array of improvised dribble moves.
Moving the ball on, his passes are almost always weighted beautifully, sitting up perfectly for runners, or promptly reaching standing receivers so they are not left waiting for the ball to arrive. He is often guilty of trying to force direct passes a little too much, especially with lofted passes, but he does have delightful range and the talent to hit some delightful passes in behind or spray them out wide.
He has his limitations that arise for players of his size, especially out of possession, but his technical quality in possession means he is not often going shoulder to shoulder with a defender; he wants to stand his marker up and get past them that way.
Txus Alba is a creative and technical midfielder that is adept at playing the final pass. He weights through balls perfectly, using different techniques to release runners into space. He is also good at finding space between lines and maximising it with his dribbling ability.
His propensity to be creative means that Alba forces play a bit too much at times. He is also small in stature and lacks physicality, although that is counterbalanced by the slower speeds of Spanish football.
It is no surprise to see Barcelona churn out technically gifted holding midfielders that love to control the tempo of a match from the base of midfield. In Marc Casadó, they have gone and developed another.
Marc Cásado's style of play
Casadó is quite stereotypical of the Barcelona academy graduate we have come to expect. He always wants to be in possession, he is effective in possession, and he is clever without it, using a strong positional sense to always be in positions to receive the ball in a variety of different areas of the field.
He also has the crucial tendency of scanning before he receives possession. He understands the situation developing around him before he gets on the ball, allowing him to make decisions on his next action before he has even received it. And then he has the technical quality once he receives the ball to execute. Casadó moves the ball on quickly and somewhat progressively, with a natural tendency to spray balls wide to the likes of Ilias Akhomach, but he could look to take more risks between the lines.
Defensively, the Spaniard looks quite rugged for a short player, and does not hesitate to foul to stop attacking transitions.
Marc Casadó is a small but technical number six that has a quick-tempo style as a passer from the base of midfield. His fast scanning and positional awareness makes him adept at playing out of and through pressure.
Casadó can be too conservative in his positioning at times, and he can also been more expansive in his pass selection, to take more risks as a passer.
More academy player pages
Lionel Messi. In addition to the greatest player football has ever seen, there’s Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gérard Piqué and Carles Puyol, Cesc Fàbregas and Jordi Alba. La Masia has produced some of the best players of their generations.
Ansu Fati is the big hope of the new generation, and he’s supported by the likes of Gavi and Alejandro Baldé who will be of significant use to the club in future. There’s also a promising emerging generation coming up behind them, including 15-year-old Lamine Yamal.