In the last few weeks it's become popular to talk about La Masia. It's a common topic which is used to either hand out medals to the great work being done or used as a stick to beat the club with. It wasn't as great as people said before, but nor is it totally ruined now. We only need to look at the situation from a year ago. The Juvenil A side at Barça won the Youth League and everybody was saying they had the best academy in the world with bright futures. A year later and that same side didn't win the Division de Honor, were eliminated by Chelsea in Europe and lost to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey. La Masia is apparently now devoid of talent. Neither conclusions were correct, both were extremes. The real reflection must take place at the end of the season when you value what was done right and what was done wrong. Sure, there's a lot of work to be done but there's also a lot of talent to polish.
They must stop committing the same mistakes. What can't happen with the Juvenil A side, a team which should be the reference point for everyone else, is that the only two new signings barely featured and now must move on. On that in the second leg against Madrid you play a defensive midfielder at centre back. Not after you allow five centre backs to leave in the summer and replace them with another five: three from Juvenil B and two from Cadete A. And some of those, like Iker San Vicente (Osasuna) who arrived at the end of 2017 as a replacement for Eric Garcia (Manchester City), has now been let go because the team didn't match expectations. Or Adrià Obrador, a winger from Mallorca, who barely played and was sent out on loan to Cornellà, where he also didn't play much. Or Roberto Laurel who was told last season he would be let go. Then, the next day, told he would be staying and then hasn't played at all this year. There are more stories like this because they happen every summer and it's something Barça really needs to resolve. What can't happen is when the brightest talents leave at cadete level, you replace them with players who aren't good enough for Barça.
There are shadows hanging over La Masia but also plenty of reasons to be positive too. As we've said, the next Cadete A group is the generation most people are excited about. But the club must make an effort on both the economic side as well as the sporting one. Just as they did this season with Ilaix. That is the route Barça has to continue along. Back the players you believe in. If a generation has two players you believe could make it to the first team, don't let them go. If you need to offer more money, do it. It's much better to conserve the talent in La Masia than gamble on youngsters from elsewhere. That's because the academy should be the base of the first team, ladies and gentlemen. That goes from the top to the bottom. Those of us who attend matches at the Joan Gamper are excited by the faces of the current youngsters to wear the Barça shirt. That should always be in place. They must feel proud and part of something special. If that feeling returns, the academy players will become more important. Some might succeed and others might not but they will always remain loyal to FC Barcelona's style.