FC Barcelona’s Famed Youth Soccer Academy La Masia is the Epicenter of Player Development
Here is Our Exclusive Interview with Jordi Roura, FB Barcelona’s Director of Youth Football
FC Barcelona is the Spanish soccer giant known the world over. The club’s renowned methodology and world class attacking style of football is globally admired — and, the man who shoulders the responsibility for developing future players for the first team is Jordi Roura. While Roura was in NYC recently, SoccerToday asked him to help explain the meaning of the Barca methodology and give our readers a rare insight on what it is like to train at La Masia.
“I am convinced good players will come out of the USA — if they are given the right training and we are patient,” says Jordi Roura.
Jordi Roura is the Director of Youth Football at the famous Futbol Club Barcelona. Roura is responsible for overseeing the development of all players at La Masia during their most formative years — until they reach 17 years of age.
FB Barcelona, commonly known as Barça, is known for being ‘more than a club’ — “Més que un club”— and is home to Lionel Messi.
Barcelona’s La Masia has produced some of the greatest footballers of all time, including Messi, Gerard Pique, Andrés Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Pep Guardiola and Xavi — and it is looking to develop more great players, even youths in the USA.
Roura is the man accountable for developing the next generation of Barcelona soccer stars is and it is his implementation of the Barca philosophy that is reaching across the Atlantic to America’s youth soccer fields.
In New York City recently, Roura visited the offices of FC Barcelona Americas for a reception — which included a discussion centered on the development of young players, Barca’s renowned methodology and attacking style of football, and the overall education of players to transmit FC Barcelona’s unique philosophy and values.
FC Barcelona is making a serious commitment in the USA with the Barca Academy, in Casa Grande, AZ, the first and only official, full-time FC Barcelona youth residency academy in the world — besides La Masia in Barcelona Spain — and with 6 FCB Escolas across the country as well as their Barca Academy NY with its brand new facility in Long Island.
Who is the man shaping player development at FC Barcelona?
Since January 2015, Roura has been in charge of the youth and reserve team at the Catalan club. As the Director of Youth Football at FC Barcelona, Roura’s vision of development is shaping the famous club.
With the experience of being an assistant coach for FC Barcelona — and, in fact, taking over for head coach / manager Tito Vilanova and coaching the first team for several months in 2012, Roura knows what it takes to be a successful professional player.
Roura is a product of the Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth development system — which he now runs.
A talented midfielder, Roura came to La Masia in the summer of 1982 just before he turned 15 years old. He shared residence with Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova and made his debut at FC Barcelona under Johan Cruyff in 1988, the famous Dutch Soccer Superstar.
A year later, Roura suffered a torn knee ligament at the age of 22 while playing in the 1989 European Super Cup against Milan and had his promising career cut short.
Roura hung up his professional cleats at age 26 and turned his talents to coaching.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is FC Barcelona’s approach to player development at La Masia? What is the environment really like?
Jordi Roura: The Masia concept involves two main components: our residence for players and the training grounds.
La Masia — The Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper — is the training ground and academy base of the Catalan football club FC Barcelona.
Not all of FC Barcelona’s academy players live in the Masia residence, the Centro de Formación Oriol Tort.
Educating the footballers, who live away from their parents at the Masia, is the challenge for us as a Club.
Our objective is to nurture people through sport — and, to give footballers two careers with both education and sport.
In the 2016/17 season, several sportspeople lived there including 53 footballers, 13 basketball players, 5 handball players, 4 futsal players and 2 roller hockey players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is a day like — training at La Masia?
Jordi Roura: If we take the example of an U19 team player, his schedule involves having breakfast at 9:00 am, training from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, lunch at 1:00pm, and then they would start their classes in the Masia at 3:00 pm.
After that, he would have dinner, study and go to bed. All players must be sleeping by 11 pm.
Diane Scavuzzo: I hear TV Watching is limited — is that true?
Jordi Roura: The Wi-Fi and televisions are turned off at this time. On the weekends, the timetables are more flexible and the PlayStations come out so that they can enjoy themselves.
Another area we are vigilant about at the Masia, especially in the last few years, is social media.
FC Barcelona’s communication department organizes talks with the players about the correct use of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and players are supervised on these outlets. The environment the players grow up in makes the residence a global reference point.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many players train at La Masia?
Jordi Roura: The number of players who train at the Masia is 250 spread across the U19, U16, U13, U14, U12 and U10 teams.
As well as these 250 players, there are another 25 who play for Barça B as well as the women’s academy teams’ players.
From the 250 players who are in the academy, 53 of them live in the residence. The rest travel to the Ciudad Deportiva Joan Gamper to train with the Club’s taxi system. The youth soccer players are picked up after school and are taken to their training grounds as most of them live far away from Barcelona.
Diane Scavuzzo: Has the training at La Masia evolved over time? Has it changed in the past ten years?
Jordi Roura: The training methodology is the one we have always used.
We have evolved — but essentially it is the one implemented by Johan Cruyff.
The basis of training sessions are the ‘rondo’ exercise, playing in tight spaces, intensity with the ball, and preferably one touch instead of two.
There has been an evolution, as is logical, but the idea remains the same as under Cruyff. We have introduced specific training sessions once a week for each position as we were lacking in some areas.
Our defenders are comfortable on the ball but they also need to know how to defend. Our wingers need to cross well and know how to win one-on-ones.
Cruyff is very much present not only in our academy but in all areas of the Club.
Cruyff implemented a way of understanding football from the first team down to the academy and Barça is eternally grateful to him for that. The much publicized Barça DNA started with Cruyff.
Diane Scavuzzo: When scouting for players, what do you look for?
Jordi Roura: FC Barcelona’s football academy focuses on talent. The player’s size doesn’t matter.
Players can be tall or short — if he has talent, he has a place at the Masia.
If the question is when the new Messi, Iniesta or Xavi will arrive, the answer is I don’t know. We are talking about three leading global figures and it would be hard to repeat that.
What I do know is that there are lots of players, five or six per team, who have a future at the Club and a chance to reach the first team.
What profile do we look for? I would like Messi to be the same player but 1.90 meters (6’2″) tall. However, that is impossible.
The type of player we look for is one who adapts to our characteristics and he tends to be smaller. They aren’t at Barça because of their size, they are here because they can play football well.
Ideally, I would like them to be big, strong, aggressive and quick as well but we prioritize talent. If they have talent, we will look at their physical evolution and adaptation later.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think about the American youth soccer market? Do you think there is a real opportunity to find youth talent in the USA — players who might actually be invited to train in Barcelona?
Jordi Roura: On the possibility of finding talent that might come to train in Barcelona, I do think it is possible.
I am convinced that good players will come out of the United States in the following years if they are given the right training — like FC Barcelona will do — and we are patient.
I am sure we will find talent in the USA and we want to be here to catch it.
Later, if they are in line with FIFA’s regulations, why wouldn’t they come to Barcelona?
For us, as FC Barcelona, the American market is a strategic one.
For this reason, we already have FCB Escolas in Florida and Charlotte and the trials ahead of the 2017/18 season are taking place as we speak in the FCB Escolas in North Virginia, Austin (Texas), Chicago, Long Island (New York) and San Diego (Califòrnia).
We have also started the Barça Academy residence in Casa Grande, Arizona — which will be the reference point for the academic and footballing education of boys and girls from twelve to eighteen.
The players at the Barça Barça Academy will have the opportunity to continue growing academically and in a footballing sense, allowing them to turn professional or apply for sports scholarships for university.
In terms of football, this centre will allow young players the chance to assimilate Barça’s style of play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy (DA) league — and compete in their region as they earn the opportunity to participate in nationwide playoffs.