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Now 25, Sergi Roberto is the most recent La Masia graduate.
Now 25, Sergi Roberto is the most recent La Masia graduate. / EFE

The tables have turned

  • Real Madrid are backing youth while Barcelona will have to spend big to compete once again. How things change!

I’m not quite sure how one era ends and another one starts but I’m pretty sure we are in the middle of a transitional time where Real Madrid take the balance of power and Barcelona go away and have a significant period of soul-searching.

The short-sighted will blame Luis Enrique for the Barcelona demise as he clears his office desk this summer but I think that the problem is much deeper.

The manager is at the top of the pyramid and below he has sporting directors signing him players and youth team managers breeding him future stars.

What has worked so well for a decade and a half at the Camp Nou is a steady flow of outstanding young players in all positions, allowing Barça to spend only on outstanding talents like Neymar or Luis Suárez.

The system is badly broken. There hasn’t been a successful graduate from La Masia since Sergi Roberto - and he’s now 25! Too many have failed the test and been sold off.

The signings that have been made are poor. The premise of last summer’s spending was to bring in back up for the established talent. The figure was close to 100 million euros and it has as good as gone down the drain. Only Samuel Umtiti looks to have made the cut, so that makes it about 75 million written off on sub-standard recruitments.

Asensio has been one of several youngsters backed by Zidane.

Asensio has been one of several youngsters backed by Zidane. / Reuters

In previous years Barcelona have only needed to appoint a coach, someone to finetune the talent passed onto him. When Luis Enrique departs they need a good old fashioned manager who needs to bring the best out of what he inherits and make some significant additions. What they need is someone like -dare I say- Zinedine Zidane!

He’s proven to be a fine manager of footballers and also a president with a penchant for spending millions on the finest players available on the market.

Zidane resisted the temptation, and maybe his president’s pressure, to spend big. He delved into the club’s playing resources to see what was developing and promoted Casemiro, Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vázquez and Marcos Asensio. There is a bigger plan. When Karim Benzema’s legs tire, he has Álvaro Morata to deputise; when Ronaldo isn’t effective, then Bale takes over; when any midfielder falls short of requirements, then Isco shines.

So for years Barcelona has been used as the model for all clubs to aspire to while Real Madrid was cited an institution that speculates to accumulate trophies.

This is the year that the tables are turned. Real Madrid’s future is in the hands of exciting young players who will drive then on for the next decade with a sprinkling of ‘galáctico’ signings while Barcelona have to rebuild with a cheque book, with the pipeline blocked and no reserves of obvious talent.

As one era ends, another one is just beginning!