The Spanish La Liga has kicked off and only in the opening two weeks we have seen the two giants drop points. Real Madrid drew their opening fixture of the season against Mallorca while Barcelona were humiliated on their home turf by the newly promoted Hercules.
Given the quality of these two sides, this will surely be a minor hiccup in what is speculated to be one hell of a two horse title race. Barcelona had won the title last year with considerable ease and a 5 points margin. They will again rely this season on La Masia graduates to repel the threat of Jose Mourinho’s Madridistas.
It was Spain that lifted football’s most coveted trophy in South Africa just over a month ago but Barcelona’s president claimed that in fact it was Barcelona that won the world cup and if looked upon closely he was not very far from the truth with his statement. Six of the Los Bloncos that beat the Oranje in Johannesburg were Barcelona players.
Although, not all of them hailed from Catalan but played for the Blaugaranas. Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Pedro Rodríguez and Sergio Busquets hail from Tenerife, while Xavi and Iniesta hail from Albacete but all of them were graduates of La Masia, so were a few on the bench with Cesc Fabregas, Victor Valdes and Jose Reina.
La Masia isn’t a youth football academy; instead it’s a football indoctrination centre that does not produce good players, but produces a breed, a Cryuff-inspired breed of clever and technically gifted players that are determined to play ‘the right way’.
Barcelona’s football ethos is clear, they have their own unique identity and there cannot be a greater testament to their quality than a statement from perhaps the most arrogant coach in the world. “They can play blindfolded”, claimed Jose Mourinho when asked about his side’s chances in the La Liga this season.
The title race in Spain this season is going to be very interesting as Jose will lock horns with Guardiola but perhaps the contest is between a philosophy and a brand. Where La Masia creates world class players, Madrid buys them. But to Mourinho this would mean nothing as the only thing that matters to the Portuguese is winning and that’s what he was brought to Barnabeau for.
The face off this season is between two men of contrasting characteristics. One is a professor who has a firm belief in his philosophy of beautiful football and at his disposal is the awfully talented breed of La Masia graduates while on the other hand is a preening, arrogant manager who has his exclusive mercenaries.
The arrival of Di Maria, Khedira and Ozil in Madrid provoked one Spanish daily to name the contest between the two sides as the battle of wallet against youth. The signature of David Villa cost Barcelona 40 million Euros but other than him the academy is abuzz with sensational talents with Oriel Romeo, Seri Gomez, Thiago Alcantara and Dos Santos among others who are knocking on the first team’s doors.
Krikic is another youngsters who has already taken the leap and is now a regular name on the Catalans team sheet, none of the aforementioned players were born before 1990 and that is a glaring testament to the quality of La Masia. Barcelona have their own set of financial problems too, their debt now stands at 440 million and their financial prowess was questioned when they failed to land Fabregas in Barcelona as the talks stalled over finances but for the next season at least Fabregas is not needed. Barcelona are equipped enough to pip Madrid to the title but whether they will be able to is a different issue altogether.
(The above is writer’s own independent opinion)