La Masia: Why Barcelona Is Better Than Real Madrid

James FallonContributor INovember 9, 2010

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is a graduate of "La Masia"
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is a graduate of "La Masia"David Ramos/Getty Images

Quite simply, there is one reason Barcelona is the best club in the world: La Masia.

No, this is not a player. This is above the likes of Messi, Xavi, or Iniesta. This is even bigger than Guardiola.

This is FC Barcelona's academy.

The most talented players enter at a young age, and leave here as the world's best, over and over and over again. It's the most fabled development system in world football. 

La Masia was once an old country residence in the Barcelona suburbs. FC Barcelona converted the eighteenth century building into dormitories to host players in the academy from outside Barcelona.

La Masia was the great Johan Cruyff's idea, and it was originally intended to be modeled after the storied Ajax academy (but has since overtaken it as the world's best player development system.)

Over 500 players have lived at La Masia since its creation. About half were from Catalonia and other parts of Spain. 15 have come from Cameroon, seven from Brazil, five from Senegal and three from Argentina.

Out of the 500 that have been taught at La Masia, an astounding 10 percent have played on the first team.

Clearly, something is working.

Barca build their entire team around La Masia graduates: Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Pique, Valdes, Messi and Bojan. In addition, they have developed the likes of Fabregas, Arteta, Motta and Reina that continue to impress with other clubs.

La Masia only leaves one unanswered question: Who's next?