Known to have produced some of the world’s best players, FC Barcelona’s training headquarters is a scene of serenity amid high security.
It’s here where you find the famed La Masia, Barcelona’s academy that gave birth to the careers of Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and, of course, Lionel Messi.
Situated a dozen kilometres from the Barcelona city centre in a town called Sant Joan Despí, the compound also houses a training ground named after Tito Vilanova, Barca’s late coach. It’s used exclusively by the first team.
But almost everything – from training pitches to players’ diet and coaching manuals – is the same in the compound. Barcelona play according to one philosophy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the colts or whether you’re a senior player.
What you notice when you enter the area after you’re vetted by strict security is that all training sessions revolve around the ball.
It is the grass, however, that triggers immediate interest.
“We have special grass here,” said one of the youth coaches, pointing at the pitch. “It holds a lot of water, and that helps us with the flow of the ball. We want to move the ball quicker and this type of grass helps in that regard.”
The academy kids – with ages ranging from seven to 15 – are taught the Barca philosophy until they perfect it.
A mistake is followed by a pause in the session and it’s corrected immediately.