El Centrocampista


By Lee Roden

The Miniestadi, home of Barça B and location of Barça Juvenil A’s home fixtures in the Nextgen Series, has seen better days.

Seats are fading, paint is chipped and in general the place looks a little tired. The players that grace the pitch however are anything but things of the past, and the future of FC Barcelona has been plain for all to see throughout this European youth tournament.

La Masia, the small (now defunct) farmhouse that sits just outside the Camp Nou is beginning to gain a somewhat mythical reputation for football fans, and is the place where all of these young stars learned their craft.

It’s tempting to think that Futbol Club Barcelona have stopped using the facility with the idea of maintaining the legend, to go out on a high, with the only lasting memory that of Guardiola, Xavi, Messi or Thiago.

Barcelona’s current Juvenil A side are one of the last generation to have been schooled in the humble building, and if their dominance over Celtic in the Nextgen Series on Thursday night was anything to go by, they’ve had an ample dose of the fairy dust that sits in the rafters of their former home.

Having already covered Juvenil A, it’s easy to forget just how ridiculous it felt the first time I witnessed them playing. I remember thinking that it was as if someone had cloned the current Barça team and released them on the pitch. Though some of the players are still finding their feet, the raw talent and, crucially, the understanding of their role within the club is already implanted in their brains.

Given that the Nextgen Series is the equivalent of the Champions League for these players, it may be surprising to know that relatively few Barcelona supporters turned up for their crunch tie against the Glasgow side. If a youth team in Glasgow, for example, was playing this kind of football on such a regular basis, you would imagine that the punters would pay the paltry sum necessary to come and witness it at its inception.

Yet in Barcelona it’s almost as if the supporters have become accustomed to the way their team plays – it’s almost a requirement rather than a luxury. I have first hand experience of this myself, having been told off on a few occasions by older supporters in the Camp Nou for applauding tackles or passes that, to them, were the bare minimum they had came to see.

Of course, the lack of a diehard support at this level will do little to dampen the ambitions of these players – after all, the proof is there in their 5-1 victory over Celtic. As if they needed any more motivation, the Camp Nou sits within touching distance of their former Masia homes, and its towering presence over the Miniestadi would have provided a familiar incentive against Celtic.

Perhaps in moving the youth system from La Masia further out of the city they’ll lose a little of the charm provided by such proximity, but nonetheless, with their players achieving this kind of level already in their mid teens, their training methods are clearly not only working, but flourishing.

Thanks to the Nextgen, names like Dongou and Grimaldo (both were excellent against Celtic, with Grimaldo bagging a hat trick and moving to joint first in the goal scoring charts) are starting to gain stature amongst the football media. My only worry is that such pressure in their formative years could impact what many foresee to be an exponential development.

Knowing FC Barcelona however, who place so much value on humility and keeping one’s feet firmly on la terra, it’s unlikely to be the case.




  1. Varun

    25 November, 2011 at 14:13

    Dongou got the hat-trick not Grimaldo.
    Also Barca had already qualified and Celtic is a poor team no need for stadium to be full, it isn’t full even for Barca B, only on 2-3 matches it reaches near capacity.
    If Barca were playing Sporting than maybe more support would be seen.

    Also this Juvenil A team was undefeated all of last season albeit with different players who have moved onto Barca B, this year seems they’ll have a chance to win the first NextGen series trophy, a competition whose importance will grow exponentially over the years.

  2. Lee Roden

    25 November, 2011 at 14:42

    Thanks for pointing out the typing error on the Grimaldo/Dongou hat trick, I was in a rush to send this off.

    Also, the organisers of the tournament told be specifically that Barça hadn’t yet qualified, so you can take it up with them.
    Celtic isn’t a “poor team” at all, up until this point they were doing pretty well, and are a well known side.

    Thanks for reading, though.

  3. Lee Roden

    25 November, 2011 at 14:48

    To clarify, had Celtic won last night they would be on 9 points, with Marseilla on 12 and Barcelona on 12 going in to the final game. Therefore, as far as I’m aware, in the unlikely situation that Celtic won but Marseille and Celtic both bettered them on goal difference, then they wouldn’t have qualified.

    There was some confusion over this however as the official Barça site had previously said they had already qualified, but an official from the Nextgen Series informed me that this wasn’t the case.

    • Varun

      26 November, 2011 at 13:36

      Yes Celtic would have had to win their last 2 games and that would have resulted ina 12 point tie for 3 teams, but Celtic would also have have to win big, Barca had better GD even before the match.

      Celtic have been poor, 8 goals in 5 matches with 12 conceded, this isn’t good.
      Aston Villa have scored 15 and let in 7, while Tottenham have scored 15 and let in only 5 and that to with 1 game to go.
      Celtic are a poor team in relation to others in the competition.
      So far Sporting look really dangerous as well.

      • Lee Roden

        27 November, 2011 at 00:35

        …but they weren’t already qualified like you said though, so if you’re going to try and pick me up on something at least get your story straight. Also, your point about their goal difference being better before the game is a little astray as we’re hypothesising now down the route that Celtic had beaten Barça to even create the 12 point tie, which would by its very nature involve some change to the goal difference. Unlikely yes, impossible no. They hadn’t qualified yet.

        On a similar note, you didn’t say Celtic were poor in relation to the competition, you just made a sweeping statement about them being poor in general.

        • Varun

          27 November, 2011 at 18:26

          Ok i admit i got the “already qualified” part wrong,
          about goal difference, one has to go with how teams have done so far in the tournament and Celtic would hardly have matched Barca’s GD, also Celtic in order to get 12 points would have had to beat Marseille, who had a already worse GD than Barca to begin with. Barca would have qualified as they had a better H2H and better GD than Marseille.

          As for Celtic being poor, now i can only compare a team in a said competition, its only fair to do so, and i commented upon that (i though it was a given but if it wasn’t i would like to mention that Celtic were poor in Next Gen Series) and the results agree with that, once can have patches of brilliance but overall they weren’t as good as other British teams.

  4. Lee Roden

    25 November, 2011 at 14:49

    Make that “in the unlikely situation that Celtic won against Barcelona and then Marseille, and Marseilla and Celtic both bettered Barça on goal difference, then Barça wouldn’t have qualified”.

    That’s enough for a day I think.

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