El Centrocampista

GENERATION NEXT – First impressions of Barça Juvenil A and the NextGen Series

By Lee Roden

The Nextgen Series is fully underway. The youth equivalent of the Champions League promises to revolutionise youth football, and it is fitting that FC Barcelona are already at the forefront of the competition.

Barça’s under 19’s side are officially titled Juvenil A. For those of you not familiar with the club’s structure, Juvenil A players are usually those who have progressed from Juvenil B.

If the players then succeed at the Juvenil A level, they have the chance to progress to the Barça B team, who play in the second division.

If they impress at that level, well, just ask Xavi, Iniesta, or Lionel Messi…

Last season Juvenil A won an impressive triplet, and so, with several big names leaving Barça B this summer, it makes sense that the standout players from Juvenil A’s treble squad would make up the numbers in the B team.

Barça Juvenil A coach, Oscar Garcia Junyent

Such examples are Rafinha, the sensational younger brother of Thiago Alcantara, Gerard Delofeu, who fans may recall from an impressive stint against Manchester United for Guardiola’s side in pre-season, and Javier Espinosa, a tricky midfielder in the vein of Andres Iniesta.

Progression sometimes works on a needs must basis too; leftback Alejandro Grimaldo was supposed to appear with Juvenil A in the Nextgen Series this year, though it appears he will no longer do so (as was the case tonight) due to being promoted to the B team last week. Grimaldo’s rise from the lower teams to Barça B has been incredibly swift, and as such we can expect great things from the young fullback.

With so many changes to his squad from last season, Oscar Garcia Junyent may struggle to replicate the success of his own Juvenil dream team from last year.

Things looked promising though after the team won the PSV Eindhoven tournament this month, defeating the hosts in the final.

Still, with the Nextgen Series aiming to demand performances at the level of Champions League for youth players, it was no surprise that Juvenil A did not look invincible against Celtic last night.

Distribution from the back was sometimes hurried, and members of the defence did not appear entirely comfortable with each other at times.

What is important however is that as the match progressed, players began to settle and display some of the patented FC Barcelona football we all know and love.

The standout performers for the Juvenil A team were all midfielders, and ultimately this bodes well at a club that favours those in the middle of the park so heavily.

Composure on the ball and vision were evident amongst the young migcampistes, and as a result of the maturity of their counterparts, the forwards and defenders in the Barça side sometimes looked inadequate.

It has been said that at a youth level, Barça’s players often struggle due to the pressure of not simply winning, but also doing so whilst adhering to the footballing philosophy of the club.

This is  something which, lest we forget, takes years to learn if it is learned at all.

These players are right in the middle of the process of learning, and so it is no surprise that they sometimes struggle to display the outright dominance of their superiors.

I should note that Barcelona actually won, and did so with a comfortable 3-1 margin.

My point is however that, in response to what many Scottish journalists and supporters in the stadium were saying (phrases like “they don’t look so special” and “there isn’t that much of a difference” were common), I would argue that at this level, the FC Barcelona players have their ambitions set much higher than simply winning youth trophies.

The result is that players are constantly thinking about how rather than why.

Victory is of course important in football, but for players from La Masia, the method is of equal importance.

Players know that if they prove to understand the philosophy of the club by playing attractive, mature football in the Barcelona mould, they have as much if not more of a chance of progressing to the first team than by just winning trophies.

Look at Alejandro Grimaldo. The fifteen year old only made his debut for Juvenil A in July (after moving straight from Cadete A to Juvenil A, skipping the Juvenil B level in the process. This is something normally unheard of at the club).

Now, Grimaldo is training with the B team in the second division.

Who knows where he will be in two years time? At FC Barcelona, philosophy is everything, and the Nextgen Series is the perfect place to showcase this.
Jamie Milligan will be providing a full match report from the game later today, with insight on the standout performers and key moments.

For more information on the NextGen Series visit the offical website at www.nextgenseries.com

One Comment

  1. Daniel

    1 September, 2011 at 11:25

    I don’t agree with the Next Gen series at all. I think it focuses too much on winning and competition at such an early age which I think is one of the root problems we have in the English game. Having been involved in the English lower league youth set up it’s all about results now, with big players who are physically mature with pace and strength.

    They don’t consider the future development of the players unlike in Spain where the emphasis is more on the longer term. Living in Spain I have been able to see both ends of the spectrum and think that Spain has the better method in developing youth players.

    The big example is in our country there is so much pressure to win that players literally cave under the pressure, taking the England team as example in the previous World cup. In comparison youth players coming into the first team set up at Barcelona look like they belong there and have always been members of the squad.

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