Barcelona spend around €20 million a year trying to cultivate the next Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernanes or Andres Iniesta from their La Masia academy, according to a study on European football youth academies.
The fabled youth facility which has honed the talents of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Carles Puyol among others is considered to be the key to the Catalan club’s remarkable success in recent years, which has seen them scoop three league titles, two Champions League titles and two Copa del Rey crowns since 2008.
As a mark of the academy’s success, seven of the eleven players who started the Champions League final against Manchester United in 2011 came from La Masia.
The report on youth academies in Europe, commissioned by the European Club Association reveals the lengths Barca go to in order to get the best young talents into their academy.
They spent around £10 million last year on operating La Masia - the most in Europe alongside Ajax, Inter Milan and RC Lens - and a further €10 million on the formation of an under-19 squad and Barcelona B.
36 coaches are employed by the club in order to ensure the 220 youth players in attendance at La Masia follow the strict philosophy and guidelines of the club, which go as far as telling youngsters how to dress.
According to the report, coloured hair, earrings and tattoos are banned, while shirts must be tucked into shorts at all times.
Placing an emphasis on ‘technique, speed and vision of the game’, Barce employ 25 scouts to pick up the very best talent, with all players from eight-year-olds up to the Under-19's performing the same passing and intercepting drills throughout their time at La Masia.
By way of comparison, the report also reveals that Arsenal spend around €3 million-per-year in order to maintain their academy, which has produced the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ashley Cole and Emmanuel Frimpong.
The Gunners have around 180 youth players at the facility in London, and prioritise ‘talent, intelligence and motivation’ when scouring for young prospects. Interestingly Arsenal only have two scouts in London and a ‘few worldwide’ looking for the next big thing, compared to Barcelona’s 25.