School of unrivalled excellence

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You may question what's the point in converting an 18th Century farmhouse if you intend to keep breeding there? But in this particular 18th Century farmhouse it wasn't livestock that was being bred. This particular farmhouse has helped produce a number of priceless assets who have been a major reason that Barcelona are reigning Spanish and European Champions.

In 1979 when, on the advice of former player and coach Johan Cruyff, the Catalan giants designed a boarding house for players on the youth programme, it was probably beyond their wildest dreams that in the 2011-12 season, over two thirds of the teams goals would come from graduates of the academy.

La Masia has produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas to name just a few who have helped this current crop of world beaters break yet another record.

With at least another 14 games remaining this season the products of La Masia have scored 111 of the 145 goals for Barca after Messi and Xavi scored in the 2-0 win against Sevilla at the weekend.

The record was previously 110 out of 152 goals in the 2010-11 season when Barcelona won La Liga, four points ahead of Real Madrid. Josep Guardiola's team now find themselves second best to the whites. But players that learnt their trade playing at 'La Cantera' (The Quarry) undoubtedly have more goals in their boots that will keep the pressure on Jose Mourinho and his men.

The value of the academy that reportedly, in February 2011, cost £8million a year to run is huge for Barcelona. Iniesta told the bbc last year: "This Barcelona team is made up of a lot of people from La Masia and that's an important factor in our success, because we know each other for such a long time.

"We grew up together with the same idea about football in mind and playing according to the same philosophy."

Barcelona have a planned structure which guides them to have 50% of their squad homegrown, so the youth set up is evidently central to the success that has been achieved at the Nou Camp. The record set at the weekend pays tribute to the job that has been done raising players like Messi who has scored 51 goals so far in the current campaign.

Albert Capellas the club senior youth co-ordinator spoke to the Daily Mail in 2010 about the attitudes and values that many of the current first-team have had installed in them from as young as 11 - which is how old Iniesta was when he was fast tracked into the programme that mainly recruited 13 and 14 year olds.

Capellas said: "We train our youngsters to be good people with healthier lifestyle and help them to be happy with their way of life.

"It's very important for us that the boys have respect for others. They have to be good people. Like gentlemen.

"When they play matches we impress on the boys three objectives, they must be the more sporting team, committing fewer fouls and being less aggressive.

"Then they must try to win by playing very well, more creatively than the opposition team, with attacking football. And finally they need to win on the scoreboard. But we don't want to win without the first two aims being fulfilled."

The boarding house is not just about football. Some may be surprised to find out that the players train only six hours a week and have a 90 minute game. There is a strong sense of shaping the children and making sure that homework is completed and manners are formed. Not every player from the system progresses to become a professional footballer and the academy prepares its youths for that possibility.

"La Masia is like a family." Capellas added. "We take a lot of care of our young players, as they are living without their parents. We make sure they celebrate all the festivals, like Christmas, and every boy's birthday, like a family."

The farmhouse that sat a stones throw from the Nou Camp is no longer the base for La Masia as the 10 youngsters, with 60 more in an adjacent building, was not enough. The new state of the art centre, opened in June 2011, houses up to 83 talented youth players. The new site has been upgraded from 600 square meters to 5,000 and has five floors - an additional three to the farmhouse.

Pep Guardiola graduated from La Masia himself and is not afraid to bring more players through. The final group game in the Champions League saw BATE Borisov beaten 4-0 by a team with an average age of 22.7 with none of the big names recognised on the world stage. The only question that remains is how many more goals will La Masia graduates score this season?

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