BARCELONA - The quaint
18th-century Catalan stone farmhouse that became the symbol
of Barcelona's famed football academy closed its doors to recruits
on Thursday after more than three decades of nurturing talent.
"La Masia de Can Planes" - built in 1702 and dwarfed since
the 1950s by Barca's massive Nou Camp stadium next door - has
been a home from home to players including current coach Pep
Guardiola, midfielder Andres Iniesta, captain Carles Puyol and
goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
The building, which is being replaced by a much bigger,
purpose-built facility at the club's training ground outside,
will begin a new lease of life as the club's institutional
However, not all of the leading lights the school has
produced, including World Player of the Year Lionel Messi,
midfielder Xavi, defender Gerard Pique and Arsenal captain Cesc
Fabregas, lived there.
Players who pass through the youth school, known in Spanish
as the "cantera" (quarry), are imbued with Barca's special brand
of stylish, possession-based football, most recently on display in
the Champions League final at Wembley where they crushed English
champions Manchester United 3-1.
Recruits lucky enough to win a place at the "Masia" - some
60 at a time from Spain and beyond - also undergo an intense
programme of education which officials say produces more rounded
individuals who have a better chance in life if they fail to
make it as a professional athlete.
Standing outside the farmhouse and flanked by the 16
trophies Barca's various professional sports teams won in a
club-record haul last season, director Carles Folguera said he
and his colleagues were excited about the "New Masia", which
cost around 9 million euros and will house some
80 young hopefuls when it opens next month.
"We are switching to a residence that will be an example for
the world due to the immense possibilities it will generate,"
Folguera told reporters.
"We will continue to work with the same ideas," he added.
"We are happy when success is accompanied by educating excellent
Former Barca midfielder Guillermo Amor, one of the Masia's
first residents, said he was more nervous on Thursday than when
he moved in as a teenager in 1980.
"Today is not an easy day," he said. "For me, this place has
not been just a residence for athletes but my home. We will have
a marvellous new residence and we should make sure the family
atmosphere is transfered there."
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