La Masia de Can Planes, more commonly known simply as La Masia ('The Farmhouse'), is FC Barcelona's world-class youth academy. Known as the academy which gifted world football the likes of Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, it houses and trains over 700 boys and girls aged 11-18 at any one time.
Its primary aim is to produce professional footballers, and its track record is enviable. In addition to Guardiola and Messi, the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have all passed through its doors, making it a key factor in the club's unprecedented success both in LaLiga Santander and in Europe in recent years.
In the last few years, the latest generation of La Masia youth players has 'exploded' onto the scene, providing great hope for FC Barcelona fans. The great standard-bearer of recent years are Gavi, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde.
Players are schooled in the iconic possession-based style of football which has become synonymous with the club over the years, promoting a sense of collective creativity made possible only by a true understanding of the structure and requirements of the system.
But there is more to La Masia, which relocated to a purpose-built 6,000 m² site in 2011, than just producing quality footballers. A very conscious effort is made to instil in youngsters the values the club believes essential to all those coming through the ranks, among them respect, humility and teamwork. These are values that permeate throughout the club and form the heart of the club's identity from the first team down to the youngest academy teams; the idea of being more than just a club – "Més que un club" in Catalan.
The club also places great importance on ensuring that football doesn't interfere with the players' educational development, as is so often the case in this industry, so the boys and girls maintain full school commitments while at the academy. The club employs its own medical staff at La Masia, ensuring that residents are provided with tailored nutritional programmes and medical care, as well as specialist kitchen staff.
It even organises a variety of cultural events with parents, including conferences and theatre visits, emphasising the importance of extra-curricular development, while the academy also teaches youngsters how to act and deal with social media. In short, the philosophy is to nurture not only sporting but also personal and educational growth.