Probably its youth academy, which hones star players from age 7
"La Masia" nurtured top football stars, including Lionel Messi, maybe the best ever
Many soccer fans believe that Barcelona's professional team is the best there is. Some even think it's the best collection of players ever assembled in the sport's 150-year history. Bob Simon profiles the Spanish "football" club and the training system it built that produces such gifted players that nearly 70 percent of the current team is manned by its graduates. Simon's report on FC Barcelona will be broadcast on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Jan. 6 (7 p.m.), on the CBS Television Network.
Spanish football columnist John Carlin says, right now, Barca, as many refer to the club, is the "best football team in the world." But he goes on to say that they may be un-matched in history. "There are a lot of people ... serious people in the game, who believe this is the greatest football team that has ever been since the rules of the game were drawn up in a London pub in 1862 or three," he tells Simon.
The club has won nearly every top level title there is to win in the sport - taking home 14 out of a possible 19 trophies in the last four years.
One reason Barca is so good right now is its star forward Lionel Messi, who, at 25, already has broken major records, including scoring 86 goals in 2012, beating a 30-year old world record for most goals in a calendar year. He and 17 of the club's 25 players came out of Barcelona's recruitment system, which began in the 1970s. Stressing academics, sports and discipline, the academy, originally housed in an 18thcentury farmhouse called La Masia, is difficult to get into and easy to be kicked out of.
"I was very lucky, and I am not just talking about the football. I am talking about manners, values, education at school," La Masia alum and Barca star player Cesc Fabregas tells Simon.
"The only thing is, you have to study a lot. ... They are very strict, but it's worth it," says Fabregas, who came to La Masia when he was 10.
Asked by Simon how a Masia student would fare if he were more inclined to go out for good time than to train, Fabregas replies "You'll be out, very, very quick."
Perhaps the greatest alum of the Barcelona system is Messi, who came in as 13-year-old boy from Argentina. Twelve years later, he is regarded as the best soccer player there is, and he may well be the best ever. Messi is famous now, but his attitude about the game hasn't changed one bit.
"I enjoy football in the same way I did when I was a little kid," Messi tells Simon. "And I love playing. I love winning the games. I love scoring and I keep loving it all."