Xavi Llorens

Xavi Llorens, the current head coach of FC Barcelona’s Women’s Team, sat down with UEFA to talk about his time as one of the managers of Barça’s youth academy. The former La Masia manager was joined by academy graduate, Jordi Alba.

“I coached Víctor Valdés, Pepe Reina, Fernando Navarro, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Jonathan Dos Santos, Messi, Bojan, Gio Dos Santos, Thiago, Piqué, and Fàbregas ... so we coached all of them,” started Llorens, who added: “the only thing I had to teach them is that we are Barça and there’s one style we play, your behaviour off the pitch is also very important. What I want from them is to give a good impression and to give their best competitively.”

The manager also noted that the journey from the youth teams to the senior side is a road fraught with sacrifice and hard work: “all the players that I've coached gave up many things ... when you become a professional sportsman it take a lot of sacrifice.” He added: “what most people see are 25-year-olds playing football who drive the cars they want and live in big houses, but it’s not easy to get there.”

Llorens continued: “it’s hard to come here at the ages of 10, 12, 13 ... older ones come here at the age of 15 and you have to go through very hard weeks competing at a high level as all your teammates are pretty strong. You need to be lucky with your coach, you need to be injury free, you need to be lucky in football in general ... if you’re a forward you need to take advantage of your chances, if you’re a defender you cannot make any mistakes; you have to grow and develop further. You certainly go through good times and through bad times.”

“I think the youth teams of Barcelona are the best in the world. In the end there are a lot of players that came up from the youth teams and half of the first team is from La Masia" - Jordi Alba

However, even though many youth-team players don’t make it to the senior side, Llorens noted that he’s pleased with all of the players he’s coached. “I’m satisfied with all of them. I’m pleased with the ones that didn’t make it because they tried their hardest to succeed ...  When we see each other here at the facilities, when they come to say hello to their friends, I then see that they’ve grown up in all aspects of life. They might not be football players but they’ve become adults, correct and well educated.”

Jordi Alba, who spent seven years at La Masia, said that “for kids this Club is a perfect team to play at, the whole youth department is like one team.”

He concluded: “I think the youth teams of Barcelona are the best in the world. In the end there are a lot of players that came up from the youth teams and half of the first team is from there. It’s good sign, and it’s good for everybody at the Club, that players from the youth teams make it to the senior side.”