Guillermo Amor, director of youth football, has told Barça TV and fcbarcelona.cat about the magnificent season the youth teams have had. He feels the Barça seal can be seen at every level and adds that the players’ behaviour has been impeccable.

The season over, it’s time to review affairs. What would you highlight most about the youth programme?

“I’d highlight many things, but most of all the hard work everyone has done. From the coaches down to the boys. You know that the kids come first for us. Generally speaking, it’s been a magnificent year. We always say that results might be important, but we don’t work by them, they are not the priority and are not our obsession. We want the lads to work well together, to do things right, to improve, to feel happy, comfortable, like at home. And it’s working well. I think we’ve built some good teams, good squads. I think we’ve got some excellent players. We’ll see over the next few years. But results aside, although they’ve been good, and we’ve won some competitions, it’s been a great season, and we’ve even been happy in defeat. We may have lost matches, we may have lost finals, but we’re still happy because of the players’ attitudes, their implication, what they do, how they play and understand what this club is about. And we have always kept our heads held high everywhere we’ve played.”

Looking at the performances of the teams, it’s more about being happy with the way they played than the results they achieved.

“Yes, no question, from the littlest, the prebenjamín B, to the biggest, the juvenil B, I think they all carry the Barça seal. Win or lose, they have always shown that they understand what football is about, and what the Barça style is about, the one we like and defend so much, which is keeping the ball for as long as possible. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’ve been so happy all year. Because even in the youngest players we have seen things we like, and that’s precisely where we want to get our style across. It isn’t easy to get 7, 8 or 9 years olds to do what you tell them. But we can tell that at other grounds, teams play a very different way to us. It’s hard for them to take these things in at such a young age. But I think we’ve managed it.”

At some age levels the teams win very easily. How can the coaches stop the players from relaxing too much and not run the risk, due to their superiority, of losing that style?

“Some levels are easier than others, and some games are not as tough as others and you win them easily. That’s normal. Not all opponents are the same, neither are all levels. But if you always show respect for the opposition and show humility and take things seriously, whoever you play and at whatever age level, then there’s no problem. I think it’s good for us to be there, watching all the games and talking to the coaches to correct things that we think need improving. But the players already know what representing a club like this means and know about presenting the image that this club deserves.”

This year all the teams have been very well behaved and have shown a lot of humility and respect.

“We can make mistakes, and so can they, but we do try to emphasise what proper behaviour is about. That’s why try to spend as much time as we can here, because that way things get sorted out quicker. Of course we’ve had problems with the occasional player this season, but we’ve gradually managed to sort these things out over the year, and the players learn from that, and aren’t likely to do the same things again.”

So what about the new Masía?

“The change has been for the better, very positive. You just have to see the residence, the way it operates, and it’s all got a lot to do with Carlos Folguera, Rubén and Ricard, fantastic people who know all the lads, and are always here for them. That’s why I think the residence is so great. Whenever a relative of some player that we are thinking of bringing here next season comes to see the place, they always go away delighted with what we’ve got here. We weren’t sure if the atmosphere would be as good at this one as at the old one, but I think we’re getting it to work and for them to relate to each other well. That need to feel like they’re at home, it’s not always easy to leave your family and be so far away from them, and for this to feel like your home.”

The season is over and now it’s time for some players to lose their places. Not as many are leaving this year as the last, but what’s that situation like?

“They are tough, difficult times, but last year we had to deal with a lot more. We wanted to have the right number of players this year, so we had to do what we did last season. This year we have had to lose a lot fewer players. And those that have gone have accepted the situation well. The families understood the reasons and some even thanked us for so many good years, the experience, what they learned, what they and their children have lived through. It is things like that that make us proud.”

At what age do you think the coach has most influence on the child?

“Children are like sponges, especially when they’re small. When they’re playing 7-a-side, the coach can influence them a lot. At all levels, even as a person, the coach can find that piece of character that’s missing. Up until 12 or 13 years, coaches are fundamental for completing a child’s learning. As teenagers, they start learning things more from other players. But they never stop learning. I, for example, was still learning stuff in the first team. But coaches can have a huge effect on players.”

The examples of Tello, Cuenca and Alba

We have had the experience of some players that left and returned, like Isaac Cuenca, Cristian Tello and Jordi Alba. Do footballers have to realise that football is complex and sometimes goodbye doesn’t mean forever?

“I think it has a lot to do with their ages and the ages they leave the club. If they leave aged 12 or 13, they aren’t thinking about their future, they’re at an age when they should have fun playing football. But when their last year is when they are 16 or 17, and professional football is so near, it’s very different. But you have to encourage the people that leave the club so that they realise it doesn’t all start and end here. There are a lot of football clubs and with the right dedication, you can always find a place in another team. If they work hard they might find the door opens again, as has happened in many cases. Sometimes players come back to the B or first team, but also sometimes players that left at 12 come back when they’re 16. They shouldn’t throw in the towel, because these things happen in football. They need to maintain their rhythm at an age when studying is also important, and that’s important to us too. They have to continue with their education.”

How were players like Tello and Jordi Alba ever allowed to leave?

“It is very difficult to get it right with certain ages and to tell whether someone is going to make the first team of become a professional. Especially with very young 7-a-side players. It’s hard. Jordi Alba, for example, was a player that found it hard to grow. He was physically small, and even then we left him in a younger age group to see if he’d grow, but due to the circumstances, we let him go. In football, as in life, decisions have to be made. So it’s good that we work together, because these decisions would be even harder for one person alone. We can’t get rid of a player at the start of the season because perhaps after a few months there’ll be a change for the better. But we never criticise our players, whatever happens we defend them to the death, whether they play well or badly. We have to be there for them, to help them, to show them how to progress, to learn, to work so that most of them do make it through. We have to look after them, they’re the best thing we have.”

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