My ball, my game. Barca have possession, and they intend to keep it

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By Samindra Kunti in Amsterdam

October 5 – FC Barcelona ooze football. They are full-circle precision. Their style has been emulated across the globe with varying success and is the template for possession-based football. In his role as head of the club’s methodology department, Joan Vila Bosch has been at the heart of the Catalan supremacy. 

He has been preaching the gospel of the beautiful game, the Barcelona way, for years. Aged 15, he arrived at the club. Joan Vila played with Johan Cruyff and, as a youth coach, helped shape the careers of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

“Our idea is about creative and associative football,” Joan Vila told Insideworldfootball on the sidelines of the Aspire4Sport Global Summit on Football Performance & Science. “By simply watching Barcelona you see that our aim is to have the ball, dominate the game and generate superiority – through ball possession. That is the idea that has been growing in Barcelona for the last 30 years.”

Joan Vila coaches the coaches, but is also tasked with ensuring the continuity of the famed style of play and philosophy that has made the club iconic around the world.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona were superlative from 2008 onwards. “Guardiola’s arrival coincided with the advent of an exceptional generation – Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Busquets, Pique, Puyol, Valdes,” said Joan Vila.

“All these players grew up in the 90’s with that singular idea. So, they reached the first team, with a great coach. Barcelona’s golden era began in 2008, but that was the result of a process of more than 20 years – more than 20 years to get to the top, the summit. That golden moment has been lasting for practically eight years now. That’s our challenge for the future, that we can have the same continuity with this model.”

Barcelona’s golden generation is still going strong with Iniesta and Messi, but the club will have to prepare for an era when two of their most talismanic players will no longer play and offer infinite solutions to footballing problems. Can Barcelona and La Masia replicate that famed generation in the future?

“Yes, we have to believe that in the future we can have a generation that is as talented as that one, but it is difficult,” said Joan Villa.

“We are talking about an entire generation. We will have good generations in the next few years, because we have excellent players at youth level. We hope that Busquets, Alba, Pique and Iniesta, who is not that young anymore, will serve and help the younger players, who will join the ranks of the first team in the next few years. The next generations won’t be as extraordinary and as special as that one, but they will be good.”

“We have followed the same idea for 25 years,” continued Joan Villa. “We haven’t changed our youth development. Great talent is innate, and part nurtured by youth development. When Xavi and Iniesta arrived at the club at the age of 10 or 11, they already had something different from the rest. We are talking about exceptional examples. We also have very talented players of the age of 10, 11, 13, 14 that we try to form during those years. Could there be another Xavi or Iniesta in the future ? Yes!”

That philosophical stability has been the cornerstone of Barcelona’s success. It is also what has distinguished the Catalan club. Joan Vila is the guardian of that principle. “My formation is FC Barcelona, but I have grown up and believed in the idea of associative football, with a lot of attacking,” said Joan Villa.

“It is difficult at my age to change ideas! Over the years I have seen that creative and attacking football is not only aesthetic – in the sense of jogo bonito, but it is also a winning approach. Barcelona wins. That’s why we keep following this idea.”

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