Can Culés still put hope in La Masia?

Pep Segura has admitted repeatedly that the transfer ban hurt FC Barcelona to its core. While the first team was deprived new signings in which one season was affected, La Masia felt the real force of the punishment. Talents such as Takefuso Kubo, Japan's highly-rated attacker currently playing for F.C. Tokyo, were forced to either sit around without playing or search for their football elsewhere.

In the meantime, U-17 Spain international Eric Garcia, a prize jewel of La Masia's centre-back crop, departed for Manchester City and Jordi Mboula headed for Monaco in search of first team football. Much has been made of Sergio Gomez and his move to Borussia Dortmund during the winter transfer window, but he wasn't the only one. Fortunately for the U-17 World Cup Silver Ball winner, Gomez has already made two Bundesliga appearances and seems to have made the right choice in the short term.

With this exodus of talent, there is clearly a growing sense that the talent doesn't exist to make the transition to the first team like Sergi Roberto did quite a few seasons ago. Yet, Barcelona were the recent winners of the UEFA Youth League (U-19) and are grooming some players that at least as teenagers seem to be showcasing the raw vestiges of what La Masia is still hoping to promote to the first team. Just as impressively, and maybe more so, the younger levels are all having the same success. Here is the full list of the FC Barcelona youth teams that won their leagues in 2017-2018:

Juvenil A, Juvenil B, Cadete A, Cadete B, Infantil A, Infantil B, Alevin A, Alevin B, Alevin C, Alevin D, Benjamin A, Benjamin B, Benjamin C

Winning at the youth level doesn't seem to be the issue. However, the unfortunate truth is that the great majority of these young winners will never feature for FC Barcelona like their heroes, and some may not even cut it as professional footballers. La Masia boasts that they are teaching these prodigies both on the field and off it so that they can live with the security of a plan-B. In truth, it appears from a distance that it's the board that is a lacking a plan-B as to how to properly integrate the cream of the crop into the same squad of Lionel Messi and company.

Talent is fleeing at a rate that FC Barcelona and Cules are not accustomed to, but it doesn't mean that the well is completely dried up. Riqui Puig has been making headlines recently with his decision to remain with the club, and he is likely to join many of his compatriots on the Youth League winning side on Barca B next season. The team may be a step down next year in the Segunda Division B, but if some of those talents can begin to take the step up into the first team in 2018/2019, La Masia may prove its power once more.

If you haven't gotten your La Masia fill just yet, Francesc and Dan broke down the major roster changes that are likely to be taking place for the relegated Barca B squad in the latest edition of The Barcelona Podcast:

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