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Spain trip day 8: FC Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain — Eight days into NorCal Premier Soccer’s coaching education trip to Spain came the moment that some of the coaches on the trip had been most looking for, a trip to perhaps the most famous club in the world: FC Barcelona.

The club that is “more than a club,” opened their doors to NorCal Thursday for an extended lecture from Isaac Oriol Guerrero, a UEFA Pro Coach and the head of FCB Escola.

Guerrero began his nearly six-hour lecture by dispelling some of the common misconceptions about FC Barcelona.

“We hate the term ‘tiki-taka,’” Guerrero said about the name of the term for high levels of possession that most associate with Barcelona and Spain. “You need to pass the ball with a purpose, [not just to pass the ball]. Possession is only an idea because possession isn’t important.”

He then touched on the importance Barcelona’s city rivals in RCD Espanyol play in helping both Catalan clubs produce players at a prodigious rate.

“We’re lucky because our neighbor has a very strong academy which helps us grow,” he said. “If you’re on your own in your area, that is a problem.”

He also explained why FC Barcelona believe in starting play through their goalkeeper, requiring the club to always have a netminder with excellent foot skills.

“Our goalkeepers are 100 percent a free man,” he said. “We always have numerical superiority [in the back] because no one is marking the goalkeeper.”

While he would later bring up many other subjects, Guerrero repeated perhaps his most important idea over and over throughout the lecture — the idea that their philosophies and methodologies could be wrong.

Because he spoke so quickly and about so many different subjects, we didn’t get the following quote down exactly, but to paraphrase Guerrero: “Just because our methodology works for FC Barcelona doesn’t mean that it’s the right methodology. What works for us may not work for you.”

It’s no secret that FC Barcelona are world-famous for their ability to produce world-class players at an astonishing rate. What is a secret is how much that ability involves environmental, cultural or other outside forces that would prevent the direct transformation of their ideas to another community in another part of the world.

“For me, Guerrero’s point of this isn’t the best model in the world, but to have a philosophy versus believing that one philosophy is the best is important,” said Omar Cervantes, the Director of Coaching & Player Development at San Ramon Futbol Club. “As directors, we might second guess ourselves and say, ‘The Spanish do it this way, the Germans do it this way, who are we as Americans? What do we do?’”

“You’re influenced by outside factors all the time, you want to be the best that you can, so whatever it is that you see, or whatever is the best, or maybe the American model is a mix of everything, it’s hard to say” he added. “I’m convinced that your model or my model or whoever’s model could work. I feel confident that I can go and do what I believe in and not worry about what that director thinks or what that parent thinks.”

Our directors of coaching will no doubt return from the trip with a plethora of profound tactical, technical and philosophical ideas from this lecture to implement in their daily trainings.

But it’s important to note that these aspects of Guerrero’s lecture don’t come in a one-size-fits-all model — Barcelona isn’t Northern California and Northern California isn’t Barcelona.

“It’s my philosophy, my methodology, my ideas. Guerrero showed me to believe in my model,” Cervantes said. “It may not be the best model for everyone, but it works for us.”