offpitch | 2015-09-14
Xavier Vilajoana: Playing for Barça isn't about the contract, it’s about ambition and desire
Xavier Vilajoana, born in Barcelona on January 2nd 1973 and FC Barcelona socí number 35.916, played in La Masia as a youngster for Juvenil, U19s and Barça C between 1991 and 1994. He then moved to Hospitalet (1994-1996) and Gramenet (1996-1997), before returning to Barça to play for the Futsal team for 4 seasons (1997-2001). He is an industrial engineer who has degrees in 4 other areas and owns his own construction company.
Following the elections in the summer and the new organization of Barça’s football section, Vilajoana was appointed as the board member responsible for the academy teams from Cadete down, you can read his interview with Mundo Deportivo below.
After retiring as a player you returned to the club as an executive, right?
Yes, I was a member of the Sporting Commission starting in 2003, because they were looking for someone to help make the Futsal section professional and they thought of me and Miguel Sambola, my friend. I left in 2005 and returned in 2010 with Rosell.
Let’s talk about Futsal.
There are a lot of things of the section that can be improved. I will talk to the new sporting director, Josep Ramon Vidal-Abarca and I will tell him how things are. I think that we have a B team that is at a great level and that doesn’t show in the first team. I’m not talking about changes, I’m talking about a regeneration and having a homegrown base of players, with 2-3 first class players from outside. Catalunya has great academies for this.
It’s not your responsibility anymore.
No, but as colleagues, we can help each other.
You’re now doing a master in ‘footballogy’.
Yes [laughs]. It’s a world with a lot of variables and the chaos can increase in proportion to the number of the variables. At Barça, one day you think that you have that variable under control and the next day it turns out you don’t. It’s complicated, but with hard work, confronting the problems and being honest you’re already halfway there.
What’s your executive function?
I work under the sporting vice-president Jordi Mestre and my responsibility are the academy teams from Cadete down.
Will you live at the training center?
If I could I would, yes. The first stage is that of observation and analysis if there’s nothing serious that requires immediate decisions. I’ll see games and be in contact with Jordi Roura and Aureli Altimira, as well as Paco Seirul-lo and Joan Vilà.
What are your ideas for the job?
To establish a strategic way that allows the performance to improve.
Is Barça’s future in your hands?
Without any dramatization, yes, of course. The ones who are 14 years old now will be 20 at the end of my mandate, so you can see some fruit of your work. What I can bring is my own experience, having lived with the philosophy and methodology of Laureano Ruiz and then during Cruyff’s years. His son Jordi was a teammate of mine for 3 years in the academy teams. So I learned from 2 schools and I've been in dressing rooms with players of all ages, semi-professional or professional footballers, which gives me a more ample vision of the situation and the opportunity to interpret what the club needs on the long term. I think president Bartomeu chose me because of my knowledge of the football language.
The sporting center is like a bunker right now. Will you allow the press to enter?
I’m not an extremist. If things make sense and are coherent they can be allowed. The problem isn’t that a youngster can be in the paper one day, that depends on the player. Xavi Hernández, for example, could talk to the press without problems at 15 years old. It’s obvious that there has to be some kind of filter system because it’s dangerous and things can get out of hand. You have to look for some balance.
Did you enjoy being in the papers when you were a kid?
Yes, of course. I have an album at home with everything that was written about me. I understand the excitement that generates, but it’s not the same that a 14-year-old talks to the press as it is for a Barça B player to do it. At certain ages, you get carried away easier.
Are you scared of being responsible for La Masia?
No, because La Masia is working. The challenge is to improve it. Everything in life can be improved and that’s my objective.
While having a lot of talented players, Barça B was relegated to Segunda B last season. Have they had too much of an easy ride so far?
There is no place for everyone in the first team. The club’s obligation is to form players and people, the second part being fundamental because an educated person makes a bigger intellectual effort and ends up being a better sportsman. It’s a part of the culture of effort, you double that. I was signed by Barça when I was 19 in the first year of college, but I didn’t quit school.
But that’s not what usually happens.
Right, but I’ve been through it and being a football player occupies three hours of your day, there’s plenty of time for other stuff.
Will you change things at La Masia?
First I have to observe things and talk to everyone, but I have some ideas.
How do you deal with a young player who has an agent, a lawyer, a manager and parents who all expect to make a lot of money?
The most important thing is the football player, what he wants, what his family wants. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of cases of players who at 14 years old have offers and you have to decide if you’ll give them that kind of money too. I think that unless it’s a player who is extraordinary and who you’re sure is going to make it, I don’t think you have to respond to those demands. Not at those ages. Who wants to play for Barça has be committed, it’s not about the contract, it’s about ambition and desire. You have to love Barça as much as you would as a fan.
There are senior players who accepted a lower salary to come to Barça, like Mascherano.
Playing for Barça has a certain value unlike playing for other clubs. And if you have a good academy, some players leaving for financial reasons is not a problem. The better the academy the more independent you can be.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.