As Barca's great generation fades, Madrid's kids can dominate for years

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While there is little left now of the brilliant Blaugrana side that ruled the world, Los Blancos have built a team for the present and the future


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Real Madrid tried everything. During Barcelona's period of dominance under Pep Guardiola, Florentino Perez spent hundreds of millions on new players in an attempt to shift the power, brought in Jose Mourinho as coach and used the media to pile pressure the Catalan club. However, none of it really worked.

The answer, as applicable as much in business as in everyday life, was in long-term planning. Many years of preparations had allowed Barcelona to build their great team in the first place, with youngsters brought through in the academy at La Masia and a playing style honed to perfection from the youth sides to the first team at Camp Nou.

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If Madrid were to wrestle back the power from Barca, they would need to do something similar and, five years on from Guardiola's exit, it is Los Blancos who are sitting in a privileged position. While this Blaugrana board has made mistakes and failed to look ahead, Real's vision for the future has allowed their team to pick up the baton.

Barca's golden generation is now on its last legs. Carles Puyol and Xavi left long ago, while Andres Iniesta is nearing the end and there has been no pertinent plan to bring through the next batch at La Masia, while signings over the last few years have not been suitable for the club and the side's once-sacred style of play has been compromised.

Madrid young generation graphic

Last season was a sign that the power was indeed shifting. For the first time since 2011-12, Madrid won La Liga and Zinedine Zidane also led Los Blancos to the Champions League title for a second season in a row. In the meantime, Barca had to settle for the Copa del Rey as a consolation prize.

And after a summer in which Barca have lost Neymar and also missed out on Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez to Madrid, the Blaugrana are in trouble on and off the pitch. That was evident in the 5-1 aggregate loss to Los Blancos in the Spanish Supercopa this week and even if new signings are brought in before the end of the transfer window, Real look to have overtaken their Catalan rivals.

"In the nine years I have been at the club, this is the first time I have felt that Madrid are superior," Gerard Pique said after the 2-0 defeat at the Bernabeu on Sunday when, for the first time since 2008, Real had more possession than Barca in a Clasico.

The shift seems gradual, especially after Pique celebrated the 3-2 win at the Bernabeu back in April by shouting "we're infinitely better, infinitely better". But in reality, it has been coming. While Barca have lost Xavi and brought in seemingly unsuitable midfielders like Andre Gomes and now Paulinho, relying on an Iniesta who is approaching the end of his playing days, Madrid have been much more astute in the transfer market.

Dani Ceballos Real Madrid

Mateo Kovacic Real Madrid

Because not only have Madrid brought in players with great technical ability who would have slotted in seamlessly at Barca, Los Blancos have also built a squad of young stars that their rivals can only envy.

Marco Asensio, fresh from scoring two wonder goals in the Supercopa series, is just 21, the same age as summer signing Ceballos. Mateo Kovacic, so impressive in the two games against Madrid, is 23. Raphael Varane is 24. Isco, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro are 25. Lucas Vazquez is 26. Toni Kroos is 27. And recent arrival Theo is only 19.

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That is the club's philosophy now: to bring in players suitable for the first team, but also footballers who can be part of the future of a successful side for the future. "We are working very well with the young players and that is down to Zidane," Perez said after the Champions League win in June.

Zidane has transformed the side's fortunes on the pitch since taking over from Rafa Benitez, winning back-to-back Champions Leagues among seven titles in total, and the focus on youth has continued this summer with the recruitment of Brazilian starlet Vinicius Jr. and the club's interest in Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe.

Real clearly learnt from Barcelona's success and now the Catalans can and probably should take a leaf out of their rivals' book. Proper planning has made Madrid much stronger and, after turning the tide in recent times, Los Blancos' young guns can dominate at home and abroad for several years to come.

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