Cruyff hails Barcelona's youth policy

The Netherlands legend believes academy players can be taught how to handle pressure, making graduates preferable to new signings

Johan Cruyff has hailed Barcelona's youth system and says it is a more reliable method of success than spending vast sums of money on big-name players.

The majority of coach Tito Vilanova's first team squad learned their trade at the club's La Masia academy.

And Cruyff, one of Vilanova's most decorated predecessors, says the academy's role is as much about instilling mental toughness as it is about developing playing skills.

"The pressure from outside is often more important that the talent," he told Marca.

"Some clubs are very different [to Barcelona] and difficult, and a lot of the time it has nothing to do with the talent [of the players]. The pressure from outside is often more important that the talent."

The former Netherlands international emphasised that running La Masia was not cheap, but said it was the most reliable way of producing teams with sound temperaments.

"Grassroots football is always more cost-effective in the end. The investment is possibly the same, because the upkeep of grassroots football also costs money, but you know what you've got," he explained.

Cruyff, who also starred for Ajax before going on to manage the Amsterdam club, said the benefits of investing in youth have been proven over recent decades.

"[Arrigo] Sacchi's [AC] Milan is a great example of this, along with the Ajax of my era and the current Barça team," he added.

The Blaugrana's playing style has long been influenced by the total football fashioned by Ajax in the 1970s, but Cruyff believes the philosophy is evolving this season under Vilanova.

"It's always important to add something else when you have the foundations of a team, and Vilanova has done that with a more direct playing style."