Lionel Messi and the ascent of Barca soccer

With stars like Lionel Messi and a youth academy bringing up the next generation of athletes, is Barcelona becoming the world's best soccer team?

The following script is from "Barca" which aired on Jan. 6, 2013. Bob Simon is the correspondent. Michael Gavshon, producer.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and Barcelona's team, known as Barca, is arguably the best team in the world. Over the last four years, it has won 14 out of a possible 19 trophies. That's never been done before. The secret? Many point to its youth academy which recruits boys often no more than seven years old, gives them a rigorous education and teaches them Barca's unique way of playing the game. In some matches this season all 11 players on the field were graduates of the football academy. And that's what the sport is called in every country except the United States: football, not soccer.

In the most contested football rivalry in the world, Barca playing its arch rival Real Madrid, some 400 million people are tuning in on six continents, and there's even more hot-blood flowing than when the Yankees play the Red Sox.

It's the biggest day of the year at Camp Nou, Barcelona's iconic stadium. The match, Barca versus Real Madrid, called El Clasico. John Carlin, who writes a weekly football column for a leading Spanish newspaper, says this is as good as the sport gets.

Bob Simon: I've heard Barca referred to as the best team in the world. Do you believe that?

John Carlin: Oh yes. I mean, right at this particular moment in historical time, Barcelona Football Club is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best football team in the world. And what is more, there are a lot of people, a lot of serious people in the game, who believe that this is the greatest football team that has ever been seen since the rules of the game were drawn up in a London pub in 1862 or three.

Bob Simon: And this is avoiding superlatives.

Walking into Camp Nou on a night like this is entering the cathedral of football. Moments before the teams come on to the pitch, the crowd rises like a tidal wave.

Some 99,000 fans sing the Barca anthem. "Som i serem." We are and we will be.

The guy walking in last is Lionel Messi. He is the best player in the world. Many say, the best ever. Of the last 10 matches between the two teams, Barca has lost only two. This is how they've done it. Well, more than anything else, this is how Messi has done it.

[Here's Lionel Messi, still Messi. And he has a classic in the Clasico. A touch of brilliance from Lionel Messi!]

Yes, Messi is Barca's superstar. But there are others.

[Drifting. Driving. David Villa! 3-0! Game over!]

What has made this Barca team so extraordinary? It all started in this 18th century farmhouse called La Masia.

In the 1970s it was transformed into a soccer training camp for children. Barca scouts looked everywhere for talented kids. Any boy over the age of 11 was eligible. The lucky few came here, got a free education and soccer training. The dream of every kid was to cross the street just a minute away to the Barca stadium. Today 17 of the 25 players on Barca's first team came through the system.

The Masia moved to a sparkling new facility one year ago and now looks like any other international prep school: communal living, lots of carbohydrates, and after a long day at school, there's homework with tutors and training and more training and then, a little recreation, of a sort.

They don't get to bed before 11. Cesc Fabergas came to La Masia when he was10 years old.

Bob Simon: What was it like being a 10-year-old in this place?

Cesc Fabergas: I was very lucky and I'm not just talking about the football, I'm talking about manners, values, education at school. The only thing is that you have to study a lot.

Bob Simon: Pretty strict huh?

Cesc Fabergas: Yeah, they are very strict. But it's worth it.

Bob Simon: What if you really like to have a good time and go out in downtown and --

Cesc Fabergas: You'll be out very, very quick.

But look at these kids when they are doing what they came here to do. These tykes are eight years old. They do not mess around. They are being taught the Barca doctrine: keep passing that ball, caress it, learn to love it. They are magicians in the making. Here's a future goalie. Always scores of soccer senioras in the stands.

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