One of the biggest sporting events of the past few months was the European Champions League Final, held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 28 May, 2011. After months of pool and elimination matches, the two undisputed power clubs of world football faced off in the final.
Manchester United, had just won their 12th English Premier League title in the past 19 seasons. Their opponents, FC Barcelona had just won their 3rd consecutive La Liga title to make it 10 domestic league titles in the same 19 season span. The showdown between the two super-clubs was expected to be a closely fought battle of skill and tactics.
The reality was somewhat different.
Barcelona shredded their opponent. The match ended up being a clinic, with the 3-1 scoreline flattering a totally out-classed Manchester United. The key match statistics say it all:
|Shots on target||12||1|
|Time in possession||67%||33%|
These stats demonstrate an astonishingly huge gap between two teams that, on paper at least, appeared evenly matched before the match began. So did Barcelona achieve such superiority over a very formidable foe?
Well it wasn’t money. Both clubs have very deep pockets.
La Masia, located next to the stadium, is the heart of the Barcelona system
The Spanish club was different in a very significant way. Six of the Barcelona team had been developed via the club’s academy (La Masia), compared to Manchester United’s one youth academy-developed player. Barcelona’s foundation to ongoing success is found in the teaching of the La Masia academy. As Graham Hunter, writing about FC Barcelona earlier this year in The Age, stated:
‘At (FC Barcelona) they believe it is more effective to teach raw talents a defined doctrine than buy brilliance every season or two and try to fuse different playing styles into a cohesive whole.’
To quote Hunter again ‘(the academy trainees) must play the 4-3-3 system, learn to cherish and use the ball well and must play with attacking flair’.
As inspirational Barcelona captain Xavi says, ‘When you train at La Masia there are phrases drummed into you which still flit through my head during matches years later’. And there you have the reinforcement of the key principle that every highly successful current or former recruitment company owner knows – long term success comes through developing both the skills and the culture of committed team players.
It’s a rocky road of high expectations, deep pockets and frequent disappointment when you rely too much on buying in ‘big billers’ (or even average billers) to meet the ‘I need more consultants’ pressure that most organisations experience. These recruits might put some decent numbers on the board but, more importantly, are they having the right impact on your team culture?
On that Saturday night, a few weeks ago, Barcelona’s commitment to growing its own skills and culture paid massive dividends. FC Barcelona not just won the match but in doing so set a new standard of play that must have daunted their Spanish and European opposition watching on and contemplating the 2011/12 season ahead.
Build or buy? What’s your long term plan for sustained success?