Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy has produced countless world-class talents over the last decade but the line of succession to the first team from the facility has dried up in recent years.
Indeed, the situation has regressed ever since the peak of 2012 when in a 4-0 win over Levante the Blaugrana fielded an entire XI of academy players for an hour.
With Sergio Busquets turning 30 this year, Sergi Roberto will remain as the only La Masia product in the first-team fold in their 20s.
However, Pique rejects the opinion a golden era for the academy is over.
“It’s not correct, it’s not correct at all. You cannot control talent,” he told Fortune in an exclusive interview.
“You never know. Maybe in one year there appears three new Messis or three new Xavis or three new Piques. And then you have five or six years that you don’t have the luck to bring any new guys from La Masia.
“La Masia is one of the main pillars of the club. And we have to invest very highly in that. There is a lot of money around football and there are more people investing millions and millions.
“And if we want to compete the best way is to try invest in our home, in La Masia where we know we have results in the last 10 years.
“It is a big resource for the club. Me as a representative of La Masia I can say that it was a great experience for me as a young guy.”
Barcelona could become the first club in history to break through the $1 billion mark in yearly revenue, according to defender Gerard Pique.
The Blaugrana generated a record $688 million in revenue last year, overtaking bitter Spanish rivals Real Madrid to emerge as the second most valuable football team behind Manchester United.
Barca have flexed their financial muscles over the last two transfer windows to bring in both Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, although those deals were largely offset by the world-record exit of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
But Pique, who has previously declared his desire to one day become the club’s president, believes the Catalan giants will continue to swell their vast sources of revenue, which in the face of rising wage costs will take on even greater significance.
“It’s true that it has been a big (wages) inflation in the last few years,” he told Fortune in an exclusive interview.
“Football is growing and every time there are more people following this sport. TV rights are very important and right now because of the internet, because of streaming, because of companies like Amazon, Facebook, etc., they want to buy the TV rights of La Liga, of the Champions League.
“They are bidding to get these rights. This means more money for leagues. And more money for clubs.
“Barcelona is increasing their budget every year. Right now we are at €700m (about $866 million a year). When I arrived here 10 years ago maybe it was half of this. They are expected we will be at $1 billion, in 2020, 2021.”
According to the latest figures, PSG are the only club in the world with a bigger wage bill than Barca with the Spanish side shelling out £264m per year.
However, Pique is adamant the exponential expenditure is a necessity if the club are to compete for top honours.
“There will be a point I think where this increase will be lower, and we will keep growing, but not as quick as we are doing right now,” the 31-year-old added.
“And then I think is when clubs will realise that maybe it is enough to pay as much as we are doing now in salaries.
“But if you want to keep talent, and you want to keep the best players in the world in your club, we have to compete with all the other clubs that they are investing. They are offering much more money. And we have to be with the same numbers as them.”
Gerard Pique insists Barcelona will be the only priority for the rest of his career after doubling down on his decision to retire from Spain duty after this summer’s World Cup.
The 31-year-old had hinted as far back as 2016 that Russia would be his last dance with a Spain side with which he has already won both the European Championship and the World Cup.
He also offered to quit with immediate effect after coming under-fire for his role in the debate over Catalonia’s independence last year – a political issue that still divides the Spanish nation.
However, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and other key Barcelona pieces heading into the latter part of their careers, Pique says the global showpiece marks the perfect time to withdraw from the international stage.
“It is not because of (the independence) issue, for sure,” Pique told business magazine Fortune. “I’m 31. We are playing the World Cup in June. And after this I think it is enough.
“My career for the national team has been more than 10 years. It’s been very successful. We’ve won the World Cup (in 2010), the European cup, we have won everything. And I hope we can win another World Cup.
“I’m very proud of all the career I’ve had with the national team. But now I want to focus on my career in the club.”