The pressures of being part of FC Barcelona’s youth academy are massive enough. Over the past 40 years, La Masia has produced some of the club’s and sport’s greatest players including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and Pep Guardiola.
Being an American at La Masia not only is seemingly uncharted territory, but comes with the added weight of a proud nation in the process of growing the world’s most popular game domestically as it looks toward rebuilding its men’s national team following the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
That is, unless you’re Konrad de la Fuente.
“I don’t really feel any pressure,” said the United States U-20 and FC Barcelona Juvenil A winger. “It motivates me to work hard to reach their level.”
Born in Miami, de la Fuente and his family moved to Spain in 2011 after Konrad’s father accepted a job at the Haitian embassy in Madrid. Shortly after arriving, Konrad joined Barcelona-based youth club CF Damm before being scouted by Barça at 12 years old.
De la Fuente became just the second American in 40 years at La Masia, following in Ben Lederman’s footsteps, who was there from 2011-14.
“It’s a motivation for me to be the first American to make it at FC Barcelona,” de la Fuente said. “I work hard every day to make it come true.”
De la Fuente, 18, trains each morning before focusing on his schoolwork in the afternoon; he is currently taking business classes. Knowing not every youth athlete will turn professional, Barça introduced Masia 360 to guide its more than 600 athletes across five sports toward a brighter future whether it’s on the field or off it.
“You never know what can happen—an injury or anything in the game or training—and your career is over so you have to be prepared for anything, and Masia 360 really helps with that,” de la Fuente said.
While he is obviously investing his time and energy into being well-rounded on and off the field, de la Fuente remains focused on his future at both FC Barcelona and the United States men’s national team.
Currently playing for the club’s Juvenil A side, de la Fuente made one appearance with the reserve side, Barcelona B, in December 2018. He also helped guide the United States to the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“Konrad is a very good winger who loves to play from the left side though he can also play on the right side,” said FC Barcelona director of youth football Patrick Kluivert. “I speak to him a lot. Lately he’s doing very well, scoring a lot of goals, performing very well.
“His individual skills are very good. He’s got a great future in front of him.”