During an intense morning talking with SPORT, Patrick Kluivert never lost the smile which always accompanies him.
The Dutchman spoke in the gardens of Oriol Tort outside La Masia about his first few months at Barcelona’s director of youth football.
How do you feel in the new role?
It’s been four months now. I feel really good working alongside the coaches and Jordi Roura. Communication has been good and that’s the most important thing.
Have you been able to impose the Kluivert brand?
It’s difficult to make drastic changes in four months but we’re working on important things. I can’t say what but you’re going to like them.
Signing more talent from abroad?
We will see. The most important thing is when we sign players it’s because they’re better than what there is in Catalonia. There’s no need to sign for the sake of it. I can guarantee that there’s a lot of quality here.
You must be keeping an eye on the Dutch?
Of course. The development at Ajax and Barcelona is very similar. I know the Ajax academy well. There are some different things but the main things are very similar.
Ajax would be a good team to loan players like Riqui Puig and Aleña to?
They would be the perfect team. I’m keen to loan players to Ajax. We also have an agreement with Utrecht. For the players that don’t progress directly to the first team, it would be perfect for them to continue their development as players.
Do you think Riqui should be in the first team already?
If you see the midfielders in the first team already — Frenkie, Arturo, etc etc — where are you going to put Riqui? With all respect. It is difficult. It’s better for Riqui to go out on loan to play at a different level and then he can return.
What happened with Victor Valdes? Why did he leave after just two months’
Everyone asks me that question. I get it. I don’t want to go down a negative path. I don’t want to harm anyone. It’s not good for me, for Victor or for the club. There are four people that know what happened and I want to leave it like that, it’s better for everyone that way. Sometimes you have to make decisions at football clubs, which is what we did, and I don’t want to start a debate.
The club made a big financial effort to keep Ilaix Moriba away from teams like Man City and Chelsea. Will the club follow that path with other players?
I wasn’t at the club when that deal was done. The most important thing is the potential of the player. We know the quality we have here. You can’t give (players) everything when they sign their first pro deal. [The salary] has to be ascendant. You sign for three years and then, in the second year, if it’s going well, we sit down to talk about a new deal when you finish in the youth categories. The players need to feel they are at home, that there’s no better place to be. La Masia, the development at Barça, no one else has that. Money is important but development is key. The money will come.
The departure of Xavi Simons made a lot of headlines…
I think he was fine here. He was at the best school there is in football. But he’s gone to Paris. We have to respect his decision. There’s no need to look at the past, we have to look at what will happen in the future. The important thing is that it doesn’t happen again (with other players).
Do you agree that players like Simons, Eric García and Robert Navarro should not return in the future?
You always have to leave the door a little open. It is difficult. When a kid chooses to leave La Masia, it’s a bitter pill for the people working here to take. Normally the door is closed, but I’m someone who always leaves it a little open, just a little bit, eh!