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Photos: How FC Barcelona uses football player data to win games

FC Barcelona is focusing on data analysis to give it an edge on the soccer field and at the bank.
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By Anna Solana, Contributor on
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Five key areas

Soccer clubs are using more and more data, and those in the Spanish professional league are no exception. Most teams have realized the importance of performance analysis and learned how to utilize data to win games and make more money.

With that goal in mind, FC Barcelona has created its Barça Innovation Hub, a project aimed at "contributing to transform the world through sports excellence", according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his team say the key pillars of the project are developing five essential areas, consisting of medical services and nutrition, sports performance, technology, team sports, and social sciences, which include social networks, a significant revenue opportunity. The Catalan team has 167.3 million followers on social media across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Video analysis

Applying science to a football club's playing style is not an easy task. Marc Subirà, seen here, from FC Barcelona's IT department, explains that in the past 20 years the club has collected more than four million minutes of video analysis. App FCBMe, which has been especially created for the players, is designed to help them achieve major changes in their sporting performance.

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Structured training

The way FC Barcelona plays determines the way it trains. The club calls its training model Structured Training and it takes a holistic approach to the performance of players such as Denis Suárez and Sergi Busquets, seen here during a training session.

Francesc Cos from FC Barcelona's Sports Performance area says GPS trackers have helped a lot in understanding how to adjust training sessions. The club introduced the technology in 2011 and today has 215 devices recording data, such as acceleration, deceleration, and total distance, during training sessions and matches. Combined, the devices produce over 72, 000 hours annually for analysis.

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Sensor vest

Data helps determine which training tasks are set before a match, and also answer questions such as how to build more balanced athletes or what technologies are going to make players recover faster, according to Francesc Cos.

That is why the club is working hard on knowing more about the metabolic and kinetic demands of each training task. The vest with sensors worn by club captain Andrés Iniest provides up to 120 different variables.

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Hydration programs

FC Barcelona is working with US sports drinks firm Gatorade to develop personalized hydration programs based on the metabolic profile, heart rate and preferences of each player. The bottle includes a smart cap to monitor the fluid intake of a player, such as midfielder Sergi Roberto, seen here, and record the rate of hydration in real time. The ultimate aim is to create a marketable product for athletes.

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Rehabilitation research

Here, central midfielder Sergi Roberto undergoes a medical examination.

Gil Rodas, manager of the Medical Services and Nutrition Area of FC Barcelona, says that muscle and soft tissue damage represent more than 50 percent of all injuries. So, the club is conducting research into regenerative medicine and virtual-reality rehabilitation programs, among other areas, to help players recover faster.

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The Barça style

The development of performance analysis is about how to use and act on the available data. This knowledge helps trainers and players develop new tactics and also helps to foster the Barça style, embodied in superstar striker Lionel Messi.

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Data-rich environment

As outgoing manager Luis Enrique, seen here, prepares to sever his ties with the club on June 30, FC Barcelona believes that the knowledge gleaned from such a data-rich environment can be shared and monetized. As part of that strategy, the club will be running its Football Master Course in September 2017 and a Performance Congress in October.

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