I am sure it has been done since Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 with 11 players born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow, but I cannot remember the last time a major club like Barcelona fielded a completely home-grown side.
When Dani Alves was replaced in the 14th minute on Sunday against Levante by Martin Montoya, the 11 Barcelona players on the pitch were all graduates of the club’s famed La Masia academy.
The La Masia XI read: Victor Valdes, Martin Montoya, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas. Not a bad team.
As Pep Guardiola, the manager who won title after title due to La Masia’s magical conveyor belt of prodigies, said:
‘The player who has passed through La Masia has something different to the rest – it’s a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child.’
While Barcelona have had to buy back some players who left in their teens, like Pique, Fabregas and Alba, some of the others have been their since they were little kids. Victor Valdes for example was 10 when he arrived at La Masia while Xavi and Messi were 11 and Iniesta 12
In today’s financial climate, clubs that can develop their own players, without having to pay huge transfer fees have a tremendous financial advantage over their rivals.
Manchester United get a lot of credit for the group of Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and the two Neville’s that came through their academy in the 90’s. Over the weekend, Man United and Newcastle United played four home-grown players, while seven teams, including Chelsea and Manchester City, did not have a single academy player.