Last night, for the first time in the club’s history, an FC Barcelona first team side consisted entirely of players who have come through the club’s youth system - the famed academy known as 'La Masia'. Of those eleven, eight were born in Catalonia with the other three having moved to Barcelona at a young age to play for the club.
Barcelona began the league game, away to Levante, with ten La Masia players, plus Brazilian right back Dani Alves. Alves was injured, however, after just fifteen minutes of the first half. Martin Montoya replaced Dani Alves and with his introduction he completed the full eleven of La Masia graduates.
The XI was- Victor Valdes, Martin Montoya, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi.
Providing an entire side for the Barcelona first team, eight of which were Catalan, will be a powerful symbol to the Catalan people, coming as it did on the day they voted in large numbers for pro-independence parties in the region’s elections.
The three non-Catalan players, Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi and Pedro Rodriguez, had a significant impact on the game, with Messi scoring twice and Iniesta enjoying a stunning performance which included a goal and three assists.
Messi’s two goals put him on 82 goals for 2012 and within touching distance of Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year. The Argentine has a maximum of seven games to play in before the end of the year and looks set to break the record.
In 2010 La Masia became the first academy in history to have produced the top three players in the FIFA Ballon D’Or award, when Messi, Xavi and Iniesta were judged to be the top 3 players in the world for the year. The academy, which has recently relocated from its old farmhouse building location to a state of the art facility, also holds the distinction of providing each of Barcelona’s 6 representatives in the 2010 World Cup final, the most any one club has provided in a single World Cup final.
La Masia was the brainchild of Dutch star Johan Cruyff who, while a Barcelona player in 1979, had insisted to Barcelona that they needed a youth academy similar to that at Ajax, where he had undergone his own football education. Cruyff returned to the club in 1988 as manager and it was during this time that he had his most significant influence on the club's youth system, laying the foundations for what has now become world football's most prolific player production line.
The academy was envisaged as a strategy for competing with the superior financial might of Real Madrid and through a strict adherence toCruyff’s football ideals has gradually produced an increasing number of first team players for the club, many of whom are the best in the world in their position.
The Barcelona side that made history