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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

La Masia: The famous well is running dry

Sergi Roberto is still the most recent La Masia graduate.
Sergi Roberto is still the most recent La Masia graduate. / EFE
  • opinion

  • Tito Vilanova could field an all-Catalan XI in 2012; this Tuesday there wasn't a single local player in Barcelona's line-up

Think of the iconic player of your favourite club, and the chances are it will be a local lad made good who speaks about the glory years in a distinct local accent.

The Class of '92 are making a killing on the back of their togetherness at Old Trafford (are they the biggest thing to come out of Manchester since Oasis?)

Jamie Carragher and 'The Spice Boys' have been making a grand living out of their era at Liverpool. Think of Newcastle and it is Alan Shearer, at Chelsea the dominant voices were those of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Dennis Wise.

In Spain no club reflected the local area with greater pride and basked in their famous youth system more than FC Barcelona.

When you go on the Camp Nou stadium tour they boast of the famous La Masia - the academy that has produced crop after crop of first teamers for the club. Ideally, the first team is shaped by graduates who have all learned 'the Barcelona way' with a few superstars signed to plug the gaps.

At the absolute height in November 2012, Barça were able to name a team of eleven players who had all studied their football at La Masia.

Contrast that to last Tuesday when Ernesto Valverde chose to rest many of the big hitters for the Copa del Rey final and selected the fringe players. In the past this would have allowed even more of the 'next generation' to pull on famous shirt.

The sign of the times is the fact that every single player had been transferred in, and for a club that prides itself on representing Catalonia, not one local started. The two Spanish players, Denis Suárez and Paco Alcácer, are from Galicia and Valencia, respectively.

In the good old days the changing room lingo was Catalan; it was in the contract that a player must have lessons in the language. This week even Spanish wasn't the first language!

The coach shouldered the blame for the Champions League exit, the director of football is getting criticised for the recruitment. The problem goes way back, though. Way back... (Bear in mind that players are recruited as young as seven in this modern era.)

The last time that Barça failed to select a homegrown player was 2002. The situation was rectified so that by 2012 Tito Vilanova could select a team made up solely of players who had been mentored by the club.

Now the pendulum swings and Sergi Roberto is the most recent alumni. He came through in 2010! So it is something that has to be addressed.

Maybe the 'non-Catalan' selection was a political statement from the coach. After all, at his previous club Valverde was restricted to choosing from ONLY Basque players.

So it could be the fault of the scouting department or even the parents of the Catalan youth players. Remember when Gordon Strachan jokingly blamed genetics for Scotland's failure and suggested the country should get “big men and women together” to improve the football gene pool?

Maybe that's it? Instead of boasting about La Masia football finishing school as the tour bus passes, they could reveal that it is a breeding ground. After all it is next door to the maternity hospital...