The La Masia Dream Team: Barcelona field a homegrown side for the first time… but how do the English leagues compare
Adam Shergold and Liv Lee
12:50 GMT, 26 November 2012
13:48 GMT, 26 November 2012
Any 4-0 victory away from home is satisfying, but the Barcelona coaching staff would have been more glowing than usual last night.
For the first time, Barca fielded an entirely homegrown eleven for much of the match at Levante, so this was as much a triumph for the club’s fabled La Masia academy as anything else.
The historic moment came in the 14th minute when the only outsider, Dani Alves, went off injured and was replaced by Martin Montoya.
Production line: For the first time, Barcelona fielded a side entirely made up of players from their famous La Masia academy (pictured), which produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta
And so 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 too bad, is it
Of course, not every one of those players was born in the shadow of Camp Nou – Messi was born 6,500 miles away in Rosario, Argentina and Iniesta’s home village is geographically closer to Madrid.
Prodigy: Cesc Fabregas in action for Barcelona's youth team against Athletic Bilbao in 2003. The La Masia product was sold to Arsenal in 2003 before returning to Barcelona eight years later
And, as we know, many of them flew the nest after their football education – Gerard Pique to Manchester United, Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal and Jordi Alba to Valencia – only to return to familiar and friendly surroundings.
But the common thread is that their football skills were honed and their talent nurtured at La Masia.
For over 30 years, La Masia, which was an 18th-century country farmhouse, has been the heart of Barcelona’s legendary academy production line.
Aside from the current generation, previous graduates include Jordi Cruyff, Pepe Reina, Mikel Arteta and Thiago Motta.
Top class: former Manchester United defender Pique (back row, left), Arsenal's Fabregas (back right) and Messi (front right) during their time at La Masia
Sing song: Bobby Robson, then Barcelona manager, next to young goalkeeper Pepe Reina and (second left) Andres Iniesta
While the operation has long since outgrown the dormitories of the farmhouse – there are 15 different squads beneath the B team and more than 300 talented hopefuls from all around the world – La Masia remains the spiritual home.
As Pep Guardiola, the manager who reaped the benefits most from 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.’
THE PREMIER LEAGUE HOMEGROWN SHORTAGE
Sportsmail took at look at the homegrown talent on display in last weekend's Premier League clashes. Most teams had only one or two on the pitch.
Manchester United and Newcastle led the charge with four each, while six teams, including Chelsea and Manchester City, failed to turn out a single academy player.
None came close to rivalling the full house that Barca bred from its own esteemed training facility.
Still running: Paul Scholes was perhaps the most famous graduate of Manchester United's academy in the team that beat QPR on Saturday
The full list:
Manchester United (4)
Jonny Evans, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck
Newcastle United (4)
Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Shane Ferguson, Sammy Ameobi
Aston Villa (3)
Ciaran Clark, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton
Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling*
Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana
Tottenham Hotspur (2)
Steven Caulker, Jake Livermore
West Ham United (2)
James Tomkins, Mark Noble
Stoke City (1)
Swansea City (1)
Chelsea, Fulham, Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic (0)
Flying start: Liverpool have bright hopes for Raheem Sterling, one of two homegrown talents in the side that drew at Swansea
*Sterling was on the books of Queens Park Rangers between 2003 and 2010, when he was signed by then Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for 600,000. Sterling spent two years in Liverpool's youth teams.
Factory of football: The Nou Camp complex in Barcelona, comprising the main and B team stadiums and a number of training buildings and pitches
Dwarfed: Despite being the oldest part of the Nou Camp site, La Masia is tiny compared to the high stands of the main stadium
THE CHAMPIONSHIP HOMEGROWN PLAYERS
In the Championship match-ups there was an even poorer show of youth academy players. Six teams fielded three, but not a single club managed any more than that.
Like the Premier League there were six teams without a single homegrown player on show.
Hot shot! Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha is being courted by a number of top flight sides after a blistering start to the season
The full list:
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3)
Carl Ikeme, Anthony Forde, David Davis
Blackburn Rovers (3)
Martin Olsson, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley
Bristol City (3)
Louis Carey, Joe Bryan, James Wilson
Derby County (3)
Mark O’Brien, Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick
Leeds United (3)
Tom Lees, Dominic Poleon, San Byram
Jason Steele, Seb Hines, Stuart Parnaby
Huddersfield Town (2)
Alex Smithies, Jack Hunt
Charlton Athletic (2)
Chris Solly, Danny Green
Tommie Hoban, Sean Murray
Lewis Dunk, Dean Hammond
Birmingham City (1)
Crystal Palace (1)
Ipswich Town (1)
Leicester City (1)
Cardiff City (1)
Peterborough United (1)
Millwall, Blackpool, Bolton, Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday (0)