FC Barcelona, third in Europe in using U21 players
Barça has used the third highest number of U21 players in Europe's big five leagues
FC Barcelona has fielded the third highest number of players aged under 21 in Europe’s top five leagues this season, only surpassed by Rennes and Saint-Étienne. Now, more than ever, the club’s famous tradition of relying on young talent is patently clear.
Eric Garcia, Sergiño Dest, Nico, Ez Abde, Pedri, Ansu Fato, Ajejandro Balde, Tusuf Demir, Gavi and Ilias have all featured in La Liga 2021/22 under Ronald Koeman first, then Sergi Barjuan and now Xavi.
Building for the future
Players that graduated from La Masia, together with imported talent like Dest, Abde, Demir and Pedri have been the tonic this season. With Ilias starting against Espanyol, that’s now ten under 21s who have appeared for Barça. In La Liga, Real Sociedad are second with eight youngsters, while Real Madrid and Valencia have had six.
It’s one of the youngest Barça squads ever, although in the year of the first treble, 2008/09, no fewer than 12 players under 21 featured at some stage, one of whom was Gerard Piqué. There were ten in 2011/12, but it should also be noted that we are still only in November, and there are plenty of other young players waiting in the wings with Barça B and the U19 squads.
Xavi, who came out of La Masia himself, knows all about the importance of using homegrown talent. Fielding Ilias in his first game as Barça coach was a clear statement of intent. His side against Espanyol also featured the likes of Gavi, Nico, Eric and the promising 19-year-old Ez Abde, who came on as a substitute. If the first game is anything to go by, we are going to see plenty of involvement by young players in the campaign ahead.