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Any player in the youth categories of Barça's La Masia academy dreams of getting to play at the Camp Nou. It's a dream that is within the reach of only a select few, but it can be achieved, as the statistics show. Having a first team with a presence of players that have been trained at La Masia has been an almost constant occurrence since the 1949/50 season.
After a hiatus of only three matches since then, a second period of games began with La Masia players included in the Barça match day squads, and today marks the 30th anniversary from that moment. The match counter has only been stopped momentarily due to the coronavirus, but it will continue.
Periodically, Barça has had many players from the lower categories of the club that have come to fulfill the dream of playing in the first team. From Calvet and Seguer, to Biosca, Aloy, Manchón, Bosch, Gracia, Tejada, Brugué, Vergés, Estrems, Olivella, Rodri, Sadurní, Silvestre, Fusté, Rexach, Martí Filosia, Mora, Olmo, Tente Sánchez, Lobo Carrasco and Estella, among others. From 1949, when Espanya Industrial became organically linked to the club and became a Barça youth outfit, this presence can be continuously quantified in each match.
Two big streaks
There are two great streaks in which we find the presence of at least one player from the youth teams in a first-team match. This includes as starters or substitutes. The first of these, we have established, came in the 1949/50 season and lasted for 41 years and 1,786 games. This streak ended in the 1989/90 season for three games, but then a second 30-year streak began, and which has lasted until today. Until the suspension of competitions by the coronavirus crisis, 146 La Masia players have participated across 1,714 matches.
The club's second team came into existence in the summer of 1949 once FC Barcelona linked up with Espanya Industrial, a Barcelona-based textile company that already had a team founded by the workers themselves. They played in white shirts with vertical blue stripes and white shorts. The team included some legendary names such as Biosca, Manchón, Bosch, Gracia, Tejada, Vergés, Olivella and Rodri.
A Barça XI from 1950.
In the 1956/57 season, Espanya Industrial changed its name to Condal, a team that from 1961 adopted the Barça colours. The Condal youth team, a fond memory for many veteran supporters, saw players such as Eladio, Rifé, Pujol, Rexach, Torres, Martí Filosia and Mora make it into the first-team.
In 1965, the team from a textile factory in the Sant Andreu neighbourhood called CD Fabra i Coats also became an FC Barcelona youth side and changed its name to Atlètic Catalunya. Five years later, in June 1970, the two Barcelona affiliates - who both played in the Third Division - merged into one and became Barcelona Atlètic, currently Barça B. Fortes, Sánchez, Olmo, Martínez, Carrasco, Manolo and Estella emerged from the ranks of Barça Atlètic.
The establishment of a few well-organised second teams has clearly paid off. Since the beginning of the 1949/50 season until October 1, 1989, a La Masia player was present in the first team. Barça coached by Johan Cruyff and Carles Rexach played in Mallorca on that October day in 1989, with Zubizarreta, López Rekarte, Alexanco, Koeman, Serna, Soler, Salinas (Aloisio, minute 65), Eusebio, Robert, Laudrup and Begiristain (Onesimus, minute 72), and lost that game 1-0.
There were two further games without the presence of a youth team player: a week after the Mallorca game came a Clásico against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou that Barça won 3-1, and on March 18, 1990 in Las Gaunas, when Barça beat Logroñés 1-2.
From the Dream Team until today
Since March 24, 1990, this second streak is yet to be broken. Guillermo Amor replaced Julio Salinas on that day, and three decades, 31 seasons and 15 coaches later, the chapters of this romantic story have no final page. From Amor to Ansu Fati. From the stone building of Can Planes to the modern facilities of the Ciutat Esportiva. A legendary goalkeeper; a central defender with a culé heart; a strong left back; a tireless machine for the Dream Team; an interior with perfect Barcelona values; or a striker with six Ballon's d'Or.
Cruyff's fantasy, crucial in the Dream Team, has become a consistent reality. They were not testimonial presences. They were players that knew how to help to build a team that won titles, but also played wonderful football.
The FC Barcelona XI for the Wembley final, played in 1992.
Guardiola was the master at ensuring possession, Ferrer and Sergi, from 1993/94 to 1995/96, were extraordinary wide players, and all three played a part in Cruyff's 3-4-3. An incredible time which saw four leagues in a row, a European Cup, a Copa del Rey, three Spanish Super Cups and a European Super Cup.
After Rexach - who coached for two games - and Bobby Robson, Louis Van Gaal would give even more prominence to Barcelona's youth players.
With Rijkaard the count rises
Víctor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta. Young players that became fixtures in Frank Rijkaard's line-ups. And Lionel Messi. A player who would go on to define the Guardiola era.
Pep increased the number of games in which he would play a La Masia graduate too. New names such as Sergio Busquets, Piqué and Pedro. Heroes who would end up making their names in the 2009 Champions League final in Rome at Wembley in 2011.
A full 11 with Tito Vilanova
Valdés, Montoya, Piqué, Puyol, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro and Cesc. At the Ciutat de València, on matchday 13 of the 2012/13 league season, Tito Vilanova played an entire XI of La Masia youngsters. It exemplified the importance that the club gives to its youth players.
FC Barcelona's XI that played at Levante in the 2012/13 season were all from La Masia
Tata Martino, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde extended this list. Aleñá, Ansu Fati, Carles Pérez and Riqui Puig have been the latest names, along with Sergi Roberto. It's now up to the new coach, Quique Setién, to continue the trend.
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