For the first time in 16 years, Barcelona began a match without a single academy graduate or Catalan player in their starting line-up when they took on Celta Vigo on Tuesday evening.
In fact, only two of the eleven players to start the game – Denis Suárez and Paco Alcácer – were Spanish with the other nine – which included the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé – all being foreign imports.
💪 Força Barça!🔵🔴 #CeltaBarça pic.twitter.com/pxGnhjdLpR
@FC Barcelona –
Admittedly, Ernesto Valverde appeared to have one eye on Saturday’s Copa del Rey final clash with Sevilla when naming his team for the trip to Balaídos, but it seems a long time has passed since, in 2004, Louis van Gaal said it was a dream to make Barça champions of Europe with a team of 11 academy graduates.
Even as recently as 2011, Tito Vilanova’s Blaugrana beat Levante 4-0 with 11 La Masia alumni on the pitch.
The last time Barça started a game without a single academy player on the team-sheet was on 6 April 2002 – a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés.
The team that day, managed by Carles Rexach, was: Bonano, Reiziger, Christanval, Abelardo, Coco; Cocu, Rochemback, Luis Enrique; Rivaldo, Overmars and Saviola