Barcelona played seven La Masia players on Sunday in their win over Betis. Six in the starting line up (Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Carles Pérez and Rafinha) plus young gem Ansu Fati, as the happy ending to a great game. They come from various crops: Piqué's generation, Rafinha's, and the latest. It could be said that La Masia is producing again, having overcome the FIFA punishment that dispersed a generation of talent from abroad, among them Kubo, nabbed by Real Madrid, and the Korean prodigy, Lee Seung-woo, who now, at 21, is with Hellas Verona. A lot more was expected of him.
Ansu Fati: a revelation
Ansu Fati has appeared, from one day to the next, as the face of the latest crop of talent from La Masia, thanks to his performance against Betis. Just yesterday (Tuesday) a video was doing the rounds of a Barça training session in which he leaves Rakitic on his backside with a neat bit of skill before hitting the post with keeper coming out. A prodigy who Barcelona nicked off Monchi with their chequebook, in a battle with Real Madrid, who were also keen to land him. Ansu's father explains that he chose Barcelona because he believed his boy would be better looked after there. In this important strategic area Barça have won the battle of prestige with Real Madrid.
Seven Barcelona academy players against Betis, then. Real Madrid don't even have theirs in the squad. Carvajal, Nacho, Lucas Vázquez, plus the third keeper, Altube, are all on the exit ramp. The academy issue is a failure of the Florentino approach, which loves what can be bought rather than what's homegrown. When Florentino arrived in 2000, the club had Casillas, Railman and Guti, three pillars, plus various other. Now the only starter is Carvajal, and the latest move from the coach Zidane has been to move on Llorente and Reguilón. Given all that, it's not surprising that the families of promising youngsters fancy their chances with La Masia over and above Real Madrid's Fábrica.