La Masia academy continues to churn out exciting talent
With Barcelona already through to the Champions League last 16 as Group D winners, Pep Guardiola gave several young players from the club's academy a chance against Rubin Kazan on Tuesday and they did not disappoint.
Andreu Fontas (21) and Victor Vazquez (23) scored in a 2-0 success at the Nou Camp, and fine performances from fellow B team players Thiago Alcantara (19), Marc Bartra (19) and Jonathan dos Santos (20) also caught the eye.
Barca's Ballon d'Or nominees Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi honed their skills at the club's "La Masia" academy, known in Spanish as the "cantera", or "quarry", and Tuesday was further proof that it continues to churn out exciting talent.
Image: Barcelona's players celebrate Andreu Fontas' goal against Rubin Kazan
'Barca's cantera is historic'
"As an outsider I see things differently but Barca's cantera is historic," Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano, who joined from Liverpool in the close season, said.
Defender Fontas struck in the 51st minute when his left-foot shot was deflected into the net and forward Vazquez, who had replaced the injured Jeffren, added a second with a fine curled effort in the 83rd.
Vazquez came through the academy at the same time as Messi, Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, who captained the side for the first time on Tuesday, but has been held back by a number of injuries.
"I played with Pique and Messi a while ago and I was very excited to be with them tonight," Vazquez said.
"I was only thinking about playing well during the match and above all I am pleased with the goal.
"Guardiola said he was very happy for me and that I was very good on the pitch."
Image: Victor Vazquez celebrates after scoring against Rubin Kazan during their Champions League match
'We have to work harder to improve the Masia'
Pique added: "It's a pleasure to see Victor in the first team as we have been playing in the same side since we were very little and he deserves this chance."
Ten players from the youth academy featured against Rubin and the success of the club's policy contrasts that of their great rivals Real Madrid.
Goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas is the only representative of their youth school in Jose Mourinho's first-choice starting 11, the club opting instead to buy in most of its talent at massive cost.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, a Barca vice president, said the fact that all three players on the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or were products of "La Masia" was recognition of the work that had been done there over the years.
"We have a new responsibility," he said. "We have to work harder to improve the Masia."
Image: Real Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho (right) with Iker Casillas