No home-grown talent: Is there an identity crisis at FC Barcelona?

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Madrid, April 18 (IANS) FC Barcelona may have moved a step closer to the title with a 2-2 draw away to Celta Vigo on Tuesday night, but the starting XI fielded by coach Ernesto Valverde raised more than a few eyebrows and perhaps highlights a problem at the club.

With the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla on Saturday night, Valverde was always going to rest key players like Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, reports Xinhua news agency.

Of his starting XI in the Balaidos Stadium, only goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen and recent signing Philippe Coutinho could be said to be regular starters.

The starting XI fielded by Valverde wasn’t cheap either, costing somewhere in the region of 450 million euros. But what was surprising is that it failed to contain one single player who progressed out of the Barcelona youth system and not one from the Catalan region Barcelona identifies so closely with.

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Every player in the Barcelona side which started Tuesday night’s game had been bought by the club from elsewhere and while it’s true Denis Suarez did have a short spell in the famous ‘la Masia’ but he is not ultimately a product of that famous system.

Barcelona fans don’t have to go back that far in time (November 2012 to be precise) to remember when Tito Vilanova fielded a side consisting entirely of players who came from the Barcelona youth system. Victor Valdes, Martin Montoya, Pique, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Busquets, Cesc Fabrigas, Perdo Rodriguez, Messi and Andres Iniesta made up that title winning side, but they have to go much further back in time to find the last Barcelona XI with no former youth team players.

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Barcelona will go on to win the league this season and they are favourites to win the Cup on Saturday with a side which will represent the youth system, but Iniesta is likely to leave at the end of the campaign, Messi is over 30 and Busquets will be 30 in the summer and where are the replacements?

Barcelona’s B-team is currently struggling in the Spanish second division and at the moment there don’t appear to be any firm candidates to step into the first team squad.

–IANS

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