3 La Masia players who could have their breakthrough at Barcelona this season
If you were to ask most football fans around the world for their opinion on the best football academy on the planet, chances are that an overwhelmingly high proportion of them would give you La Masia as their answer.
Even among those that don't choose Barcelona's famed academy are likely to name the Ajax youth team as their choice and the reason is not far-fetched, as both sides are distant cousins founded on an underlying principle with one name in common - Johan Cruyff.
While Ajax might have given us some of the most legendary players in history, they are still some way off matching the alumni of La Masia, as a roll call of La Masia products reads like a who's who of footballing royalty.
Till date, the academy is the only one to have produced all podium finishers in the Ballon d'Or award, doing so in 2010 when Messi, Iniesta and Xavi all staked a claim to the prize, while the Argentine is largely considered by many to be the greatest player in history.
Indeed, the performance levels at the academy are so high that numerous players of considerable ability had to leave the club to find success elsewhere, and it is telling of the abundance of quality at the club that world beaters like Cesc Fabregas, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique had to leave before returning.
Barcelona's success over the last 15 years has been founded on a integrating a core of youth graduates embedded with the Blaugrana DNA and most of the key components of the club's most successful era have been La Masia products, including Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andre Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, and Victor Valdez to name a few.
However, in recent times, the club seems to have deviated from this noble path, bowing to the pressures of the modern game by splashing obscene amounts on purchasing marquee players at the expense of home grown players.
Indeed, in the last five years, only Sergi Roberto can genuinely lay claim to have made a stake in the first team from the youth side (although Carles Alena seems primed to follow in his footsteps) and this is a far cry from the middle to end of the last decade when every season had at least two or three La Masia products who became regular first-teamers.
The current La Masia side is blessed with an abundance of talent, with many of them looking up to their idols in the first team and hoping to follow in their footsteps. In this piece, we take a look at three La Masia players who could have their first team breakthrough this season.
#3 Oriol Busquets
No, he is not even distantly related to his more illustrious namesake, but anybody would be forgiven for thinking this 20-year-old is connected to the World Cup winner and Spanish international.
Beyond sharing the same last name, Oriol and Sergio are largely similar in many other regards, chief of which is that they occupy the same position on the field as the shield of the backline - protecting the defense from opposition forays forward, and being the initiators of attacking play most times.
They also have a similar stature, as at 6 ft 1 in, Oriol is just one inch shorter than Sergio Busquets, while his playing style, composure on the ball and pristine distribution has also earned further comparisons to the 30-year-old.
He has so far made 54 appearances for the Barcelona B team, while also representing the Spanish youth sides across all levels from U16 to U19, and made his senior team bow for Barcelona in November 2017 in a Copa del Rey clash with Real Murcia, before a serious meniscus injury three months later hampered his progress.
Beyond the obvious choice of Lionel Messi, a very serious but understated predicament for Barcelona in the coming years would be the replacement of Sergio Busquets, who is arguably the second most important player in Barcelona's setup, but the Catalans might not need to look far for the solution and it is fitting that the surname is exactly the same.