Back: Oriol Torres, Marc Bartra, Carles Planas, Marc Hernández, Gai Assulin, Álex Sánchez, Fran Sánchez. Front: Antonio Vela, Isaac Cuenca, Martin Montoya, Cristian Tello, Marti Riverola, Carlos Martínez.
La Masia, FC Barcelona’s own football academy, has become famous worldwide for its gift of producing football stars. In today’s first team 11 players have gotten their football education at Barça’s La Masia. One of them is the best in the world, Lionel Messi. His generation, the one of boys born in 1987, will forever be remembered as La Masia’s golden generation. We have all heard of this magic ’87 group in which Lionel Messi played together with his current fellow first team members Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué. A team that won everything. And was coached by Guardiola’s assistant coach Tito Vilanova among others. It was a special generation at Barça in which many of the team’s players went on to play elite football. But is it possible for us to see something like this happen again, a group coming up in the youth system of La Masia in which more than one player might succeed and become one of the best in the world?
Get ready because you are about to witness a generation at Barça that might will go on and be greater than the one of ’87. This is the generation of 1991. The current B team at FC Barcelona playing in Spain’s second division has 6 players from the ’91 generation. Another is already in the first team. The other day Marc Bartra posted the above picture on his twitter account. It feature the ’91 generation team at the age of 12. Of that squad of boys, nine years later 6 are still at Barça. Another player who remains in the club but is not in the picture is Thiago Alcantara, who joined the team of ’91 as a 14 year old.
So who are the players that make up the generation of 1991 and what has happened to those who are no longer at Barça?
The players still at FC Barcelona
A forward that started out in the youth system of Espanyol as a 10 year old but made the move over to La Masia in 2003 at the age of 12. In 2006 he moved again, this time to Reus, but he would come back to La Masia in 2008. Then he went on loan to FC Damm for a season and after that was on loan to Sabadell for another season. But he has since come back again and is now playing for Barça B. Cuenca made his first team debut on October 19, 2011 in the Champions League game against FC Viktoria Plzeň. On October 25 he had his first start in the League against Granada, and four days later, again as a starter, he scored his first goal for the first team in a 5-0 win over RCD Mallorca.
The official site about Cuenca:
After a successful time on loan at Sabadell (where he played an important role in their promotion winning campaign), Isaac Cuenca López returned to the Club in the summer of 2011. He is normally used as a winger and has a great ability to beat a man and put in a good cross, something he showed well when he joined the first team for their pre-season.
Pep says: “A kid who has left the club twice and returned is one who has something special. . . . He’s very brave and disciplined. I’m very happy with him, he has something really important and that’s his mental strength.”
“Isaac is a winger who knows when he has to take his man on.”
A right back that started his career in hometown club Gavá but moved to La Masia and Barça as an 8 year old and has been in the club ever since. He was promoted to the B team in 2009 and has been an important player for the squad since 2009, as his team went from being a newly promoted team in the 3th division to being a top side in the second division. He made his first team debut in a game against Mallorca on February 26, 2011. On August 25 Montoya was called up by Del Bosque to play for the Spanish national team in the Euro qualification games against Chile and Liechtenstein. The fact that Montoya, a Barça B player in the Spanish second division, had been called up to Spain, the world’s best national team at the moment, resonated around the world. Although in the end Montoya didn’t play any minutes on the pitch for the senior team, he has represented Spain at all the youth levels. Martín Montoya is often called the Catalan Dani Alvés.
The official site about Montoya:
His rise to the B side has been impressive and rapid as the right-sided full-back has shone year after year in order to move up the ranks. His physical attributes make him stand out but he is also known for his technical ability when defending and when pushing forward to help out down the wing. His dribbling, crossing and ability to beat a player are all characteristics of his game along with a strong shot from distance.
A forward that started out playing for Can Rull but moved to La Masia and Barça at the age of 11. In the 2007-08 season he went on loan to FC Damm and after that Tello moved to Espanyol. In 2010 he made his debut with Espanyol’s B team. But the coming season he returned to Barça, playing for Barça B. Tello has taken part in pre-season games for the first team but has still to make his official debut. Tello has played for Spain at U19 and U20 level.
The official site about Tello:
Tello is a quick and dynamic striker who can play up front and out on the flank. His ability also makes him very effective in one-on-one situations and opponents have great difficulty in stopping him when he is full flight. Can score goals and provide telling passes.
A central midfielder whose first club was FC Barcelona as he started at the club at the age of 6 in 1997. In 2009 he made his debut with the B team and played with them until 2011, at which point he went on loan to Dutch side Vitesse for 6 months. After a great spell in Holland, in which he played 15 games and scored 2 goals, he is now back at Barça B. Riverola have played a few pre-season games with the first team but has still to make his official debut.
Riverola is a true product of the Barça youth system as he joined the club when he was six and has risen through every rank since then to reach the B team. After starting out playing up front as a striker he has since dropped back and made himself into and outstanding midfielder while retaining his eye for goal.Pep says: “He’s a kid who has been with us from six years of age, who started with Barça in school and now is here with us. It’s an acknowledgement of the whole institution, of so much hard work by so many people.”
A left defender that started out playing for hometown club Sant Celoni in 2000. But in 2001 at 10 years of age he moved to Barça. He hase played in the club ever since. In 2009, Planas made his debut for the B team in which he is now one of the most important players. Planas has yet to make an apperance for the first team but has played at all the youth levels of the national team, and is currently a part of Spain’s U21 side.The official site about Planas:
Speed and hard work are two of the left-back’s qualities and they have served him well as he has shown how effective he can be up and down the flank. With not many players competing in his position his ability to play in La Segunda will be crucial and could see him being one to look out for at the highest level. Despite seeing his progress dented by injuries he has regained his confidence and is now a key player in the squad.
A central defender who started out playing for Espanyol in 2001, but moved to Barça the next year at age 11. Bartra has played for Barça ever since and made his B team debut in 2009. One month after his 19th Birthday in 2010 he made his first team debut for Barcelona in a game against Atletico Madrid. In 2011 he made his debut as a starter for the first team in a game against Deportivo La Coruña, and he stayed on the pitch for the entire game. Later the same year in a game against Málaga, he scored his first goal for the first team. Bartra also has played two games in the Copa del Rey and one in the Champions League for the first team in the 2010/2011 season. But his ordinary position is being one of the B side’s most important players. Bartra has also played in the Spanish national team at youth levels from U18-U21, as well as one game for Catalonia’s national team.The official site about Bartra:
Bartra is a complete central defender with his intelligence allowing him to have superb positional sense all over the pitch. His leadership qualities also make him stand out as a player and he is someone that others look to for guidance. Speed is also an asset that has allowed the defender to become a firm favourite. He can also play on the right side of the defence when required.Pep says: ”Bartra is a right-footed explosive player who is good in the position game and the air. I think he’s ready.”
Son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, Thiago got to move around a lot as a child when his father changed clubs. In 1991 he was born in Italy, but in 1995 at the age of 4, the family was back “home” in Brazil. It was there in the youth ranks of Flamengo that Thiago started playing football. But one year later he moved with his dad (now playing for Celta Vigo) to Spain. There, at 5 years of age, Thiago started playing with Gallician team Ureca. Thiago stayed with Ureca until in 2001, at the age of 10, he returned to Brazil and Flamengo. This time his spell at Flamengo would last a bit longer. But in 2005 he moved back to Spain again. This time it wasn’t because of his dad’s footballing career but for his own that caused the move as Thiago had signed for FC Barcelona’s U14 team. Thiago has stayed at the club ever since and made his B team debut in 2008 at the age of 17. On May 17, 2009 at only 18 he made his first team debut in a game against Mallorca. On February 20, 2010 Thiago scored his first goal for Barcelona’s first team in a 4-0 win over Racing Santander. He ended the 2010-11 season with 17 games for the first team and 3 goals. On June 29, 2011 Thiago signed a new contract for the club and was officially promoted to the first team. In the first game of the season against Villarreal he scored a goal and had 2 assists in a 5-0 win. Despite the hard competition for his position in the first team, with players like Iniesta, Xavi, Fábregas and Keita, Thiago has impressed and started in several games for Barcelona this season. Thiago has also played with the Spanish national team at every youth level, winning the European Championship with both the U17 and U21’s. He has also played 3 games with the Spanish first team, making his debut on August 10, 2011 in a friendly against Italy and his official debut in the Euro qualifying game against Liechtenstein on September 6, 2011.The official site about Thiago:
Thiago is a special kind of player with an innate ability that makes him unpredictable and unique. His pin point passing and his added pace are combined with a special skill at free kicks too.
“Thiago is currently going through a phase where everything he touches turns into gold. Every shot he takes seems to end up in the net at the moment. But we have to go little by little with him. He’s a first team player so he must have qualities. Neverthless, he’s still young and has a large margin for improvement and is constantly getting better.”
What happend to those that left FC Barcelona
A midfielder that started out as a forward in Israeli club Hapoel Hifa in 1997. In 2000 he moved to Beitar Tubruk, where his coach suggested to his parents that they take their kid for try-outs at Barça. In 2003 at the age of 12 Gai moved to La Masia and Barça. Gai had a huge talent, which made him the focus as the new wonderboy at Barça. With this a lot of pressure landed on his shoulders. In 2007 at 16 he was promoted to the B team and the future looked bright. Everything went as planned and in 2008 he made his debut for Israel’s national team, raising the hope in the country that they would have a world famous football star. But in the 2008-09 season Gai got injured and missed nearly the whole season. When he came back from the injury he spent the pre-season with Guardiola and the first team. And later in 2009 he made his official debut for the first team in the Copa del Rey. But everything wasn’t going as planned and after his long term injury, Gai stopped developing in the way he had before. In 2010 his contract was not renewed. It took some months before he found a new club, and in that space he trained on his own. But he later got a try-out contract with Manchester City. In the following months, Assulin was in and out of the City training ground as the club attempted to agree compensation with Barça, who were legally entitled to a development fee for raising him in La Masia. His signing for City became more complicated because of a repetitive injury which caused a failure in the completion of his medical, therefore making him legally incapable of signing a contract with City. However, during this time he did play with Manchester City’s academy team. On the 13th of September Assulin finally signed a contract with City. Today he is playing with Man City’s reserves.
A goalkeeper who started playing for FC Barcelona at the age of 10 in 2001. He stayed at the club and played for all the youth teams up to Juvenil A. As Álex got too old for the Juvenil A team for the 2010-11 season and the goalkeeping positions in the B team were already covered by Miño, Oier and Masip, he had no choice but to leave the club. Álex was sold to Real Zaragoza B with Barça having a buy back option. However, for the 2011-12 season he moved to Segunda B team Deportivo Alvés, which is where he now plays. Álex has also played for the Spanish national team at different youth stages, winning th U17 Euro in 2008 and is currently a part of the U20 side.
A goalkeeper who started playing for FC Barcelona in 2001 at age 10 and stayed in the club until 2006. Oriol Torres is today playing for CE Sabadell in the second division.
A defender who started playing for Barça in 2001 at the age of 10 and stayed at the club until 2007, at 16. Since then he has played for Damm, Olesa, Europa and Zaragoza. Today he is playing for CD Teruel in the lower divisions.
A midfielder who started out playing for Escuela Ferran Martorell in 1997 at 6years old. He joined Barça the following season at the age of 7. Carlos stayed in FC Barcelona until 2007 at 16 when he moved to Damm. After only one season at Damm, Carlos changed clubs once more, this time to Hopitalet, where he stayed for two seasons. He then went on to play one season for Barceloneta before joining Viladencans for the 2011-12 season.
Played as a forward during his 4 years at Barça. Antonio joined La Masia in 2000 age 9 and left the club in 2004 at 13. After leaving the club, he played for Espanyol, then Sant Andreu, returned to Espanyol before a spell at Europa. He then played for Villarreal and in the 2010-11 season, now as a midfielder, he played for CD Badajoz in Segunda B. For the 2011-12 season Vela is now playing in CE L’Hopitalet, also in Segunda B.
Other remarkeble 1991 players from La Masia
A midfielder who started out playing for Espanyol in 2001 at the age of 10 but moved to Barcelona in 2004 at 13. In 2009, age 18, he made his debut with Barça B. On August 13, 2010 Romeu made his official debut with Barcelona’s first team in the Super Cup game against Sevilla, playing the full 90 minutes. On May 15, 2011 he made his debut in the League against Deportivo La Coruña. On August 4, 2011 Oriol Romeu signed a four year contract with Chelsea in the Premier League. On September 10, 2011 he made his debut for Chelsea in a game against Sunderland. At national level Oriol Romeu have played for all of Spain’s youth levels from U17 and is currently an U21 player.
A forward who started playing for Valencia CF in 2003, age 12, but moved to Barça the following season at 13. He made his debut with the B team in 2008, age 17, but remained in the youth teams until 2010 when he was officially promoted to the B team, despite playing several games for the B team before then. While at Barça Rochina played in several pre-season games for the first team but never played in an official game. On January 31, 2011 Rochina signed a four year deal with Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League. On April 16, 2011 he made his debut for Blackburn in a game against Everton. On August 24 he scored his first official goal for Blackburn in a league cup game against Sheffield Wednesday, and on September 11, 2011 he scored his first league goal in a game against Fullham. Rochina has also represented Spain at U17, 18 and 19 level.