Barcelona’s famed youth academy has taken a back seat to big-name signings in recent years but as a result of the FIFA transfer ban imposed on the club, promising youngsters have been given a chance to shine in Luis Enrique’s side.
During the pre-season tour of the U.S., at one point there were 10 homegrown youth players on the pitch against Chelsea on Tuesday.
Rafinha and 20-year-old Sergi Samper have looked sharp in midfield while Sandro Ramirez, also aged 20, has been a threat in attack and took his goal well in the Chelsea clash they lost on penalties.
Sergi Roberto, though, has been the most used player in warm-up matches and Luis Enrique praised his performance at right back.
With Barcelona serving a two-window transfer ban in 2015, set after they broke rules on signing under-age players, the club have focused their efforts on fast-tracking youth players to the senior squad in the absence of marquee signings.
“Sergi Roberto has done well and he has the ability to play in several positions,” Luis Enrique told reporters after the Chelsea match.
“He is an option that we are going to use. He is a player that is strong and I am sure that he can give us a lot at fullback.”
Over the last couple of seasons as players of the calibre of Neymar and Luis Suarez arrived at the Nou Camp, the Catalan side had depended less and less on their homegrown talent.
Lionel Messi was the only youth product in their lethal attacking trident that helped them win the treble last season.
Players such as Thiago Alcantara failed to find their way into the first team and he ended up at Bayern Munich with former Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who had previously relied heavily on the youth academy to bolster the club.
But with the FIFA transfer ban forcing Barcelona to look for new talent closer to home, the youth academy’s graduates know that they may never get a better chance to make a quick impact among the club’s big boys.