For the first time in 16 years, Barcelona began a match without a single academy graduate or Catalan player in their starting line-up when they took on Celta Vigo on Tuesday evening.
In fact, only two of the eleven players to start the game – Denis Suárez and Paco Alcácer – were Spanish with the other nine – which included the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé – all being foreign imports.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 17, 2018
Admittedly, Ernesto Valverde appeared to have one eye on Saturday’s Copa del Rey final clash with Sevilla when naming his team for the trip to Balaídos, but it seems a long time has passed since, in 2004, Louis van Gaal said it was a dream to make Barça champions of Europe with a team of 11 academy graduates.
Even as recently as 2011, Tito Vilanova’s Blaugrana beat Levante 4-0 with 11 La Masia alumni on the pitch.
The last time Barça started a game without a single academy player on the team-sheet was on 6 April 2002 – a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés.
The team that day, managed by Carles Rexach, was: Bonano, Reiziger, Christanval, Abelardo, Coco; Cocu, Rochemback, Luis Enrique; Rivaldo, Overmars and Saviola