As Barcelona prepare to face Sporting CP, Ernesto Valverde can take great pleasure in knowing that his side have already sealed first place in the group.
Not only does this have implications in the round of 16 draw, where Barcelona will have a higher likelihood of drawing a side that is not top tier, but also in their last game against Sporting.
While maintaining an unbeaten start to the season would be ideal, the game provided an unlikely opportunity to trust a couple of B team players on a grand stage.
However, although the opportunity was there, Ernesto Valverde instead has not picked any B-team youngsters in his squad, a baffling decision.
Over the past several years, the gap between earning a call-up into the first team has been thrown into the spotlight. It was only three years ago that Tito Vilanova fielded a squad that featured a starting 11 all from La Masia. Now though, Barcelona’s approach to promoting youngsters from La Masia and Barcelona B has seemed to shift.
One of the most talented players currently playing for Barcelona B is 19-year-old Carles Aleñá. The talented midfielder made his first team debut on November 30th, 2016 scoring in the Copa del Rey draw against Hercules that finished 1-1.
Born in Barcelona and raised in La Masia since the age of seven, Aleñá is the perfect example of a player yearning for the opportunity to earn more minutes for the first team, especially at Champions League level.
With nothing to truly play for, the question is why Valverde didn’t even include him in the squad? While the #10 has a sizeable transfer clause, Barcelona fans will be quick to rue the way Thiago Alcântara left the club because of a lack of first team minutes.
While the current midfielders are also deserving of minutes, as a manager, it is imperative that youth players are showed that if they continue to perform well, a call up to the first team is certainly possible.
Another young player looking for an opportunity to prove himself on a larger stage is defensive midfielder Oriol Busquets.
Busquets was born in Catalonia and was granted entrance into La Masia at the young age of eight. After moving up the ranks and consistently proving himself, Busquets made his first team debut just last week against Real Murcia in a 5-0 win.
Just like his namesake Sergio, Oriol has proven to be a capable defensive midfielder and being only 18, would certainly bask in the achievement of being granted an opportunity on the Champions League stage.
One thing that has been learned over previous seasons is that in this current age of football, young players are more likely than ever to leave as seen by the likes of Jordi Mboula, Eric Garcia, and even Lee Seung-woo.
Players, especially younger ones are desperate to prove themselves and earn more minutes. In order for Valverde’s time as manager to be considered a success, his handling and development of youth team players will certainly be discussed.
During the golden years of Barcelona’s reign over La Liga and Europe, the players raised in La Masia were integral such as Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets.
While most of those players remain, it is important to think about the future and allow the young players who deserve a chance, an opportunity to prove their talents under the light of the Nou Camp and Europe. Visca Barca