Home-grown Barca talents outshine Real imports

MADRID - Barcelona's deep pool of home-grown talent and their superiority in the two "Clasicos" made the difference as they saw off the tireless challenge of Real Madrid and successfully defended their La Liga title.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, recruited from Inter Milan at the end of last term, fired Barca to a 1-0 win over Real at the Nou Camp in November and Lionel Messi, league top scorer with 34 goals, and Pedro struck in last month's 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu.

Those victories proved decisive.

Pep Guardiola's side clinched the championship on Sunday with a 4-0 success at home to Real Valladolid, extending their record points tally to 99 from 38 matches.

Big-spending Real, who drew 1-1 at Malaga, came up just short and ended the season on 96.

Record Real signing Cristiano Ronaldo (26) and striker Gonzalo Higuain (27) netted 53 goals between them but failed to produce the goods when it really counted in the head-to-head encounters.

It did not help the Real cause that Ronaldo was sidelined for most of October and November with an ankle injury.

Barca's success was again built around players whose talents were honed in the club's youth set-up, including Argentina forward Messi, Spain midfielder Xavi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Real president Florentino Perez spent close to a quarter of a billion euros on Portugal forward Ronaldo, Brazilian playmaker Kaka, France striker Karim Benzema and others but even that dizzying outlay was insufficient.

The nine-times European champions ended the season without a trophy, although their massive points haul, putting them 25 ahead of third-placed Valencia, would have won them the league title in any other season.


A glance at the line-ups for last month's "Clasico" illustrates the difference in strategy between the rivals.

Seven of the Barca players who started the match, a record fourth straight "Clasico" win for coach and former youth team player Pep Guardiola, came through the ranks.

Spain keeper Iker Casillas was the only player from Real's youth setup in Pellegrini's initial 11 and La Liga is littered with talented players the club have let go.

The players who come through at Barcelona learn an entertaining brand of fast-flowing, attacking football from an early age and outside recruits are selected for their ability to slot in.

Swede Ibrahimovic, while perhaps not fully justifying his price tag of around 67 million euros in the swap deal with Samuel Eto'o, has linked well with Messi, Pedro and Bojan Krkic.

Victor Valdes has had another superb season in goal, with Barcelona conceding only 24 league goals and suffering only one league defeat all season, a 2-1 reverse at Atletico Madrid.

Real director general Jorge Valdano said after the Bernabeu defeat the club would have to start opening its doors to young players with a promising future, a strategy that takes time and investment to bear fruit.

In the mean time, we can expect Perez to open his wallet again in the close season, with more big-name signings set to follow Ronaldo and Kaka to the Spanish capital, and perhaps a new coach to replace Manuel Pellegrini.

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