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Quarrymen give Barca the edge over Real

April 13, 2010

SOCCER-SPAIN/A Spanish soccer club’s youth programme is known as the “cantera”, or quarry, and Barcelona’s current dominance of Real Madrid highlights how the Catalans have mined theirs much more efficiently than their arch rivals.

Seven of the Barca players who started in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Real at the Bernabeu, a record fourth straight win for coach and former quarryman Pep Guardiola in “El Clasico”, came through the club’s youth system, including Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, Spain midfielder Xavi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Spain stopper Iker Casillas was the only player from Real’s youth setup in coach Manuel Pellegrini’s initial 11 and La Liga is littered with talented players the big-spending club have let go such as Spain internationals Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata.

After their unprecedented haul of six trophies last year, Barca are closing in on consecutive Champions League and La Liga titles and Real’s splurge of close to a quarter of a billion euros on players pre-season has failed to dent their dominance.

“The club is a victim of its own greatness and doesn’t open its door to players with a future,” Real director general Jorge Valdano said in an interview with Spanish radio on Monday.

“We probably have to start opening Real Madrid’s door to them,” he conceded.

Guardiola joined the cantera in 1984 at the age of 13 and has used 16 of his fellow “canteranos” this season, compared to Real’s seven, according to figures published in As sports daily on Tuesday.

Those 16 Barca players, including captain Carles Puyol, centre back Gerard Pique, midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and forward Pedro, account for 60.2 percent of the total minutes played in all competitions this campaign, As said.

Real’s seven, which includes former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa, midfielders Guti and Esteban Granero and striker Raul, account for 26.4 percent.

“There are many things to appreciate about the current Barca team but above all this: they are again giving a good name to the strategy of using the cantera effectively,” columnist Alfredo Relano wrote.

“A team built around the cantera starts with a moral advantage over opponents, it identifies more easily with its fans and finds unity more easily in hard times,” he added.

“The cantera is the best possible investment and if you take time and care over it there is nothing as valuable.”

Barca officials say cantera recruits are imbued with the club’s entertaining brand of fast-flowing, attacking football from an early age.

In Saturday’s match at the Bernabeu, Real’s midfielders struggled to get the ball as Xavi, Busquets and their team mates easily exerted their customary dominance of possession.

“Barca plays as a team of exceptional individuals and Madrid has some excellent individuals but doesn’t play as a team,” former Spain coach Javier Clemente, now at Real Valladolid, wrote in his Marca column on Tuesday.

Relano in As noted that developing a golden generation of players was partly a question of good fortune but said you had to put the effort in to exploit it effectively.

“Luck exists of course but you have to get up with the lark to make the most of it.”

PHOTO: Real Madrid (L) and Barcelona players stand in silence in memory of Poland’s president before their La Liga match at the Bernabeu in Madrid, April 10, 2010.REUTERS/Paul Hanna.

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