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He grew up wanting to be a Formula 1 driver, but it looks like this dream has passed him by. Chelsea, Manchester United and the other top English clubs have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on transfer fees for the world's best players in the hope of buying success. Xavi Hernandez, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta were shortlisted as amongst the best five players in the world.
It is a crisp, sunny, spring morning in Barcelona at the Joan Gamper training ground, where the football pitches are hemmed in by the foothills of the Pyrenees on three sides, and a less inspiring six-lane motorway on the other.
Cesc Fabregas playing for the Barcelona youth team against Athletico Bilbao in 2003When the misery is over for FC Viladecans, the victorious boys dutifully shake hands before very sweetly, yet slight bizarrely, trooping over to the group of parents, acknowledging them at a distance by applauding them, arms above their heads, just as their adult counterparts do to the 90,000 fans who watch the first team at the Nou Camp stadium.
In the age of Ronaldo's A?80 million transfer from Manchester to Madrid and the complex transcontinental trades of 16-year-olds, Barcelona have been a counter-cultural force in world football.
Sony's Playstation VR will go head to head with Facebook's Oculus Rift and HTC's Vive next year. The Halo series of games has won more than 750 media and industry awards in the last 14 years and has generated over US$4.6 billion in worldwide sales to date. Liverpool is home to some of the Premier League’s biggest names, and understandably because of that they have a pretty large wage bill. The Brazilian arrived as something of an unknown quantity in the January transfer window of 2013, but he has quickly risen to become one of their most potent attacking threats. He first started writing for us in June 2011 and commenced his new role as Sports Editor in February 2012. Instead, he hopes you enjoy reading his writing on our site, as we seek to debate the day's sporting hot topics. Elegantly-dressed parents in Ray-Ban sunglasses have gathered to watch a seven-a-side match.
While English Premier League football clubs spent much of the past decade splashing their borrowed cash to sign up millionaire star players, or poaching teenage boys, like Fabregas, from the youth academies of the clubs that did produce good young players, Barcelona were quietly growing their own team, the majority of whom cost not a euro in transfer fees. The importance of finishing their education is constantly impressed on them by the club, though the lessons are all in Catalan, a language that will at first be unfamiliar to boys from outside the region.
He arrived here from Argentina when he was 13 with his family in tow after no Argentinian club would pay for the drugs he needed to treat his growth deformity. With stellar design, beautiful aesthetics and the best multiplayer to date, Halo 5 simply cannot be missed.
However, unlike some of their counterparts they aren’t paying through the nose for the privilege. They look totally engaged, while their toddlers play near the touchline and one boy's bored sister looks on. They return to their coaches for a post-match debrief and then there are the post-match interviews with a journalist. A few miles from the training ground and overshadowed by the enormous Nou Camp stadium is a delightful 18th-century farmhouse.
They return at 2pm for lunch and siesta, with training from 5pm to 6.30pm, then homework with private tutors on hand to help. It is no surprise that Barcelona took on Messi, despite the fact he was half a foot shorter than his peers.


Some are on relatively modest wages, but even still, none of them will be going poor any time soon.
Built in 1702 and sitting rather incongruously among the constant noise and clamour of one of the busier districts of the city, it is known as La Masia.
Unlike in England, where size, strength and the ability to throw your weight around is highly prized by many scouts, Barcelona apply different criteria.
The goal is greeted by understated high-fives among his eight-year-old team-mates, most of whom are equally small. FC Barcelona converted this ornate building into a boarding house in 1979 to accommodate the older boys on their youth programme. In fact it's the parents who are more excited, starting up a spirited rendition of Barcelona's official club anthem, while the boys simply jog back obediently to the centre circle. Suddenly they are normal eight-year-old children again, darting around in uncontrollable fashion, playing their own games, making their own jokes. Outsiders are not usually permitted inside what is seen as a private place, where the future of the club is being nurtured and the football club is in loco parentis. The restraint, the absence of conceit in those so young and potentially excitable, is positively Victorian.
In a decade two or three of these boys will be making more money in a year than most people can expect to make in a lifetime.
From the age of 13 or 14, boys who live outside the city are housed here, letting the club mould their futures more fully, and ensuring their training time is not interrupted by debilitating travel to and from the ground. They have to be good people, like gentlemen.' It's no surprise that some, especially Barcelona's bitter rivals Real Madrid, sense a certain smugness about the club - even the football coaching here comes with a moral edge.
Typically the 14 year-old boys will train for six hours a week and play a game of 90 minutes. They grace the pitch with almost balletic quality, constantly creating space to receive the ball, which is nursed, one to another, with unerring accuracy. These boys, all clad in the famous maroon and blue colours of FC Barcelona, are part of the world's most successful production line of world-class footballers. But crucially it allows the club to develop not just their football skills but their lifestyle and attitudes, preaching the virtues of healthy eating and early nights. With the honourable exceptions of Middlesbrough, who once fielded a Premier League squad with 15 of the 16 players raised by the club and born within 25 miles of the stadium, and West Ham, who have produced almost half of the current England national team, no Premier League club currently aspires to Barcelona's goal. This is the Sunday-morning match day at Barcelona's youth academy, which in Spanish goes by the poetic name of 'La Cantera', meaning the quarry. Then they must try to win by playing very well, more creatively than the opposition, with attacking football. Manchester United were once standard bearers in this regard, and the team that won the 1999 Champions League had echoes of Barcelona's vision. They keep the score down to 4-1 but are barely permitted a touch of the ball in the second half. Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were all prodigies of their youth team, four of them from the Greater Manchester area, but since then United have directed their energy into recruiting youngsters from around the world, preferring to raid foreign youth academies. When Fifa, the international body that governs football, recently shortlisted the best five players in the world, three of them were products of La Cantera: Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi and Xavi.


They do their homework in a spacious library and have a games room with table football, pool and PlayStations. But we don't want to win without the first two aims being fulfilled.' Liverpool goalkeeper Reina went to live in La Masia at the age of 13. They took Gerard Pique from Barcelona at the age of 16, which, under EU and football rules, they can do legally while paying only tiny amounts of compensation to the club that coached them.
Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's biggest star and among the Premier League's best players, was also nurtured here and plucked away by English scouts at the age of 16. It resembles a rather charming youth hostel, but this type of education remains an alien concept to most Premier League clubs, none of which has a residential academy on the scale of La Masia. There are some mitigating circumstances as to why Barcelona can build a team so successfully and their English counterparts cannot.
Pepe Reina, Liverpool's highly rated goalkeeper, and Mikel Arteta, the Everton midfielder, are old boys; and Barcelona's club team manager, Pep Guardiola, one of the finest midfielders and now managers of his generation, also came through this academy, as did all his managerial assistants. Premier League clubs are now bound by strict rules meaning they can only recruit boys whose journey to their training ground is 90 minutes or less. This is a 'factory' for world-class footballers and it is currently at the peak of its powers. Nevertheless, of the seven players from La Cantera who won the Champions League final in Rome, five were born in Catalonia and so would be eligible under Premier League rules. For 13-year-old boys prised from the bosom of their family, the induction can be traumatic yet bonding. Last year they won every trophy they competed for, six in all, including the Spanish League title and the World Club Cup, and the Champions League on a memorable night in Rome when a formidable Manchester United team were made to look like footballing infants. Everton midfielder Arteta was one of Reina's great friends at La Masia and had left behind his parents and five brothers in the Basque country to pursue the dream of making a career as a professional footballer at the age of 15. At the age of eight, says Capellas, the coaching emphasis is both on mastering control of the ball and the need to understand tactics. Yet what was more remarkable was that seven of the team that started against Manchester United were products of La Cantera: goalkeeper Victor Valdes, defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, midfielders Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and the forward Messi, who scored four goals in the recent game against Arsenal and is currently ranked the best in the world.
Several will go on to represent Spain in this year's World Cup, a tournament they are favourites to win. Iniesta was fast-tracked to La Masia at the age of 12 because of his exceptional talent, moving from his village of Fuentealbilla in central Spain.
Perhaps the nation's biggest obstacle in South Africa will be Messi, who is tipped by many to revive memories of Maradona at his best when he plays for Argentina this summer.
Among the teenage contemporaries of current manager Guardiola, who arrived at La Masia aged 13, were Tito Vilanova and Aureli Altamira, who are now his managerial assistants at the club.
Arsenal's Fabregas, who came here when he was 15 because travelling from his village in Arenys de Mar back and forth to training had become too much of a strain, agrees.
Among them was a timid and tiny Argentinian boy who spent the first few days cowering in the corner, speaking to no one.



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