FC Barcelona: Predicting an All-La Masia Starting XI for 2015-16
Considering the pure quality that comes through Barcelona's youth academy every year, it is not inconceivable that Barcelona's starting lineup could, in the very near future, be made entirely of La Masia graduates.
In fact, this could very well be a possibility in 2015.
Here, we have made slight changes to the current Barcelona lineup, replacing some of the players who will possibly pass their sell-by dates with current La Masia prospects.
GK: Victor Valdes
Victor Valdes is still not 30 years old. Considering that, and also the fact that most goalkeepers continue to play well beyond the 30-year mark, we will not replace him with anyone.
Also helping his case is Barcelona's lack of goalkeeping prospects. Current prospects Oier Olazabal and Ruben Mino have not proved themselves worthy of having first-team chances yet.
RB: Martin Montoya
The "Catalan Alves" has earned his nickname because of his playing style, which is remarkably similar to Barcelona's current right back of choice, Daniel Alves.
In particular, his marauding runs up and down the flank are remarkably similar to Alves'.
Martin Montoya has seen some playing time for Barcelona this season. He scored against FC BATE Borisov in a Champions League group stage encounter, when he started for the first team.
With the lack of really promising right backs in the market, it is definitely possible that Montoya will be bumped up to the first team in the not-so-distant future.
CB and Captain: Gerard Pique
Since he is only 24 right now, there is little doubt that Gerard Pique will continue with the Barcelona first team for many seasons more.
He is also our choice for the future captain of Barcelona because of the passion and charisma that he displays on and off the pitch.
CB: Marc Muniesa
Marc Muniesa is considered one of the best central defensive prospects in Barcelona's youth ranks. He had a very underwhelming senior debut against Osasuna in 2009, getting sent off within a few minutes of coming onto the field.
However, his playing style is similar to Barcelona's current captain Carles Puyol. He plays with a maturity that far belies his 19 years, making him one of Barcelona's biggest hopes for the future.
Muniesa signed a new contract in February 2011, which raised his buyout clause to €30 million—proof that he has the faith of the technical staff and management of the club.
LB: Alejandro Grimaldo
Despite being only 16 years old now, Alejandro Grimaldo has already started and played for Barcelona Atletic. He is also the youngest player to start a Spanish Segunda division match.
Barcelona won the match in question 4-0 against FC Cartagena, and Grimaldo was essential in Barcelona Atletic's best move of the match, which ended with him assisting Rafa Alcantara's goal.
Grimaldo's pace and ability to dribble down the left wing make him a fearsome prospect for opposition defenders.
He will be 20 at the start of the 2015-16 season. Taking into account the lack of left-back prospects in the market and the quality of his current performances, there is a high likelihood of young Grimaldo starting for Barcelona in just three years' time.
DM: Sergio Busquets
Another very young member of Barcelona's current starting XI is Sergio Busquets. At the age of 23, he already displays an excellent understanding of the beautiful game.
He is currently Barcelona's undisputed starter at defensive midfield, and there is no conceivable reason for him leaving that role in three years' time.
Busquets will only grow stronger as time passes. His main strength, positioning, will only improve with experience. He will therefore not be replaced for any imaginable reason.
Hopefully, he will also have cut down on his play-acting, which is a rather unsavoury side of his game.
CM: Thiago Alcantara
At the start of the season, Thiago Alcantara was considered a kid with a lot of talent. However, midway through this season, he is now regarded as a very dependable player.
He used to display a temptation to play too many adventurous passes. His passing game is now far more measured and tactical, a la Xavi.
With the way in which Thiago has developed, he can be looked to as a natural heir to Xavi. He certainly has the technical ability and the passing range that makes Xavi so deadly. In addition, he also has excellent dribbling skills, which make him a very difficult player to stop.
In Barcelona's system in 2015, Thiago could take on Xavi's current role of chief playmaker.
CM: Andres Iniesta
Andres Iniesta is not exactly young, at 27 years old. However, he can be expected to hold on to his starting position in 2015-16.
He would have a similar role to his current one, as a highly creative and agile midfield playmaker. Though age might mellow his game a little, he will probably remain an important player for the team.
AM: Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas will continue to play his role as an attacking midfielder in Barcelona's system. With the experience of playing in this system for three years, Fabregas could potentially develop into one of the finest attacking midfielders in Barcelona's history.
Indeed, his interplay with Lionel Messi could, in three years' time, become a very happy chapter in Barcelona folklore.
CF/AM/RW/LW: Lionel Messi
The most frightening feature of Lionel Messi's performances is that it seems to evolve with each season. In every season, he patches up some vulnerability in his overall play and turns in stronger performances than the season before.
Three years down the line, one can only wonder just how good Messi will have become.
There is no question that he will continue to lead Barcelona's attack from the center as he does now. His partnership with Cesc Fabregas could also become more lethal than it already is.
RW/LW/CF: Gerard Deulofeu
Gerard Deulofeu is currently the brightest star in Barcelona's youth ranks. Deulofeu has excellent dribbling skills and pace. To complement this, he is also a very direct player.
Deulofeu's performances with the youth teams led to him forming part of the preseason squad for Barcelona's senior team. In his second senior match, a friendly against Club America, he assisted Seydou Keita's goal with a cross from the right wing.
Deulofeu also made two senior appearances in the Spanish league, against Hercules and Mallorca. Though he is not the youngest player to feature for the senior team, at 17 years old, this is still a good start to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career with Barcelona.
Manager: Xavi Hernandez
Current manager Pep Guardiola has made it clear that he will not continue at Barcelona for a long period of time. In an ideal world, he would be replaced by Barcelona midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez.
Xavi displays a tactical understanding of the game, which rivals that of Pep Guardiola. He has also come up through the Barcelona ranks in a way reminiscent of Guardiola himself.
His understanding of Barcelona's system and his cerebral understanding of the game mean that he would be a fantastic replacement as Barcelona manager.
Oier Olazabal—GK, currently in Barcelona Atletic
Marc Bartra—CB/RB, has made a few senior appearances
Jonathan dos Santos—DM/CM, has made a few senior appearances
Rafa Alcantara—CM, has made a few senior appearances
Sergi Roberto—CM, currently in Barcelona Atletic
Isaac Cuenca—WF, first-team member
Jean-Marie Dongou—CF, touted as the next Samuel Eto'o