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Five Champions League victories built on home grown talent the Barcelona way

Barcelona’s policy of developing their own talents like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta has delivered them to another Champions League final against Manchester United. They weren’t the first, as their opponents at Wembley can testify.

Growing your own: Barcelona’s 2009 Champions League winners celebrate with some familiar friends

Manchester United 1999

You’ll never win anything with kids,’ Alan Hansen must be tired of being reminded he said of Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble winning side.

Those kids, of course, were mostly local lads or co-opted in to the ranks at a tender age and developed in the United way: Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes. Not all played in that remarkable final against Bayern Munich but they formed the core of a swashbuckling side that grew up in Europe.

Celtic 1967

Jock Stein’s ‘Lions of Lisbon’ became the first British club to win the European Cup with a team that was famously all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park. The vast majority of the players came through the youth ranks.

“Cups are not won by individuals,” said Stein. “They are won by men in a team, men who put their club before personal prestige. I am lucky – I have the players who do just that for Celtic.”

Ajax 1995

Louis van Gaal’s European Champions started their 1-0 victory over Milan with no less than nine players who had been schooled in Ajax’s famous academy system, the goalscorer that day, Patrick Kluivert, among them.

The aura that surrounds the club’s youth development, and their holistic approach to education, is renowned world wide and follows in the rich tradition of the ‘total football’ era of Johan Cruyff. Whether it will ever benefit Ajax themselves on the European stage again is in doubt due to the economics of football that has turned them in to a selling club. But the efficacy of the system remains unparalleled – nine of the Dutch squad who reached the 2010 World Cup final learned their trade there.

Benfica 1961

A youthful, largely home grown side ended Real Madrid’s dominance of the fledgling European Cup and at the same time delayed Barcelona’s efforts to get their hands on the trophy.

The Portuguese were to go on and defend their title the following season with Eusebio added to their ranks, but prior to that, in an era before globalisation and the footballing migrations that are common to us today, it was local youngsters given their chance who formed the core of the team.

Barcelona 2009

Barcelona’s most recent European Champions, largely the same as the current side, was one built on the efforts of their La Masia academy and garnished with a few expensive recruits bought as the finished article.

Of those involved in the 2-0 win in Rome eight had passed through La Masia (Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and substitute Pedro). Years of team bonding in youth games continues to pay dividends for the club.

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