The first team might be in crisis, but all is not lost this season for FC Barcelona. The inaugural UEFA Youth League, pitted the best U-19 youth teams of the 32 clubs qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League against each other.
The league was formed in response to the success that the innovative NextGen Series tournament had last season. The efficacy of the Spanish youth system was proven yet again with each Spanish team in the competition topping their respective groups. FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad combined for a record of 15 wins, 5 draws and 4 losses in the group stages with FC Barcelona scoring 20 and only conceding 5 in their first 6 matches.
FC Barcelona proceeded to march on in the competition, defeating, Arsenal, Schalke and Kobenhavn on their way to the final in Nyon where they unceremoniously disposed of Portuguese side Benfica, winning 3-0.
Highlight of the tournament for the Catalan club comes in the form of tournament top scorer Munir El Haddadi. The 18 year old Spaniard made the tournament look easy, finishing top of the goals and assists category. Haddadi scored five more goals than anyone else in the competition, including two goals in the final, one of which was a stunning lob from behind the half-way line.
The tournament was proof that the production line at La Masia is as strong as ever and the post tournament interviews with the young superstars shows that not only are the future generations top talents, but they maintain the humility and character we have come to expect of Spanish youngsters.
Munir El Haddadi:
“It was a great performance. We worked well as a team and everyone was desperate to achieve this success. It is a reward for the work we have put in. It is a very special honour [to win the trophy] and we deserved it. I wanted to pass to my team-mate [for the third goal], but then I saw the goalkeeper off his line so I tried to lob him and it went in. We have great players in our team with great qualities and that helps us to win trophies.”