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Anyone who saw how FC Barcelona dismantled Manchester United in last year's Champions League final, or Arsenal earlier this month, by simply passing the ball around them, would be familiar with the style.

As an amazed Theo Walcott put it, 'It was like someone was holding a Play Station controller and moving the figures around.' When 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. They return to their coaches for a post-match debrief and then there are the post-match interviews with a journalist.

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.

This is a 'factory' for world-class footballers and it is currently at the peak of its powers.

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.

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.

Barcelona are indisputably the best football club in the world at present.

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.

They grace the pitch with almost balletic quality, constantly creating space to receive the ball, which is nursed, one to another, with unerring accuracy.

(There are two live commentaries on this game for the club's website and three television cameras present for what is just a routine match.) Only after they have collected all the kit, returned to the dressing room and changed are they allowed to engage with their parents and siblings. Suddenly they are normal eight-year-old children again, darting around in uncontrollable fashion, playing their own games, making their own jokes.

To be invited to join La Cantera is to be given an extraordinary opportunity in life.

They do their homework in a spacious library and have a games room with table football, pool and Play Stations.

Each morning the boys are bussed in to the best local schools.


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