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The admiration widely felt for FC Barcelona owes nearly as much to their extraordinary youth system as to their often spellbinding football – and the Spanish champions' 2-0 victory over FC Rubin Kazan in UEFA Champions League Group D merely emphasised that the Catalan conveyor belt seems endless.
Two more prospects drawn from Barcelona B, Andreu Fontás and Víctor Vázquez, scored their debut UEFA Champions League goals to bring victory on the night and erase the blemish of Josep Guardiola's side not having won against Rubin in three previous meetings.
Barcelona players Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Lionel Messi comprise the FIFA Ballon d'Or shortlist yet Guardiola opted only for a 27-minute cameo from Messi while consigning Rubin to the UEFA Europa League. An impressive achievement. Above all there was a nugget of a performance from 19-year-old Thiago Alcántara, who added to his already excellent pass notes in the Copa del Rey this season.
The attacking midfielder, whose father Mazinho won the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 1994, told UEFA.com: "This was a game in which we all wanted to show our ambition. There was nothing left to play for in terms of the group, because we were already guaranteed first position, but we wanted to put on a show and play good football.
Barça's youth system will always be there, year after year turning out good young players. What you have to do, when you get the chance, is show that you are worth it. It's about attitude as well as ability."
During a confident and intelligent first 90 minutes of UEFA Champions League football, Spanish Under-21 international Thiago managed precisely that, capping his man-of-the-match display with the assist for Fontás's opening goal.
The 21-year-old centre-back told UEFA.com:
"It is tough for us youngsters to get into this team but I hope we have all shown that, if needed, we are capable. For me it was incredible. I was nervous but to get that crucial first goal when I'm not normally a goalscorer felt tremendous."
The night brought unfortunate injuries for both Jeffren and Bojan Krkić, who was taken to hospital after a blow to his head, although it was garnished by a fine goal from midfielder Vázquez who came through as a contemporary of Messi before being hampered by injuries for two years.
"It has taken me that long to get back in the first team and I couldn't ask for more than a win and a goal," he told UEFA.com. "Fitting in is straightforward because it's the same football philosophy as in the B team. If you play with guys like Messi, [Sergio] Busquets and [Gerard] Piqué then it's all so much easier. And good fun."
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