"It's fantastic for the boys and the technical staff," FC Barcelona's Jordi Vinyals told UEFA.com as he sang the praises of the UEFA Youth League ahead of the finals.
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The only thing about the UEFA Youth League which disappoints FC Barcelona Juvenil A coach Jordi Vinyals is that it did not exist when he was an alumnus of the Camp Nou academy in the 1980s.
Vinyals appears to be in charge of an exceptional group of developing footballers as his side have not only reached the last four of the inaugural competition, scoring 28 times in eight games in setting up a semi-final against FC Schalke 04 on Friday, but last week also won their domestic league title.
Irrespective of his players' innate quality, and the famously good technical training from which they have benefited at the Ciudad Deportiva Joan Gamper, Vinyals is quite clear that the development which this UEFA tournament has inculcated in these fledgling stars, all the staff and indeed the coach himself, is exceptional.
"I've mentioned this to many colleagues of my age and said: 'I wish that in our time we had been able to play in this tournament, it would have been amazing,'" he told UEFA.com. "The boys appreciate that and are aware that it is a UEFA competition – an important international competition, on a European stage.
"It's fantastic for the boys and also for the technical staff – an experience which makes you improve an awful lot on all levels. It is also a sort of test for the club and all of its services, for the medical team, the media department, its administration – you can see the demands that the competition puts you under."
Beyond the obvious footballing tests Vinyals lists weather, travel, food, different quality playing surfaces, language, discipline, responsibility and, above all, nurturing the ability to "peak" three times a week – for two domestic weekend matches plus a UEFA Youth League fixture – as the key learning experiences upon which he places so much worth.
"We hope that from the teams which make up the final four there will be a player who will play in the final of the Champions League in the years to come," he added. "I believe that is also going to be part of our beautiful history."
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