Generation 87, Barca’s Baby Dream Team, What happened next?

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The Barcelona “Generation 87” often described as the “Baby Dream Team” was a group of unique talent with Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique as the three mostly remembered from that special team.

In 2002/03 Barcelona’s Cadeta A side swept all before them, completing their U.15’s campaign unbeaten and winning the Catalan and Spanish league titles as well as the Copa Catalunya, yet thousands more potentially claim they had seen the best youth team ever in their one season playing together.

Three unique players in this team joined many years before as nine years old, turning up at Barca in very different ways. Messi got his trial, Pique came with his grandfather, a vice-president of the club, and Fabregas was hidden from the Barca scouts, but it didn’t last long, before they discovered him at his club Mataro.

We all know what happened to Lionel Messi, now an icon and been voted the best player in the World. He experienced the thrill of being part of the first team at a very young age and established himself quickly and no one doubted his talent, he has since stayed loyal to Barca and been at the Camp Nou during his whole career. Fabregas and Pique had a different route and joined clubs in England, Arsenal and Manchester United.

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Pique returned to Barca, so did Cesc Fabregas, whilst Pique has been at Barca for most of his career Cesc Fabregas made his mark in England with Arsenal before getting his dream move back to Barca, but instead of staying he decided to jump at another opportunity in the Premier League with Chelsea.

All three of them have been proven internationals and key players for their national teams. Pique and Fabregas are both World Champions with Spain, as Messi has not experienced such greatness with his Argentina. They are all capped more than 100 times. To date, Messi (128), Fabregas (110) and Pique (102).

There were great talent in the U.15 team of Barca with other players also carving a career in professional football. Playing in this team described as the best U.15 side ever you had, Julio De Dios, Toni Calvo, Franck Songo’o, Victor Vazquez, Marc Valiente, Dani Plancheria (gk), Jose Hinojosa, Roger Giribet, Julio Jesus de Dios Moreno, Eugenio Plazuelo and Juanjo Clausi.

The goalkeeper Dani Plancheria never made it to the first team at Barca. He joined Blackburn Rovers, but the spell was brief, and he eventually moved back, without playing in the first team at Ewood Park. Pancheria then had short spells at lower league clubs CE L’Hospitalet, CD Montcada, UE Rubi and FC Santboia before retiring from the game in 2015 at the age of 28.

Midfielder Julio De Dios is currently without a club after leaving Merida AD this summer. AD was relegated from the fourth tier last seasson. De Dios left Barcelona in 2007, reaching the level of the b-team before starting a tour around in the different clubs in the lower leagues of Spanish football. FC Jumilla, Terrassa FC and San Roque were three out of his many clubs in the last eleven years.

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Winger Toni Calvo also left Barca without any first team experience and played professional football in Greece with Aris from 2007 to 2011. Calvo represented Spain at U.20 level and was a talented player. After his days with Aris he had spells at Levski Sofia (Bulgaria) and Anorthosis (Cyprus) before returning to Spain, playing at lower league clubs. He is still involved and today can be seen playing at Vilafranca (4th tier).

Cameroon born Franck Songo’o, another winger in the “generation 87”, was also shipped out as early as 2005, signed by Portsmouth. He only appeared three times in the league for Pompey and spent most of his time at Fratton Park out on loan. The loans were at Crystal Palace, Preston North End, Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday adding his tally of league games to 34 in which he scored once. After his English adventure he returned to Spain and played for Zaragoza, Albacete and Real Sociedad, then a spell in MLS with Portland came next before he moved to Greece and played for Glyfada and PAS Giannina, since after the 2014/15 season Songo’o has not been registered with a club.

Midfielder Victor Vazquez was one who had he descent run and was a first team squad player for many seasons at Barca, but without getting any real experience from first eam football, playing twice, once the Primera and one game in the Champions League. He moved on to Club Bruges in Belgium and became a key player at the club. In 2014/15 he was voted player the year in Belgian football. After four years and 121 league apperances for Club Bruges he moved to Mexican club Cruz Azul and has later joined Toronto FC in the MLS.

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Central defender Marc Valiente was another surplus at Barca never playing first team football, but many years with the b team before moving to Sevilla in 2008. After his spell with Sevilla he had spells with Valladolid, Maccabi Haifa in Israel and Belgian club Eupen. This summer Valiente made a new move in his career, joining Serbian club Partizan Belgrade, wearing the number 6 shirt.

Jose Hinojosa, a midfielder and the room-mate of Cesc Febregas, never played professional football and has instead worked with younger players coaching in his native Catalonia. He has still continued playing at amateur levels, turning out for a side named Martinenc.

Roger Giribet, a defender, signed by Barca on the same day as Messi, vanished into Spanish lower league football and still play. He is with fourth tier club CF Balaguer and in strong contrast to his “same day signing”, probably wondering what happened.

Eugenio Plazuelo, also known as “Pitu”, never managed to build on his early success and has since leaving Barca been playing at clubs on lower levels in Spain. The last of the players to be named in the “Generation 87” is attacking midfielder Juanjo Clausi, who also became a lower league journeyman, hanging up his boots in 2017 after a short spell with CD Castellon.

As we have seen in many generations of football, often a footballers journey can be so different coming from the same level of youth team football. Also in this team Pique and Fabregas were seen as the stars, making a great path, whilst others had a totally different journey seeing Vazquez doing well and the others in that squad struggling a bit to gain a top professional career moving either down in the lower leagues of Spanish football or starting a journey around at foreign clubs.

They were all coached by two of the best football men in the business, Pep Guardiola and Vito Vilanova, but that is neither a guarantee in this unpredictable trade called professional football.

 

 

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