MADRID - For the eight Spain
internationals in Barcelona's probable starting 11 for
Saturday's Champions League Final, victory over Manchester
United at Wembley would put a gilt edge on an already
spectacularly successful year.
Goalkeeper Victor Valdes, defenders Gerard Pique and Carles
Puyol, midfielders Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta and
forwards Pedro and David Villa - the only one of the group who
is not a product of Barca's youth school - came away from last
year's World Cup in South Africa with winners medals.
They have since added the Spanish Super Cup and the Spanish
league title, the club's third in a row, and narrowly missed out
on a King's Cup triumph when they were beaten 1-0 in the final
by great rivals Real Madrid.
At only 22, Busquets has already won more titles than most
professionals dream of - 10 in three seasons including the 2009
Champions League - and has a chance at Euro 2012 with defending
champions Spain to win the only major title that eludes him.
"It's a dream," Busquets, whose goalkeeper father Carles
played for Barca in the 1990s, told Reuters in an interview
earlier this year.
"Of course you never think that everything will go so well,
that you could achieve so much in so little time," he added.
"But when you look at the team and its philosophy and then
at how it all turned out, well, it was normal."
Playmaker Xavi, who turned 31 in January, is the creative
engine at the heart of the Spain and Barca teams and preventing
him from exerting his customary control will be key to United's
chances of success on Saturday.
Together with Iniesta, he was on a shortlist of three for
this year's World Player of the Year award that went to club
team mate Lionel Messi for a second consecutive year.
One of the reasons for the recent success of Spain and Barca
is the close relationship between the players who learned their
trade in the Catalan club's famed "La Masia" youth school, which
also produced current coach Pep Guardiola, Xavi said this week.
"Playing with people who come from within the club gives you
something extra," Xavi said in an interview with Spanish daily
"We have a very good relationship on and off the pitch. We
invite each other round to our houses, we do things together
away from football," he added.
"I have never experienced that before and I have been here
for 13 years. The players from the youth system provide
commitment and continuity."
Like Xavi, Iniesta has been instrumental in an historic year
for Spanish football, managing to stay free of the injuries that
have dogged his career and netting the dramatic winning goal
against Netherlands in the World Cup final in Johannesburg.
Despite the success, he has not lost the hunger to add to
his 16 career titles, including two Champions Leagues and five
domestic leagues with Barca and the world and European
championships with Spain.
"The European Cup is a very special competition, very
attractive, that gives us all an extra motivation," the
27-year-old, who became a father for the first time this year,
told Barca TV last week.
"I have always seen it as something special and I feel
priveleged to to have been able to enjoy playing in Champions
League games and have the good fortune to win two titles."
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