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Barcelona youth development has 'fallen asleep' - Xavi

Barcelona became complacent after producing so many homegrown players during their era of success under Pep Guardiola, Xavi Hernandez has said in an interview with The Tactical Room.

Guardiola's Barca side was defined by La Masia graduates -- Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, among others -- but the presence of academy players in the first team has decreased in recent seasons.

Sergi Roberto, 25, is the last player to come through the club's youth system and establish himself in the first team, although even he is not guaranteed a regular spot under Ernesto Valverde when the new season begins.

"I think, in general, Barca became a bit complacent," Xavi said. "I'm sure people thought: 'There's Puyol, Iniesta, [Lionel] Messi, [Victor] Valdes, [Gerard] Pique ... Pedro and [Sergio] Busquets are coming though. This is all going well. Surely every two years or so more players will come through, too.'

"But it's not like that, that's not how things work. I learned to play in La Masia, not in the first team. The academy coaches have to develop players, they have to teach. Winning the [youth] league doesn't matter. You have to form players at that age. If you win, good, but it's not the objective."

Iniesta, Messi and Xavi were all products of Barcelona's youth academy.

Barca B have been promoted back to the second tier of Spanish football for the forthcoming seasons and the club hope that will help to bridge the gap between the first team and the second team.

However, Xavi says he doesn't think too much importance should be put on the promotion, adding: "I'm glad for them but it's not essential. Guardiola took over the B team in the fourth division and took Busquets and Pedro into the first team -- Jeffren, Victor Sanchez and Bojan, too.

"The B team being in the second or third division doesn't matter. The main point is to develop players for a certain style of play. That's the priority."

Barca have high hopes for B team players Sergi Palencia, Marc Cucurella and Carles Alena -- all three of whom flew out with the first team on the U.S. tour on Wednesday -- but Xavi says there should be more players ready to make the step up.

"The first question is: How many players have the ability to play for the first team?" Xavi continued. "Right now, the answer's not positive. The B team's objective is to have six, eight, even 10 players with the potential to go straight into the first team. Not two or three.

"The first team coach needs to rely on the full-back or the midfielder if players get injured. That's why there's an academy. And, in general, I think Barcelona have fallen asleep in that regard."

The Catalan club have acknowledged that things have not gone as well as expected in the past few years and have responded by restructuring things behind the scenes this summer.

Pep Segura has been promoted to a general manager role to help oversee the links between the first team and the academy, while former players Jose Mari Bakero and Guillermo Amor have taken joint charge of the club's professional youth football area.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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