Real Madrid and Barcelona may add another chapter to world football’s greatest rivalry this weekend, but the presence of these two giants won’t only be felt in Madrid on Saturday night.

The El Clasico rivals boast two of the very best academies in European football, with the Catalan side’s La Masia and the capital city club’s La Fábrica both famous for their non-stop production lines


They’ve produced past LaLiga Santander legends such as Xavi, Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Raúl and Guti, plus current stars such as Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Dani Carvajal, Nacho and Lucas Vázquez. While several of the players who pass through these elite academies go on to star for the senior sides of these clubs, many others move on and make a name for themselves at other teams, both in Spain and abroad.

In fact, a report published by the CIES Football Observatory at the end of 2018 found that Real Madrid have more academy graduates playing for clubs in the top five European leagues (LaLiga Santander in Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France) than any other institution, with 36.

Barcelona were third in this ranking with 34 graduates playing in the top European leagues, behind second-placed Lyon’s total of 35.

Looking even further afield, the report found that Real Madrid have 53 former youth players competing in the top divisions of the best 31 European leagues, while Barcelona have 47 graduates of La Masia plying their trade in the 30 other top leagues outside of Spain.

While this may be an impressive achievement for Real Madrid and Barcelona, the statistics also reflect tremendously on the rest of Spanish football.

The report also outlined how well other Spanish clubs’ academies are doing; eight other LaLiga Santander academies find themselves in the top 50 for representatives cross the top five leagues.

Athletic Club were fourth on the list, with 26 former pupils from their Lezama academy competing in the top divisions in Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France, while their Basque neighbours Real Sociedad were in eighth with 23 graduates from their Zubieta academy.

Also representing Spain in this ranking were Atlético de Madrid (joint 10th with 21), Espanyol (joint 16th with 18), Valencia (joint 16th with 18), Celta Vigo (joint 28th with 14), Sevilla (joint 28th with 14) and Villarreal (joint 49th with 11).

The fact that half of all current LaLiga Santander clubs make this ranking of the 50 most productive academies is indicative of the healthy state of youth development in LaLiga. Long may it continue!