Youngster Pepe played big part in Ipswich Town’s Barcelona voyage


- Credit: AP

It spawned arguably the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, and has developed the careers of other footballing superstars, including Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

But today and tomorrow, ‘La Masia’, the sacred home of Barcelona’s academy since 2002, will host Ipswich Town’s under-13 team.

The youngsters, who jetted out to Spain yesterday, face the mighty Barcelona as well as fellow city club, Espanyol.

The unlikely arrangement was made possible by a young Barca under-13 player, known as Pepe by staff at Portman Road, who is currently studying in Suffolk.

“Pepe asked if he could come and train with us for a few sessions,” said Town’s academy director Bryan Klug. “We liked what we saw and as a result, his father was able to speak to the Barcelona academy and arrange the trip.

“We then needed a way to fund it and we are grateful to Kieron Dyer, whose son Kie plays in the team and a number of other sponsors for making the trip possible.

“A chance to play against the top teams in the workd does not copme along very often, so we are delighted that we have been given this chance.”

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During their stay, Town’s youngsers will also get the chance to tour the Nou Camp Stadium, ahead of Tito Vilanova’s side’s Champions League second-leg quarter-final tie with Paris Saint Germain, tomorrow.

Asked if the youngsters appreciated the enormity of visiting one of the world’s elite clubs, Klug added:

“I think they do.

“We always talk to them quite a lot about how Barcelona play and about the fantastic players they have at their disposal.

“We can’t all play at the same quality but we try and achieve as near as we can.

“The players are excited as are the coaches who are desperate to get out there to see as much as they can. It is a learning experience for them too and we have tried to take as many as we can.”

As well as Messi, Iniesta and Xavil, La Masia has also brought through the likes of Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes and former Town loan favourite, Giovani Dos Santos.

Barca’s academy also holds the honour of producing all three finalists in the 2010 Ballon d’Or.

The other sponsors that have helped fund the trip are Chelmsford Plastic Warehouse, Elite Renewables, WS Finance Consultants Ltd and Suffolk New College.