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Nine players from the Catalan club could all feature in the Confederations Cup final, while the Blaugrana's latest signing leads local hopes of a win at the Maracana on Sunday

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By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Barcelona should sell Lionel Messi. So said Johan Cruyff earlier this week, claiming the Catalan club cannot accommodate both the Argentine and summer signing Neymar in the same side next season. Back in the real world, however, Barca fans need not worry: selling Messi is as far from anyone's mind at Camp Nou as changing the club colours to all white.

Cruyff's opinions seems strange: his own Barcelona side was filled with superstars such as Hristo Stoichkov, Romario and Michael Laudrup and, although problems did arise, this was usually in conflict with the coach himself. And that team - the Dream Team - went on to achieve great things, becoming the first Barca side to clinch a European Cup (in 1992) and winning four straight Liga titles (between 1991 and 1994) following a prolonged period of dominance by Real Madrid.

On Sunday, with Messi missing, Barcelona fans will be given a glimpse of their latest Dream Team as new man Neymar and Dani Alves of Brazil square up to Spain's nine Blaugrana representatives (Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and David Villa) in the final of the Confederations Cup.

Valdes looks likely to be left out following Iker Casillas' impressive performance against Italy in the semi-finals, although coach Vicente del Bosque did rotate his goalkeepers in the group games and the Catalans produced a commanding display in la Roja's 3-0 win over Nigeria.

Jordi Alba scored twice in that match and, alongside Iniesta, has been Spain's shining light in Brazil. The former Valencia left-back has coped with the hot and humid conditions better than any of his team-mates and attacked with boundless energy down his side of the pitch. He and Alves (along with Madrid's Marcelo - who will also play on Sunday) are now perhaps the two most spectacular full-backs in the modern game, even if they can struggle defensively at times.

In central defence, Gerard Pique has continued his brilliant partnership with Sergio Ramos, leading some Barca fans to call for the Catalan club to snap up the Sevilla-born defender from Real Madrid. That won't happen, of course, and Barca continue their search for a top-class centre-back as a long-term replacement for captain Carles Puyol. Their top target, incidentally, is Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.


VICTOR VALDES

Barcelona & Spain


DANI ALVES   
GERARD PIQUE
    JORDI ALBA

Barcelona & Brazil

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Spain


CESC FABREGAS
XAVI
SERGIO BUSQUETS
ANDRES INIESTA

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Spain


PEDRO
DAVID VILLA
NEYMAR

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Spain

Barcelona & Brazil

Meanwhile, the midfield diamond of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas produced a masterclass in Spain's opening group game against Uruguay, impressing again in the win over Nigeria. Xavi has looked a little below his best following another arduous campaign, but has still completed more passes than anyone else, while Iniesta has been hailed by the local press for his brilliant 'Brazilian-style' football. Fabregas picked up an injury against Nigeria and did not feature in the semi-final, but could return in the Sunday showpiece. Whether all four can play at Barca next term in the same side is debatable, but no other team can boast such a majestic midfield.

Further forward, Pedro has failed to live up to his recent superb Spain showings but did score against Uruguay in the opener and has worked hard on the right flank, while Villa netted a hat-trick versus Tahiti only to be left on the bench for the entire 120 minutes of the semi-final - even when Del Bosque's side sought a goal to avoid a penalty shootout in which, in theory, he would have also been a useful man to have around. Villa, Spain's all-time top goalscorer with 56 strikes, is set to leave Barca anyway this summer - probably to join Tottenham.

The XI is completed by Neymar. The Brazilian hit a stunning strike in each of his side's group games and played a pivotal part as the hosts scraped past Uruguay, his wonderful skill setting up the opening strike for Fred following a rebound in the semi-finals.

Starting on the left and dropping deep, Barcelona fans are getting a glimpse of what is to come from Neymar next season at Camp Nou, and with Spain's magical midfield behind him (as well as the last missing ingredient: Messi), they may well lick their lips at the prospect of their latest Dream Team in 2013-14 - whatever Cruyff says.
 
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