Tuesday, 23 September 2008

An introduction to the coming stars

The underlying tone that there aren't any guys coming through anymore, is of course ridiculous, even more after we started again with six cantera guys on Sunday (plus Bojan entering and Piqué and Pedro on the bench), but although it's not always accurate, this article from football site Goal is nevertheless a nice first introduction of part of the Barcelona Atlètic squad.

Who Will be The Next Barcelona Success Story?

Ewan Macdonald -

Every team loves to have a local boy made good among their ranks, and Barcelona are no exception. Indeed, the sense of Catalan pride at Camp Nou arguably makes it a greater mission for the blaugrana than it is at clubs of comparable size.

In recent seasons, though, youth players have been thin on the ground in the first team. Bojan Krkic and Giovani Dos Santos aside, the number of youngsters coming through has been very low (and the number of Catalans lower.)

Txiki Begiristain, the sporting director, has been criticised for this by some quarters. It is thought that he has allowed some players to leave without first giving them a chance to prove that they could make the grade. There's something to be said for this theory when one looks at the Camp Nou alumni making it big elsewhere, and as recently as this summer the likes of Marc Crosas and Marc Valiente have been shuffled off.

But at the same time, many of their compatriots have begun to carve out roles in the first team, however modest. Much of this must be down to the choice of coach: Pep Guardiola, who bossed many of these hopefuls in the B squad, is now in charge of the first team. He is certainly using this opportunity to give some of his protégés a chance further up.

Yet some fans will ask, exactly who are these players? None of them are as readily recognised as a big-money signing, and some have only a year of Segunda B experience to their names so far. Here we'll look at some of FCB's top young players who are looking to, or who already have made the breakthrough into the senior squad.

Oier Olazábal (Goalkeeper, born 14 September 1989)
At 19 Oier has already appeared for the first team, albeit in the Copa del Rey, and has won a place on the bench on a few occasions due to Albert Jorquera's injury. However, with José Manuel Pinto in the squad, prospects of further appearances seem to be limited - quite a surprise considering that he only arrived at Barça B in 2007 from hometown club Real Union de Irún.

Pedro Rodríguez (Winger/Forward, born 28 July 1987)
Not a Catalan, but certainly a Barcelona product - at least as a senior player. As a sixteen-year-old he played for San Isidro in the Canary Islands section of the Tercera División, but was promptly whisked off to the Barcelona 'Juvenil' setup after being talent-spotted by the blaugrana. Since then he's played on the flanks for the B team, racking up a respectable goal tally but being prized more for his assists than his striking ability. So far he has made five competitive appearances for the first team, but with the front line being extremely crowded with talent he may have to wait for an injury to the likes of Lionel Messi before getting much more of a chance to start.

Sergi Busquets (Central Midfielder, born 16 July 1988)
Prior to this season Sergi's main run-outs with the big boys came in the Copa Catalunya, which, it is fair to say, is not the leading competition for Barcelona. But apparently Busquets has seized his chances to impress because he has come from seemingly nowhere to become a leading youth player at Barcelona. So much has he struck Pep Guardiola as a talent that he even started away to Sporting Gijón in the Liga on Sunday evening. A powerhouse who has bulked up impressively, considering his age, Busquets could well be the most promising player of the current batch.

Víctor Sánchez (Centre-Back, born 8 September 1987)
At just 5'8", Víctor doesn't look like a centre-back, but the ex-CE Europa boy has nonetheless won the confidence of Luis Enrique and Guardiola both. The fact that he can push forward into midfield helps a lot. Pacy and energetic, his ability to play high up the pitch could see him drafted in as an option to play alongside a more imposing stopper against forwards who enjoy running onto through balls - just what FCB need in some games.

Víctor Vázquez (Deep-Lying Forward, born 20 January 1987)
A real local boy, Víctor grew up in L'Hospitalet with the dream of making it big with Barcelona. Having already appeared in the Copa del Rey and on a few Liga match lists, he's only played one first team game so far in the Liga due to injury concerns and great squad competition. Obscurity could await him, but on the other hand his versatility could see him drafted in to fill one of many gaps. He just needs to stay fit to have a chance.

Jeffrén Suárez (Winger, born 20 January 1987)
Born in Venezuela, Jeffrén has been with the blaugrana since he was a young teenager. A key influence in the B team's return to the Segunda B last year, he was rewarded with a key role in Barcelona's pre-season campaign, where he scored not once, but twice. A Liga debut cannot be too far away for this winger, who relishes the chance to cut inside. However, squad competition may be his downfall.

Xavi Torres (Defensive Midfielder, born November 21 1986)
Only recently did the 21-year-old Torres arrive at Camp Nou, having cut his youth teeth with Villarreal. The Alicante-born midfielder can also play at centre-back, although at under six feet tall he is at an aerial disadvantage. The fact that Busquets shares his position means that first team action could be beyond him for the most part, although he could get a chance in the cups.

Gai Assulin (Attacker, born 9 April 1991)
At just 17 years of age, 'Gai' is a full Israel international who has recently won fulsome praise from B team coach Luis Enrique. Like many others he is disadvantaged by the fact that Barcelona's squad remains so top-heavy, but having hit eight goals during the B team's rise to the Segunda B, he is starting to catch the eyes of the senior squad. He's not in the Champions League pool, but expect a league debut towards the end of the season.

Thiago Alcántara (Midfielder, born 11 April 1991)
Like Gai, time is on his side: he's still just 17 years old. One of the more cosmopolitan players in Barça's ranks, the Italy-born midfielder's father is Mazinho, an ex-footballer from Brazil. (In any case, he shares a surname with Pelé.) Thiago was expected to be one of the next big things in the midfield already, and it's a bit of a worry that Busquets has jumped him in the queue, but he still has lots of time to develop.


Anonymous said...

Thiago and Gai !!

Anonymous said...

Ithink Mino has a better chance of making it than Oier. I dont really know about some of the other guys but thiago, gai, jeffren definitely.

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