Barcelona have a rich history of producing great young players from their La Masia Academy. They have a longstanding reputation for producing outstanding talents that are good enough to play for their first team, often via their second-tier B-team. In the current team, the likes of Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and the great Lionel Messi graduated from La Masia. Who could we be seeing next?
We take a look at three burgeoning talents of La Masia and which current pros they could potentially challenge for a place in Barca’s prestigious squad.
An Under-17 European Championship winner with Spain, this attacking right-back has gone from strength to strength in Barca’s Under-19s. At 18, he still has plenty of time to develop his game to head coach Ernesto Valverde’s liking. Operating from the right would see Morey playing directly behind superstar Messi (in his usual role) so he would have to up his game to operate on the same level. This is something the player seems intent on, having seemingly rejected advances from German giants Bayern Munich recently.
Like any attack-minded defender, you wonder how good a young player like Mateu Morey would be up against a world-class left-winger – an Eden Hazard or Leroy Sane-type player. Barcelona’s current right-back Nelson Semedo has made the position his own and is equally adept defending as he moves forward at pace. In the past though, this has been a problem position for Barca, with midfielder Sergi Roberto deployed there and Aleix Vidal not living up to expectations. Semedo has been the first player to hit the level of his excellent predecessor Dani Alves. Should he decide to move on for whatever reason, there would be a clear opening for a young right-back like Mateu Morey.
For a young man to be compared to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta is something quite special and if 19-year old Puig is anything like as good as some commentators are saying, then Barca have another starlet worth nurturing. The ability to pass and move like Barca’s midfield maestros of old is perhaps less of a necessity as it was in the days of Pep Guardiola, though a player with the same wondrous guile, intelligence, agility and poise is not to be sniffed at by any club. Puig has already made his first team bow, so there is obviously room in Valverde’s plans for this young man.
There is a lot of competition for places in midfield, what with Carles Alena stepping up. Supplanting internationals Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Kevin Prince Boateng won’t be easy either. And with Brazilian wonderkid Arthur brought in from Gremio to complete Valverde’s midfield, you have to wonder if there is room at this moment in time for anybody else. Perhaps next season?
A goalscorer of much renown and fanfare at youth level and already plying his trade for Barcelona B. At just 18, this forward is considered too good for Barca’s Under-19s and has featured in the centre and as a wide forward, displaying versatility. This will certainly help him fulfil a role in the first team. The issue for Ruiz may be getting game time when he must compete with some of world football’s biggest stars.
Messi’s recent winner against title-rivals Atletico Madrid gave him more victories in La Liga games than any other player, surpassing the record held by Iker Casillas. Barca are now on the brink of a league and European double, holding a convincing 3-0 lead over Premier League Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final. Getting past the Argentina striker, as well as strike partner Luis Suarez, would be some feat. However, Valverde has recently revealed that he plans to rest Messi in upcoming games as he prepares for the club’s end-of-season showdowns: enough to see La Liga betting odds on them tumble, perhaps, but an opportunity for younger guns like Abel Ruiz to stake a claim in his stead.
With talents like Morey, Puig, Ruiz and several others clamouring to force their way into the first-team picture, it is bound to be an exciting few years for Barca fans. Watching such players grow and evolve is one of the pleasures of the modern game and these three are sure to go on to achieve great things.