BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 07: Barcelona youth players enter La Masia at the Camp Nou stadium on April 7, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. La Masia is the heart of the Barcelona's youth system and a residence for young players that had to leave their home behind to train at FC Barcelona in both a sporting and intelectual way. Coach Josep Guardiola and players such as Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta have lived at La Masia to become the stars of today's game. Because of the succes the name La Masia is now simply used to refer to the Barcelona youth players. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
One thing that has slipped by, relatively unnoticed by even the most hardcore of cules, has been the signing of English youngster Elliot Kebbie.
Kebbie, is a 16 year-old born in Yorkshire, and was previously a member of Leeds’ youth system. As an Englishman, this move surprises me, but also excites me in equal fashion.
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that barely any English players ply their trade outside the British Isles. There is Michael Mancienne who has just moved to Hamburg, but other than that, there are only a few players who do. Unfortunately, they are all lesser players, nowhere near the national side, or veterans, who are looking for one last payday.
Personally, this is what I believe is affecting the national team, a lack of understanding of other tactics, and therefore England have a team that is very limited in its style of play, and distinctly lacking the technical ability to change it.
However, this is a Barcelona blog, so back to the point.
Elliot Kebbie has been attracting interest from all corners of England. Leeds is a historically big club, but currently dwell in the Championship, the second tier of English Football. Rumours had it that Manchester United, Everton and of course, perennial talent vultures, Arsenal were interested, but the player chose Barcelona.
Perhaps the decision was influenced by the current Barcelona love fest, where even the otherwise biased English media cannot find a fault in Guardiola’s sides, though I just think this kid wants to win, and most of all improve as a player, not his coffers.
Kebbie has been tagged as the "New Walcott" and looking at the stats, it’s easy to see why. At just 14 years of age, he clocked a time of 11.5 seconds in the 100m. That is quick, especially for an Englishman. I was quickest at my school, and could "only" run a 12.7 second 100m.
So, we know that Kebbie has pace in abundance, but that is not all a footballer needs. Look at Walcott; at a young age, the world seemed at his feet and Arsenal (of course) noticed this. They bought him for a large sum, and since then, he has disappointed. Yes, he has played well on the odd occasion, but consistency escapes him, and the boy wonder is now 22, and in desperate need of a breakout season to salvage his stuttering career.
One major criticism of Walcott is that he has the speed, but then negates it with a poor footballing brain, that is slow to make decisions, and even then, they are often the wrong one to make. Kebbie knows he has pace, but by joining La Masia, he has acknowledged that he needs to develop his "football brain" and has found the perfect place to do so.
Do not expect Kebbie to be ready for a debut anytime soon. There will be players ahead of him, players who have had their whole childhood to perfect the Barca style, but remember the name. He could well be something special.
On the lines of Barca’s youth set-up, this move indicates a change in policy. A team that has succeeded without "true wingers" is now finding some, and moulding them into the Barca build. Gerard Deulofeu nearly made his first team debut earlier in the season, and he too is a true winger, with dribbling skills reminiscent of a younger, more raw, Messi.
Whatever’s going on at Barcelona, it’s looking promising, and with an English player on board, I am very happy at the moment.
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