With Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool dragging their feet on the Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho transfers, respectively, Gerard Deulofeu is the favorite to start in the first leg of Barcelona’s Spanish Supercup clash against Real Madrid this Sunday.
This summer, the winger rejoined the team that brought him up since age six until 19, after passing through Everton, Sevilla, and AC Milan. Barcelona exercised their buyback clause to bring him back on the cheap. The suspicion was they were trying to move him on for a profit. This was a business move, no more, they said.
But something unexpected happened: Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain. Suddenly the left wing starting berth was available. Deulofeu may not have it in the long term, but in the short term, he probably does. It doesn’t hurt that he impressed in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Chapecoense. Sure, the situation is completely different to El Clasico, but he only helped his case in that friendly.
Deulofeu was considered one of La Masia’s top prospects when he was a teenager. But his loan spells have been inconsistent. His quality has not been doubted, but his mentality, maturity, and decision-making have. Sure, he can go past people. But will he defend and sacrifice himself? Will he pick the right pass or will he try for the highlight reel play that doesn’t come off?
He’s only 23, but the suspicion now is that if there’s ever a time for Deulofeu to get it together and approach the game with the right mentality, it’s now. He may never get a better chance to prove he’s Barcelona quality than starting El Clasico, even if it’s only the Supercup.