La Masia: home to some of the finest footballers the planet has ever seen. But more than that, it has imbibed within its players a style of football which radiates freedom, quality and pure, unbridled love for the game. The tiki taka setup perfectly synchronised to its core matches the heartbeat of this club and that is who we are – we are millions but our heart beats the same.
But lately the footballing world has shown how dynamic and cruel times can be and this is the time of money, it always was but now, it’s more than ever. The first team has been criticised lately for improper squad depth and accumulating too much deadwood.
With Andre Gomes, Aleix Vidal, Rafinha, Paco Alcacer and Lucas Digne apparently set to leave the club, it’s the perfect time for Ernesto Valverde to look for reinforcements, and he should begin with La Masia starlets who could make the step up. Here are six players who deserve a shot at the first team:
It’s more or less obvious that this starlet is born to rule the Barca midfield. He’s creative, dribbles well, has great vision and most importantly: has the all-important Barca DNA. He scored eleven goals last season and featured for the first team in the Copa del Rey. Ernesto Valverde has already confirmed he wants him in his squad next season, but he’ll have to wait for him to return to fitness after undergoing surgery earlier this month.
Abel Ruiz is the star Barcelona needs. In recent times, our B team players have chosen other clubs in search of first team action. In spite of this, Ruiz has signed a new contract that has a €100 million release clause. The faith this 18-year-old shows in his ability and his club is tremendous and rewarding. A forward with an eye for a goal, he runs like a pro athlete and causes trouble every time he touches the ball. No wonder he has earned his major contract at such a young age. Definitely deserves a chance to show what he is.
Palencia has the most appearances as a B team player and has the credentials to fill the most problematic and worrying spot in the first team at right-back. The Barcelona B captain is a cool presence at the back, covers tremendous distance and most importantly, is a born leader. The names Alex Grimaldo and Hector Bellerin are gentle reminders for the board to not commit the same mistake again.
What qualities does an ideal full-back possess? To start with, he has tremendous acceleration and pace to take the ball on a roll, exquisite crossing ability to tear apart defences and a sixth sense that allows him be at the right place at the right time. Enter Marc Cucurella, the player who almost possesses all of these, almost. He can be the ideal successor to Jordi Alba and can learn a lot from him. At 19 years of age, he is ready to show the club what he is made of.
A late bloomer who is shining down the wings, he’s a tad older than the other options. At 22, he might not be a bright spark but he is definitely the one who can adapt quickly to the system. He has lightning fast feet, likes to dribble and and scores world class goals. Several European clubs including Arsenal are reportedly interested but Arnaiz believes he can make the cut. Valverde should definitely take a peek at him as he can be the right backup for Ousmane Dembele. If selected, expect some worldlies from this lad.
Barcelona’s biggest failure in recent history is an inept backup to a world class squad. While riding high with two trophies already won, the club should not forget that it doesn’t have a proper backup for Sergio Busquets. Described by many pundits and coaches as the anchor of the team, Valverde has a tough job selecting the right man for this position. Samper couldn’t do it, Gomes isn’t proving anything either. Enter his namesake Oriol Busquets (with no relation to Sergio whatsoever): he plays through the middle of the park, likes to absorb pressure, cemented his position in the B team and dribbles similar to the way our number 5 does. The only downside is Busquets suffered a serious knee injury in February which was expected to rule him out for five months. When he’s back fit and firing it’s an obvious decision that he is made for that spot, for that coveted jersey. When people say coincidences aren’t real, show them this lad.