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Barcelona’s academy director dubbed him “The New Messi.” Is that responsible?

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Patrick Kluivert tells us of a 15-year-old who is the “new Messi.”

Cameroon v Ghana: Group F - 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Photo by Visionhaus

“In La Masia, we already have ‘the New Messi,’” Patrick Kluivert said.

The former Barcelona striker now is the director of the academy, and he proudly declared they had the “new” Lionel Messi under control. He didn’t name who this “new Messi” was, but Cadena SER says it’s a young man named Ilias Akhomach.

Akhomach is only 15 years old, plays on the right wing, and is from Morocco. He’s a part of Barcelona’s U17 (Cadete A) team. He’s known as one of the brightest stars of the academy.

Still, is this sort of label helpful?

Messi himself was once called “the new Diego Maradona.” He comes from a long line of attempts by the press to find an heir to the legendary FIFA World Cup winner. Marcelo Gallardo, Ariel Ortega, Juan Román Riquelme, and Pablo Aimar are just some of the names of forwards or attacking midfielders given the title of “new Maradona.”

Similarly, there is a rush to anoint a “new Messi” or the “Messi of ____,” such as labeling Takefusa Kubo as the “Messi of Japan.”

Time and again, players reject this sort of labeling. It was but a few weeks ago when Andrés Iniesta warned that every player had to be allowed to be themselves, when asked if he saw Arthur and Frenkie de Jong as his heirs.

This level of media spotlight and expectation for someone as young as 15 is also of concern. There have been plenty of players in the Barcelona academy in the past who never came to fulfill their vast potential, such as Jean-Marie Dongou, Gerard Deulofeu, and Bojan Krkić. Would they have been better off with less media attention and less expectations from a young age?

While Akhomach deserves praise for his ability and potential, and we all hope his career continues to blossom, it seems like a mistake to give him a title with so much weight of expectation as “new Messi.”

Iniesta said he could never be the new Michael Laudrup, he had to be the first Iniesta. Similarly, Ilias Akhomach needs to be allowed to be the first Ilias Akhomach, not the “new Messi.”