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La Masia talents key to Barcelona’s rebuild

The youngsters offer hope amid the club’s financial crisis

VfB Stuttgart v FC Barcelona - Pre-Season Friendly Match Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Following the denouement of the 2021 summer transfer window, Barcelona’s involvement can be characterised by their ongoing financial struggles.

The club have been outed by many for making poor monetary decisions which ultimately led to six-time Ballon d’Or winner and GOAT Lionel Messi being forced out of the Catalan dressing room.

As the club look to recover from their losses, we take a look at the shining lights and new prospects that can save the blaugrana crest and rejuvenate the squad.

Barcelona’s New No. 10

The shock transfer news of the summer, aside from Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, was Lionel Messi’s departure from the Camp Nou, leaving the No. 10 jersey vacant.

While it will certainly take more than just one player to fill the boots the Argentine left behind, one youngster has already been assigned the shirt for the 2021-22 season and it is none other than star man, Ansu Fati.

At just 18 years of age, Fati has already accumulated 41 first team appearances, scoring 13 goals for the blaugranes. Giving him the sacred no. 10 jersey is a huge show of faith by Barca.

Another youth player who has been labelled by some as ‘the next Andres Iniesta’ is Catalonia’s own Riqui Puig. The 22-year-old central midfielder has been imitating Phil Foden in his slow breakthrough into the first team ranks since the 2018-19 season.

Blessed with undoubtable talent, the youngster has struggled to rise through the ranks not because of a measured approach (like that of Pep Guardiola with Phil Foden), but instead because of his strained relationship with manager Ronald Koeman.

Koeman has been vocal in the past of allowing Puig to leave on loan to get more game time elsewhere, but the no. 6 is adamant he wants to stay and fight for his place in the squad.

Recent reports have claimed president Joan Laporta has told Koeman that Puig needs to play and fans will be hoping he will get opportunities this season. Koeman is a hard man to please, but the hope is Puig can do enough to make a case for being starter in the coach’s eyes.

FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad - La Liga Santander Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Puig is not the only midfielder trying to break into the first team. Gavi became the fourth youngest player to debut for Barcelona in La Liga against Getafe, while Nico Gonzalez is already being tipped to be the long-term replacement for Sergio Busquets.

Looking at the defense, and who will join the man labelled future Barcelona president, Gerard Pique, are two La Masia prodigies Eric Garcia and Oscar Mingueza.

Garcia has just returned as a free agent from his four-year spell with Premier League champions, Manchester City. The Spaniard struggled to break into the English side’s star-studded line-up thanks to their success with Ruben Dias and John Stones.

However, Pep Guardiola made it known he was a fan of Garcia and at just 20 years of age, the central defender looks set to shine for the culé side for years to come.

Mingueza on the other hand, has been with Barcelona since he first signed back in 2007. He was called up to the first team on a regular basis last season, playing at right-back and in central defence, but has now officially been registered as a first team player.

His versatility was what attracted Ronald Koeman and, as only two years Garcia’s senior, he too could feature with the Catalans for years to come. The departure of Emerson Royal may also mean more game time for Mingueza on the right of the defence.

Next, although not a product of La Masia, one of the most exciting talents in football, let alone in Catalonia, is Spain’s 18-year-old midfielder Pedri. The wonderkid shone during Euro 2020 being voted Young Player of the Tournament, as well as being the only Spanish player to feature in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament.

Pedri will return after the international break raring to go and fresh from an overdue holiday. The youngster should also be riding a huge wave of confidence following a successful summer that culminated in a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

A quick look at Barca B also shows a host of exciting talent ready and waiting for a first-team chance. Ilias Akhomach, Kays Ruiz, Nils Mortimer, Peque, Arnau Comas, Alejandro Balde, Arnau Tenas, Lucas de Vega and goalkeepers Inaki Pena and Arnau Tenas just some of the players it’s worth keeping an eye out for.

Current squad stand strong

Athletic Club v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The club’s veterans are also playing a role with Barcelona having already confirmed that their major experienced players have agreed to take pay cuts. Gerard Pique was the first to step up, followed by Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. Sergi Roberto is expected to soon follow suit.

This news should signify a message for the opposing teams that money is not what the players are after, instead they look to defend the Barcelona badge.

While many currently look at the Catalan side as a squad in the shadow of their outstanding success under managers like Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, I would argue they are a rebuilding side that show promise of success to come in the next few years.

While a Champions League trophy may not be due by summer of 2022, the potential and excitement fans will get from watching a new generation of players such as Pedri, Gavi, Nico, and Ansu Fati offers plenty of optimism for the future.