FC Barcelona: Top 5 Current Barca B Prospects Most Likely to Shine in 2012
One of the things that makes FC Barcelona such an incredible team is its ability to constantly call up top-level talent from its youth system.
This season, Isaac Cuenca has been called up from Barca B and has put in some spectacular performances, and before him Pedro, Sergio Busquets and more have done the same.
Now, as we look forward to 2012, another year in which FC Barcelona will attempt to dominate their opponents in every possible competition, we take a look at the five Barca B talents most likely to make the breakthrough into the first team.
Here they are.
1. Martin Montoya
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Martin Montoya is a right back currently plying his trade with Barcelona B.
Despite having only made one appearances in the Champions League with Barcelona this season (he scored in this appearance), Montoya has a very bright future ahead of him with Barcelona for a number of reasons.
For one, he recently signed a contract extension that will last until 2014, meaning that Barcelona are definitely interested in retaining his services.
Secondly, he has already been called up to Spain's full national team, after starting for Spain's U-21 team at the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, which Spain won.
Finally, right back is not a position in which Barcelona have much depth at. Daniel Alves, Barcelona's starting right back, functions more as a right winger than a right back. Beyond him, Barcelona have only Carles Puyol who can play right back.
Like Alves, right back is only a secondary position for Puyol, who is more adept and more used to playing as a center back.
Having been a member of Barcelona's academy since 1999 and a Barca B player since 2009, Martin Montoya's time to shine will likely arrive sooner than later.
2. Marc Bartra
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Marc Bartra is another gifted defender with a great deal of experience in Barca B.
Bartra has made 70 appearances for Barca B, slightly more than Martin Montoya, and has been a regular in Spain's Under-21 side since the end of the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship.
He has signed a contract extension till 2014, with a buyout significantly greater than that of Montoya.
Finally, like Montoya, Bartra has the benefit of playing in a position which Barcelona does not have great depth in.
At center back, Barcelona have only Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, both of which have been rather injury-prone as of late (especially the latter).
Barcelona also have Javier Mascherano and Andreu Fontas, as well as Sergio Busquets, who can all play at center back, but Busquets is known to be significantly weaker as a center back than as a defensive midfielder, while Fontas has yet to prove himself to be a reliable backup to Pique or Puyol.
Like Montoya, Bartra's time will surely come sooner rather than later.
3. Cristian Tello
Cristian Tello's story is a tad different from that of Bartra and Montoya.
Unlike the previous two Barca B players, Tello has not spent the entirety of his youth career with FC Barcelona.
Eager to play at higher level than academy football, Tello left Barcelona's academy to join Espanyol's in 2008, and found himself in Espanyol B for the 2009-10 season.
However, after Espanyol B were relegated to the third division of Spanish football, Tello transferred over to Barcelona B.
In a season and a half at Barcelona B, Tello has scored eight goals and earned regular call-ups to Spain's U-20 national team as well.
Most recently, he played especially well in Barcelona's 9-0 demolition of L'Hospitalet, scoring two goals and assisting another. Even though his goals and assist came after the match was well and truly over, he was selected as Man of the Match by Goal.com for his contributions.
With Isaac Cuenca continuing to perform well, and Ibrahim Afellay, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez also available to play on the wings in 2012 (and David Villa eventually), Tello may have to wait a while to make his breakthrough with the first team.
Nevertheless, in due time he will likely become a member of Barcelona's first team, especially since his contract with Barcelona B was recently extended.
4. Jonathan Dos Santos
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The younger of the Dos Santos brothers, Jonathan dos Santos has been on the periphery of Barcelona's first team for some time now.
Since 2009, Jonathan dos Santos has been called up by Pep Guardiola to travel with the first team on their preseason tours, and has featured in 16 official matches for Barcelona's first team already.
As evidence of how highly valued he is at Barcelona, he has a contract which runs until 2015 and has a buyout clause of €30 million.
As a Mexican, Dos Santos has been a full international for some time now.
He has had a number of altercations with his national team, after being left off of his nation's 2010 World Cup squad, 2011 Gold Cup squad and sent home from the 2011 Copa America, but he remains a bright talent who will likely play many games for his country in the future.
Dos Santos has been used largely as a defensive midfielder by Pep Guardiola. Even though he prefers to play as a central midfielder, he has made it clear that he is comfortable playing in either position.
This is especially important given that Dos Santos is likely not to be given any chances as a regular central midfielder for Barcelona, but could prove to be useful as a backup to Sergio Busquets, especially as Seydou Keita gets older.
5. Sergi Roberto
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There were a lot of candidates for this spot. Femenia Kiko, Carles Planas and of course Gerard Deulofeu were all names I considered including.
However, for various reasons, I decided to leave them off in favor of Sergi Roberto.
At just 19 years old, Sergi Roberto is the youngest player on this list.
However, he's already progressed far enough as a player to be called up to Spain's U-21 squad, and has made two appearances for Barcelona this season, scoring in one (in the Champions League) and assisting a goal in the other (in the Copa del Rey).
Furthermore, his contract was renewed this year until June 2015.
As an attacking midfielder, Sergi Roberto is unlikely to be called up to the first team any time soon as FC Barcelona's first team is filled with attacking midfielder options in the form of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta and Ibrahim Afellay.
However, before Sergi Roberto becomes 21, I expect him to break into the first team.
At present, those are my picks for the five Barca B stars most likely to shine in 2012. Is there anyone else you expect to break into the first team in 2012? Anyone on this list who you think won't be good enough in 2012 to break into the first team? Please leave your input in the comments section below.