Barcelona: 6 Players Set to Emerge at Camp Nou Next Season
Even a comfortable Cope del Rey win over Athletic Bilbao was not enough to paper over the obvious cracks that have developed throughout a disappointing season.
Pep Guardiola will admit things could have gone a lot better in his final season as head coach. Ultimately, Champions League and La Liga failures left a bitter taste to a season that promised so much.
Of course, it's not all doom and gloom at Camp Nou. However, Tito Vilanova will certainly have his work cut out if Barcelona are to regain the two titles that matter most.
While there is money available to spend, the new man in charge may be best served by promoting from within the ranks.
Here are five players who could well make their mark next season...
6) Marc Bartra, Defender
Marc Bartra will be a familiar name to fans due to his debut goal against Malaga on the last day of the 2010/11 La Liga season.
It was a timely reminder to management by Bartra, and many thought he would go on to become a regular this season.
However, despite injuries and suspensions to many of the first team's defenders; Bartra was left to continue his exploits for Barca B without ever getting a real chance to show what he can do.
With question marks over the future of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, Bartra could well get his big chance sooner rather than later.
5) Rafinha Alcantara, Attacking Midfielder
Brother of Thiago, Rafinha joined Barcelona's youth ranks at the tender age of just 13 and has already represented Spain at three different youth levels.
Having completed his first full season with Barcelona B, and scoring an impressive seven goals in 37 appearances, Alcantara has the ability to play just off the striker or in a wider role if necessary.
The 19-year-old made his senior debut earlier this season when replacing Cesc Fabregas for the last 15 minutes of Barcelona's 1-0 win at L'Hospitalet in the Super Cup.
Despite playing for Spain at the junior level, his older brother has told the media that Rafa will play international football for Brazil, if and when selected for the senior squads.
That will be a big blow to Spain, but Barcelona will be reaping all the benefits as it will surely mean he is consistently performing to a high standard domestically.
4) Jean Marie Dongou, Striker
Described by many as the next Samuel Eto'o, Jean Marie Dongou has ability to burn and looks to be a potential superstar in the making.
Only 17, Dongou has been fast-tracked into the Barcelona B side and it now seems inevitable the striker will be a regular in the first-team squad next season.
Born in Cameroon. Dongou moved to Barcelona at 13 after playing in the Samuel Eto'o Foundation. Quick, tall and athletic, Dongou has all the attributes to be the next big thing at Camp Nou.
Making 12 appearances for Barca B this season, and with four Under-20 caps for Cameroon, Dongou has now also competed in the NextGen Series—the youth equivalent of the Champions League.
Although the likes of Neymar are being talked about as the next big signing, Vilanova could be much better served by promoting from within. Dongou would certainly be near the front of that queue.
3) Gerard Deulofeu, Forward
Gerard Deulofeu could be one of the most exciting prospects at the club and a huge reason why the future looks so bright.
He has been with the club since he was under 10 years old, and made his Barcelona B debut while still registered as a junior.
Having represented Spain at Under 16, 17 and currently at the Under-19 level, Deulofeu has excelled on the international stage and continually impressed an array of coaches.
Barca management holds the 18-year-old in the highest regard. The youngster's hard work was rewarded with his first senior appearance when replacing David Villa in a comfortable 5-0 over Real Mallorca last October.
After scoring seven goals and with plenty of assists, expect to see Deulofeu heavily involved in the Catalan's pre-season programme.
2) Martin Montoya, Right-Back
Montoya will be well known to fans after breaking into the first team towards the end of the season.
Admired by many at club and international level, Montoya was called up to the senior Spain squad by coach Vincente del Bosque despite playing only two games for Barcelona's first team.
However, the 21-year-old has the unfortunate task of trying to oust Daniel Alves from the right-back slot, which is easier said than done.
It's been a frustrating few seasons for the youngster, but many believe he will be given a bigger role to play in the forthcoming campaign.
Valencia have been linked with a move for the defender to replace Miguel, so Barca would be wise to give Montoya some playing time soon.
1) Cristian Tello, Forward
Probably in pole position to emerge as the next big star at Camp Nou, Tello has produced some great moments in his breakthrough season.
Comfortable on either wing or as a central striker, the 20-year-old was probably as surprised as anyone at the amount of playing time he was given by Pep Guardiola this year.
Nevertheless, the youngster did not disappoint in the slightest. He scored an impressive seven goals in 22 appearances, making him a fan favorite in the process.
Power, speed and the ability to take his time when presented with a goalscoring chance was more than enough for Guardiola to put his trust in the forward for a variety of big games.
However, with the return of David Villa and the prospect of another incoming striker, Tello has been the subject of transfer speculation. Many think he could be the one to make way if Vilanova wants to make a big pre-season signing.
Selling Tello could prove to be one of the bigger mistakes the Barca board make. Yes, he would bring in plenty of money, but the Under-23 international could be an indispensable player for many years to come.
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