Gerard Deulofeu's name has been on the lips of cules for a while now. Some have even followed his progress from the tender age of 14, when the football world began to take note of his prodigious talent. It seems, however, that the flying blonde winger may finally be coming of age.
While most Barca fans would have been paying attention to Barcelona's potentially tricky fixture against Levante, Barca B hosted the recently relegated Racing Santander in the afternoon Catalan sun. Arguably, the 4-0 scoreline reflected the struggles of Racing more than the brilliance of Barca's youngsters, but there was no questioning the quality of Deulofeu's outstanding performance.
The 18-year-old put his side ahead on 13 minutes from the penalty spot, setting the scene for what would be a torrid day for Racing. The number seven dribbled defenders for fun, time and time again as he cut in off either flank, utilising exquisite control and explosiveness often associated with another star in Barcelona.
This solo goal on halftime perfectly showcased his ability (and Racing's abysmal defence). Receiving the ball on the right flank, Deulofeu trots past his marker, shuffles through a seemingly nonexistent space between two defenders, rounds the keeper and chips the ball home from a sharp angle.
It is an extraordinary piece of skill, but if you watch him regularly it really comes as no surprise. The young winger has been toying with Segunda defences this season, and set up Luis Alberto for the fourth goal of the day after leaving more defenders flat-footed. A wonderful assist in itself, but not quite as good as this one against Numancia a few weeks ago (seriously... click the link, you will not regret it).
Deulofeu now sits top of Segunda's Pichichi ladder with eight goals from just seven starts (via WhoScored.com). Indeed, his superb form was acknowledged just last week when he was given a brief run-out with the first team against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League. Perhaps this week's second leg clash at home to Alaves in the Copa Del Rey, however, represents Deulofeu's best chance to show his wares on the big stage. With Barca taking a three goal buffer to the Camp Nou, it is widely expected that Tito Vilanova will field a youthful starting eleven.
Barcelona's technical staff, however, must be careful with their crown jewel and slowly integrate him into the first team's set up. After all, he is but 18 years of age. Speaking with Goal.com, Barcelona B coach Jordi Mestre has suggested Barca will heed patience with Deulofeu. "We must take things slowly...and we must make sure the history of Bojan doesn't repeat itself".
If Barca does wait patiently and the youngster continues to impress, we could have but another star breaking out of La Masia. The idea of a Deulofeu-Messi-Neymar attacking trio in the future is just mouthwatering...
Would you like to see Deulofeu play this Wednesday for Barca? Are you excited about his future? Please leave your thoughts. I love to hear from readers.