Brilliant Youth Policy at Barcelona May Reap Rewards with Gerard Deulofeu
In all honesty, there is no clever or concise way to write about the meticulously constructed brilliance of the La Masia academy and the phenomenal players it puts out season after season.
In the current squad, there are but a handful of players who were not groomed in the youth teams of Barcelona. Even those like Jordi Alba, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, who left to Valencia, Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively, in order to gain playing time eventually returned to the club after several seasons.
And, after curbing slightly what was a policy of bringing in expensive foreigners such as Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dmytro Chygrynskiy (a €25 million flop who lasted only one season at Barcelona), a number of exciting, young prospects have emerged among the first team in the previous two seasons.
Even more have moved abroad with detailed contracts that will allow Barcelona a first option to buy them back at reasonable prices if their progress proves desirable for the club (for example, Oriol Romeu at Chelsea, Jeffren Suarez at Sporting Lisbon and Bojan Krkic at Roma).
While Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca, exciting attackers who are comfortable on the flanks and have an eye for goal, have earned plaudits, and Martin Montoya and Marc Bartra have provided cover and assurance at the back when veterans Dani Alves and Carles Puyol are injured, there is still one player who the club hierarchy are awaiting to follow in the steps of Lionel Messi.
Although Barcelona’s academy produces some of the most competent and anticipated players in the world, it is not often that one comes across a player like the Argentina captain. As comfortable on the flanks as he is down the center, with a combination of pace and ability and the capacity to set up as well as score on set pieces, Messi is the complete player (famously known as La Pulga, or the flea, in Argentina, he even has a penchant for scoring headers at 5’7" inches tall).
The attacker is still only 25 years old and will not be retiring anytime soon. However, Blaugrana fans are foaming at the mouth for the chance to see his rumored successor, Gerard Deulofeu, take the field alongside the four-time FIFA World Player of the Year in the coming seasons.
Deulofeu is an 18-year-old forward, who is capable of playing both as a winger and through the middle in more of a creative attacking role. Although he has only appeared once for the senior side, as a substitute for David Villa in a 5-0 win over Mallorca in October, the youngster reportedly drew interest from both Manchester City and Chelsea during the winter transfer window.
Already aware of his own talent and potential, having signed a £122,000 promotional deal with Nike at the age of 14, Deulofeu is still on a youth contract at Barcelona. And, it appears that impatience with a lack of first-team opportunities at a time when Messi and Bojan before him were already regulars, has seen the player delay on signing a contract extension that would keep him at the club until 2017.
The Catalan native won the Golden Player award for being the best player at the UEFA U-19 Championship last summer, which Spain won for the second consecutive time. His performances for the country’s youth teams, as well as his 13 league goals with Barcelona B in the Segunda División, has even seen the player on Vicente Del Bosque’s radar. The Spain coach has stated that there have been conversations about promoting the player to the senior side, but ultimately the decision was not deemed advisable, especially considering his lack of playing time in the Barcelona first team.
Surely, if he sticks around, with the uncertainty around David Villa and the inconsistency of Alexis Sanchez this campaign, there will be room for Deulofeu to make an impression. And, once again La Masia will be touted as producing potentially one of the greatest players of this new Spanish generation.
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