Top 5 Barcelona B Talents to Watch This Season
FC Barcelona has become nothing less than a Catalan football factory in recent years, producing a surplus of quality young talents.
Those most talented get the opportunity to showcase their abilities for Barca B, which has become a springboard to top European clubs.
For the luckiest, first-team football beckons under the lights of the Camp Nou.
With a number of key players moving on since last season, such as Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu and Liverpool’s Luis Alberto, it would be fair to expect a difficult 2013/14 campaign for an inexperienced Barca B.
Nevertheless, La Masia has produced its own solutions as a number of players have stepped up to fill the void.
The following names have been chosen based on both potential and recent form.
Jean-Marie Dongou in action during Barca's preseason tour of Asia.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
There are always a few players who miss out and if you do get a chance to catch a Barca B game keep an eye on these names as well.
However, they have been left out for the various reasons cited.
Jean-Marie Dongou: A surprising omission? Dongou impressed in preseason with the first team but continues to struggle to live up to the hype produced by his superb youth performances. The young Cameroonian still has plenty of work to do.
Javier Espinosa: Espinosa will play a pivotal role in midfield this season and is one of Eusebio’s most consistent performers. He is blessed with superb technique but must work on his defensive game and physique to dominate at the top level.
Dani Nieto: A few eyebrows were raised when Barca forked out €500,000 for the 22-year-old winger from Alcorcon. Similar purchases have failed. However, with four goals in his first five appearances Nieto looks good value for money.
Alex Grimaldo: The very promising 17-year-old full-back tore knee ligaments in March and continues his recovery. Young players must take serious care of their knees, but if Grimaldo is to play a significant part in this campaign he will be looking to deliver on his huge potential.
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Sandro Rosell signed Neymar for the first team, and for Barca B he signed Denis Suarez.
The team’s most recent acquisition is also their most prized asset.
With Xavi and Iniesta ageing, Barcelona will soon face a daunting challenge in replacing one of the greatest midfield combinations the game has seen.
Guillem Balague recently explained for B/R that in Denis Suarez, the Catalans believe they have an answer.
The 19-year-old’s attacking qualities in transitional play make him the perfect heir to Andres Iniesta.
Moreover, his experience in England and his natural penchant for finishing give Suarez a more direct edge to his game, akin to Real Madrid’s Isco.
Thus Barca’s newest midfield prospect is almost equally adept as a winger, though he is most at home pulling the strings behind the attacking line.
Suarez has excelled for Spain at youth level, particularly impressing at the 2012 U-19 European Championships.
In his minimal time on the pitch in Blaugrana he has shown a superior level of technique and football intelligence to those around him.
In Denis Suarez, Barca have an absolute gem.
Macky Frank Bagnack
Bagnack has proven a surprise favourite of Gerardo "Tato" Martino.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Watching Barcelona B for the first time from the stands, it took only minutes to recognise why "Tata" Martino rates Frank Bagnack so highly.
Just 18 and in his first official season under Eusebio, the young Cameroonian's confidence belies his inexperience.
It would be incorrect and unfair to describe this player, another success of the Samuel Eto'o Foundation, as a "physical force."
While he covers the pitch quickly, competes well in the air and tackles fearlessly, at 18 Bagnack has no significant physical advantage over his opponents.
His dominance is rather owed to his innate ability in reading play.
Evidently this fills the young Cameroonian with a self-belief which allows him to produce perfectly timed tackles and interceptions across the defensive line.
This same confidence could see him earn an early promotion to the first team.
B-team coach Eusebio's reluctance to play the immensely talented Sergi Samper has frustrated many loyal supporters.
It is not the first, and probably will not be the last, controversial decision the much maligned manager has made. He treated Gerard Deulofeu similarly just two years ago.
When he is on the field, however, it is not hard to see why many have earmarked him as the next Xavi or Sergio Busquets.
The 18-year-old understands space superbly and always manages to find it.
While his technique is also excellent and his passing tidy, it is his football IQ that affords him such control in midfield.
Samper's flaws? Perhaps he is a little too slow to play in an advanced role, and he still needs to improve his defensive game if he is to succeed as a pivot.
With his understanding of the game, however, success beckons.
The "low-profile" pick on this list is Eusebio's main man between the posts, Jordi Masip.
The 24-year-old has spent much of his time with Barca B in the shadows cast by Ruben Mino and Oier, both of whom have now moved on.
Masip has made the most of greater time on the pitch with a string of superb performances this season. Indeed, much of the time he has been his side's standout performer.
Standing at just 1.80 metres, he relies heavily on his incredible reflexes and acrobatics.
Masip is a tremendous shot-stopper. His only problem is whether top teams are willing to take the gamble on a goalkeeper who most would consider simply too short.
Barcelona have managed to consistently find talented young wingers within their ranks.
Leo Messi, Gio dos Santos, Pedro, Jeffren, Tello... the list continues.
When Cristian Tello earned promotion to the first team in 2012, Gerard Deulofeu immediately took up the mantle as Barca B's attacking talisman. The teenager excelled.
With Deulofeu's loan deal to Everton, Eusebio lacked an obvious replacement, but former Manchester City youth Joan Roman is producing much improved performances in his second year in Barcelona.
The 20-year-old is playing with a newly found confidence and sense of responsibility, and, when Barca B are playing well, Roman is involved.
Blessed with excellent technique and a low centre of gravity, Roman troubles most defenders when cutting in off the left flank, where he plays his best football.
He can dribble, pull a trick or two and possesses a stinging shot, which only suggests his one goal return so far this season is modest.
While he has been involved in many others, expect to see his name on the score-sheet more as this season progresses.
Who will you be watching this season for Barca B? Who would you like to hear a little more about on B/R? Leave a comment below and join me on Twitter.