Highly rated Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj really couldn't have had a better start to his career with the Red Devils.
A match-winning performance on his full debut against a stubborn Sunderland side was the perfect way for Januzaj to announce himself to the wider footballing public after two previous low-key appearances.
His volleyed finish at the Stadium of Light wasn't the first time his striking prowess had been noted, however. Just take a look at this stunning finish with Man U's reserve side from a couple of weeks before:
There's certainly no more cries of "Adnan who?" around Old Trafford.
Indeed, those "in the know" in football circles have long been admirers of the 18-year-old. As Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail tells us:
The 18-year-old’s stock has risen sharply after his stunning two-goal display on his Premier League debut at Sunderland on Saturday.
But Barca have tracked the teenager’s progress since before he joined United from Anderlecht in 2011.
In order to keep the vultures at bay, United manager David Moyes has offered Januzaj a stunning 290-percent increase on his current salary. Under the terms of a new deal, the youngster would see his wage rocket from £1,000 to £29,000 per week.
Wheeler's report goes on to say:
But they (Manchester United) fear Januzaj and De Vriese are being driven by the player’s father. Moyes recently made a veiled reference to "some influences around him."
Anderlecht’s head of development Jean Kindermans, the man widely credited with discovering the star, warned last night that Januzaj Snr is likely to have the final say on whether his son stays at United and which country he represents.
As of this moment, the player—who is eligible to play for five different countries—is keeping his cards close to his chest, but with just eight months left on his current contract, clearly some quick decisions need to be made.
Manchester United In Danger Of Losing Adnan Januzaj On a Free Transfer Deal Next Summer: Belgium starlet has s... http://t.co/W9iyr9iuoN— Barclays PL News (@BarclaysLeague) October 13, 2013
If the Catalans got their way, what skill set and value would Januzaj bring to the current Barcelona side?
First and foremost, he is a wonderfully creative player who is extremely comfortable in possession of the football. He has an eye-catching, upright style with vision and awareness not usually associated with someone so young, plus outstanding technical ability that is immediately apparent to all who watch him.
Sir Alex Ferguson said via ManUtd.com: "Adnan is a beautifully-balanced player. He's only 18 and has to grow into his frame but he he has good balance, good acceleration and is a very good technical player."
On his rise up through the ranks at Manchester United, Januzaj was asked to play in a variety of roles and by all accounts shone wherever he was placed on the pitch. The player himself said via David McDonnell's report in The Mirror:
I’m really enjoying myself. I played quite a few games in the reserves last season and thought I did well.
From there, I had the chance to go on the summer tour and it was a good opportunity for me to show what I can do for the team. It was a great experience and ever since I’ve been working hard.
His most valuable characteristic for a Barca attack would be his versatility.
Up front as the lone striker, out wide or as an advanced midfielder, Januzaj has taken it all in his stride—surely the mark of a young man who is destined to go places.
Initially the youngster could be employed as cover for Neymar and Lionel Messi, per Jack De Menezes of The Independent, but his capacity for learning and hard work, allied to his natural talent, might well see him pushing for a starting berth elsewhere in the starting XI at Camp Nou sooner rather than later.
The understanding and reading of the game for one so young mark him out as a special talent, and his appreciation in all areas elevate him above his contemporaries. This is no Federico Macheda, the last youngster to emerge from the Old Trafford production line amid such a buzz.
As the goal above shows, the player is adept at coming inside from either wing and executing with pinpoint accuracy. There is an elegance and fluency about his play; Januzaj can drift past opponents with relative ease and, perhaps most importantly, he plays without fear.
Wayne Rooney said of Januzaj (h/t BBC): "A lot of the young players who come through are a little bit timid and shy, but he looks comfortable and he's confident in his own ability, which you need to be."
A dead-ball specialist to boot, there is very little weakness in his all-round game already and given his tender age, the sky really is the limit for Adnan Januzaj.
Barcelona are a team to complement perfectly both Januzaj's style and aspirations, and though there are very few players in world football who could improve Tata Martino's squad, the 18-year-old from Belgium remains one.