5 Barcelona Youth Prospects Set for Stardom

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

5 Barcelona Youth Prospects Set for Stardom

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    Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

    Barcelona may have been splashing the cash so far this summer, but that doesn't mean they don't still have players coming through La Masia.

    They famously fielded 11 academy graduates at one time in a match against Levante a year ago, and they would love to be in a position to do that once more.

    Over the following slides, B/R looks at five players who could grace European football in the coming years.

    The only rules are that they must play for Barcelona, and they cannot have been born any earlier than 1995.

Alejandro Grimaldo, 18 (September 20, 1995)

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    Competition for Alba?
    Competition for Alba?Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    In a cruel twist, Alejandro Grimaldo had a large chunk of his development taken away from him due to injury.

    Barcelona had signed the young left-sided defender from Valencia, and he was already making big impressions for both Barca and Spain when he injured his knee in a game for Barca B in February 2013.

    He made his comeback toward the end of the past season though, completing 14 games for the B team before the curtains came down on the season.

    Height is against Grimaldo, but it doesn't affect his ability, and Barcelona offered him a new deal in January, despite his injury.

    "I've overcome the injury and now more than I ever I will give everything," he said at the time, as per Spanish paper SPORT.

    Jordi Alba's going to have some competition on his hands in the not-too-distant future.

Sergi Samper, 19 (January 20, 1995)

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    A modern day Guardiola?
    A modern day Guardiola?Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Sergi Samper is the oldest player on this list; the only one that has turned 19 already.

    However, he is also the one, if only one of the five could ascend to greatness, most likely to make it at Barcelona.

    On Catalan-based newspaper SPORT's website, David Rubio links him to three very special midfielders from Barca's recent history: Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Pep Guardiola.

    It seems that Samper is a modern Guardiola, two decades after Pep was part of the Dream Team revolution that won the Champions League at Wembley in 1992. Samper is a complete midfielder. He has a mix of Busquet's reading of the game and a little creativity in the style of Xavi.

    He's a classy footballer and one that a number of clubs have already tried to steal away from Barcelona.

    This week, he has been training with Luis Enrique's first team, but it's most likely he'll once again be leading Barca B when the season gets underway.

Adama Traore, 18 (January 25, 1996)

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    Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

    The next 12 months could be a big 12 months in the career of Adama Traore, who made his full Barcelona debut when he was just 17.

    Coming on as a substitute for Neymar in a win over Granada at Camp Nou, he then went on to take his Champions League bow in a win against Dutch side Ajax.

    Last season, though, he was mainly known for his regular appearances for Barca B.

    Adama was born in Catalonia to Malian parents who had emigrated to Spain in the 1980s.

    It is clear he still has a lot to learn, but there are plenty of people at the club who want to teach him.

    Because of his rapid speed, it's expected that if he can develop well in the other areas of his game, he will be an attacker to be feared across Europe's top clubs.

    Most often deployed on the flanks, Adama has been capped by Spain at various youth levels but will now go on to represent Mali instead.

Munir El Haddadi, 18 (September 1, 1995)

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    Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

    Over the past two years, Munir El Haddadi's ascent within Barcelona's youth setup has been rapid.

    In fact, even over the last 12 months, he has gone from leading the Juvenil A side to being a regular feature in Barcelona B, with which he finished the season having scored four goals in 11 appearances.

    He has also won three caps for Spain U19s, scoring three times in those games.

    Comfortable as a forward or as an advanced midfielder, El Haddadi was born close to Madrid to Moroccan parents, but he signed for Barcelona in 2011.

    Of the players in the youth setup, he is one of the most highly rated.

    He signed a new deal in March of this year after Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Bayern Munich were linked with him according to the Metro

Carles Perez, 16 (February 16, 1998)

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    Comparisons with Arjen Robben.
    Comparisons with Arjen Robben.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Carles Perez is a 16-year-old winger who has only recently developed physically.

    However, with that physical development, he has gone from being a player with potential to a really good player with bags of potential.

    Signed by Barcelona in 2012, Perez had previously played for Vilanova de Roca and Espanyol.

    He's not your typical wide man though, and his preference is to get the ball on the right, cut inside and try and get a shot away whenever possible.

    Barcelona-based journalist Josep Capdevila, writing for SPORT, suggests the player is similar to a certain Dutch forward who shone at the World Cup this summer:

    If you speak with anyone that knows a little bit about young players in Catalonia and ask them to compare Carles Perez to an elite player, it is probable they would give the name Arjen Robben.

    Curiously, the player himself admits that Robben is a reference for him.

    Obviously, at 16, it is early for comparisons, but the Bayern Munich forward is not a bad player to be compared to by any means.

    If Perez continues to progress, Barca will have a star on their hands.