Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu enjoyed a productive season on loan at Everton in the Premier League last season before returning this summer to his parent club, where he is expected to figure in the first team for the 2014-15 season.
Recent reports by Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish), however, seem to point at another loan spell for Deulofeu this term, with manager Luis Enrique not entirely convinced that the 20-year-old forward is ready for first-team action with the Catalan side.
While Deulofeu would no doubt do a reasonable enough job as a substitute option this season, he is a very real talent who could feasibly be a Barça regular for years to come, and a loan spell with regular game time in La Liga could help him reach the next level far quicker.
Most frequently used as a wide forward on either side of attack, Deulofeu will find himself competing with a number of the world's biggest and best stars at Barcelona once all are fit and available.
Luis Suarez and Neymar are the two obvious ones, with Lionel Messi presumably continuing in a central role, but Pedro Rodriguez is another top-class talent who can operate on either flank. Ivan Rakitic or Andres Iniesta can both play from the left when required, while fellow youngster Rafinha—who was on loan at Celta Vigo last season, managed by Luis Enrique—can play any attacking midfield role required of him.
Much has been made of Deulofeu not yet being handed a squad number while Rafinha and others have, but there has been further speculation that he will be getting Alex Song's number if and when the Cameroonian is sold.
Deulofeu, only Barcelona player still without official shirt number, would be waiting for Song to leave so he can pick up number '17'. [md]— barcastuff (@barcastuff) August 11, 2014
The Mundo Deportivo report indicates that boss Luis Enrique is disappointed with the lack of defensive effort put into performances by Deulofeu, believing that a greater participation off the ball is required from the one-cap Spain international.
With Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez earning game time and the confidence of the former Barcelona B boss, Luis Enrique knows he has plenty of options as cover for those positions that Deulofeu would contest for if he went out on loan.
Furthermore, InsideSpanishFootball.com states that Luis Enrique has "comment[ed] publicly that the player needs to practice like he wants it."
Going the Way of Others
Deulofeu has always been seen as a prodigious young talent and seems to have largely overcome the at-times selfish tendencies of his earlier years on the pitch, though it is clear further work is needed to reach the level he has the potential to achieve.
A solitary Spain cap is evidence of his progress already—but he needs look no further than a handful of former Barcelona "wonderkids" who never kicked on to realise that a single international appearance means, essentially, nothing.
Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello were both initially touted as big prospects but have never looked like Barcelona regulars in the making once they reached senior level, while forward Bojan Krkic was a first-team regular before his career hit the rails.
One Spanish cap was won by the former Barcelona youth star at barely 18 years of age; now aged 23 he's about to embark on his career with Stoke City.
It's a stark reminder for Deulofeu that reaching the top is never enough and that incredible work is required to stay there—meaning a loan spell for this year could serve the purpose of helping him fight for everything and being a far better player for Barcelona in the future.