Luis Suarez's Ban Is Munir El Haddadi's Chance to Shine at Barcelona

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 06:  Munir El Haddadi of FC Barcelona in action during the pre-season friendly match between FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli on August 6, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Luis Suarez was allowed to taste a small part of what lies in store for him on Monday night, coming on for a 15-minute appearance in a Barcelona shirt in the 6-0 win against Club Leon in the Joan Gamper Trophy match.

As expected, though, it was Lionel Messi and Neymar who shone on the pitch. The Argentine opened the scoring in the stroll, while the Brazilian weighed in with two particularly memorable goals—the first a chip not dissimilar to those associated with Messi and the second a nonchalant back-heel.

Despite now being without Suarez until the end of October due to his four-month ban, Barca's potency has never been in question, although there have been questions surrounding who will supplement Luis Enrique's attack while the Uruguayan is out of action.

Pedro is the obvious choice, but three players for three positions is rarely a good idea. It is for that reason that Gerard Deulofeu's return from Everton seemed to make perfect sense.

Tipped as the club's next great player for several years now, the 20-year-old would now have his chance to make his name at Camp Nou.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

For whatever reason, things haven't worked out like that, though. Enrique may have originally pencilled the Catalan forward into his plans, but he quickly changed his mind and farmed him out on loan to Sevilla—even Deulofeu admitted he was surprised at the decision, per Rik Sharma of Barcelona-based newspaper SPORT.

Instead, it looks like another La Masia product will be sticking with the first team in a bid to take advantage of Suarez's absence: Munir El Haddadi.

Born in Spain to Moroccan parents, Munir doesn't turn 19 until September and has already established a big reputation around the club. His performances this summer have only bolstered that; two goals off the bench against Club Leon meant he ended Enrique's first pre-season in charge as the club's top scorer with four.

It's anticipated he'll be on the bench for the La Liga opener against Elche on Sunday, although he could start. Pedro missed Monday's game with gastroenteritis, and although he should be back, Enrique may prefer to pair Messi and Neymar—who has only recently returned from a back injury—with one of Munir or Rafinha, who has acted as a forward more than a midfielder since returning from a loan spell with Celta Vigo.

In April of this year, Munir scored two goals in 3-0 UEFA Youth League final success over Benfica, with one incredibly coming from behind the halfway line. If he can prolong this patch of form he's run into, it will be difficult for Enrique to leave him out.

NYON, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 14: Munir El Haddadi of FC Barcelona (L) kisses the Lennart Johansson trophy after winning the UEFA Youth League Final match between Benfica Lisbon and FC Barcelona at Colovray Stadion on April 14, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland. (Pho
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Barca do have to handle the situation with an air of caution, though. Once upon a time, Stoke City's Bojan Krkic was supposed to be the club's new superstar, then Deulofeu, but neither has yet fulfilled their potential.

There is always the risk of putting too much pressure on an 18-year-old's shoulders before they are are ready for it—even if they think they are.

Fortunately, Enrique appears well set to manage the situation. He took the difficult decision to send Deulofeu out on loan and, having worked as Barca B boss before, has a history of getting the best from the club's youngsters.

If he thinks Munir is ready for the exposure of the first team, you wouldn't want to argue with him.

Once Suarez returns another debate will arise: Is Munir's development better served as a bit-part player in Enrique's side or as a cog in Eusebio's Barca B side? Could he head out to another Primera Division club on loan in January?

That's a question for further down the line. Over the next two months, although he may not be a starter initially, Munir El Haddadi is likely to have his chance to shine.


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