Sometimes names can weigh heavy in football. Those adorned with a surname that has already made a mark in football—via family relation or coincidence—carry expectations beyond usual levels.
The son of a former great is expected to be as good as his father; a player named after a legend must have something special about him (in this instance, our thoughts go to Ronaldo Vieira of Leeds United—and his twin brother, Romario).
A name can attract your eye to a player before you've seen him play, and that's certainly been the case for many when it comes to Oriol Busquets of Barcelona. With a forename the same as La Masia graduate and Southampton star Oriol Romeu, and a surname matching Cules hero Sergio Busquets, a buzz has already been generated despite his tender years.
At 17, he's still to make his own mark on senior football. He's yet to play a single minute of first-team football for Barcelona and has only this season become a key figure in their UEFA Youth League side. He played a part in 2015, but the No. 6 position in the Blaugrana's famed 4-3-3 was dominated by Ferran Sarsanedas; Busquets earned minutes but often played as a No. 8.
This season he has locked down that sole holding spot in the team, starting the first four Youth League games and aiding the collection of 12 points from 12. Only two goals were conceded during those four fixtures, and Manchester City—a team of bright prospects capable of rivalling any collection—were held scoreless in both games. Busquets' resilience was key to this.
Despite the fact Oriol is no relation to Sergio, he is literally Barcelona's "next Busquets." The "next X" tag is horribly and abusively used in football, but it's quite apt in this scenario.
So Many Similarities
People are surprised to find Oriol and Sergio are not related, as every tangible piece of evidence screams that they are. Not only do they share a surname, but they've been raised through the same club's academy, play in the exact same position and have that same lanky quality to their frame. Oriol is around 6'1", has long legs made for tackling and passes exquisitely under pressure—you have to admit, it does ring a few bells.
Playing as the No. 6 in Barca's 4-3-3, Busquets covers the width of the pitch in a defensive capacity and is heavily involved in the team's buildup play. Predictably, they dominate possession of the ball in almost every game, and that starts with assuredness from the holding-midfield role.
Coach Gabriel Garcia de la Torre is as adamant about playing from the back as Luis Enrique or Pep Guardiola, and he asks a lot of his goalkeepers, Sergi Puig and Josep Martinez. They have to receive back passes, they're often pressured, and they have to show a cool head with distribution—or they can kiss any first-team Barcelona hopes goodbye.
This is perhaps where Busquets is most influential, as he acts as a safety blanket. He's almost always covered by a No. 10 or a No. 8 pushing forward, but he will always receive passes on the edge (or even inside of) his own box and distribute under pressure. He'll dart to one side of the box to create an angle, wall off a marker and then switch the play to the opposite centre-back or full-back to pick up and run with.
His short passing is exemplary, and even under heavy pressure, he's able to lay it off to others or start attacks with forward passes. He is the human incarnation of Barca's age-old philosophy, ensuring the flag is flown even at under-19 level. He played a slightly different role for Spain's under-17 setup this past summer, forming part of a two-man pivot, but was just as effective and helped them to the final.
Off the ball, those rangy legs come into vital use: He's able to cover ground surprisingly quickly and engage runners to stop them. He can dispossess cleanly and restart attacks fluidly, with players finding it difficult to gauge just how big his tackling circumference is.
In these encounters, his upper-body strength impresses. Despite a frame on the light side and no obvious, overbearing shoulders, he's able to jockey with anyone and will often steer them away from his path. This comes in particular handy in deeper areas, as he's confident of holding off markers when receiving balls from the goalkeepers in risky situations.
Not Quite Sergio
While developed and impressing in many areas, Oriol is understandably not Sergio. At 17, no one's expecting him to be, but given they share a surname and expectations are high, it's important to distinguish the areas in which he needs improvement.
Like Sergio, he offers little in terms of natural goal threat—though that should be no knock on a No. 6 tasked with collecting balls from the goalkeeper and beginning attacks.
Much of the final-third work is handed off to niftier, more agile players such as Carles Alena, and so far that share of responsibilities has worked pretty well—Barca's under-19s did qualify top of their Youth League group with five wins, after all.
The notable difference in the two Busquets' games is the longer passing; while Sergio's ability to thread the needle and "pack" players with balls between the lines is legendary, Oriol's is very much a work in progress. He's prone to putting a little too much on some of his longer passes into tight spaces, and sometimes the tackles he makes are the mopping up of his own issues.
Longer through balls can unlock defences, but there will also be three or four per game that fail. Again, for a 17-year-old, that's pretty normal and should not be used as a stick to beat him with, but it also underlines the area in which he must work hard in order to reach the next level.
For the most part, the similarities are uncanny, but Oriol must improve his longer passing and creativity from deeper areas in order to force his way into the senior reckoning and rival Sergio. What a tussle that would be—a battle of the Busquets for the Busquets role in the side.