The talent complexity, aka “Having your cake and the patience to let it bake”

adama

Adama Traore. Sigh, swoon, right? Riiiight.

After his goal against Huesca, the hype rose to an even higher level for this astonishing talent who has an even more astonishing physique. But let’s have a closer look at the situation, how it is and what it might or might not mean.

Traore scored that goal against Huesca, a Segunda B side. He should have done exactly what he did, which was own those defenders with pace and strength, and put the ball past the keeper. It’s just as the first team, which won the match 8-1, was supposed to do, particularly as Huesca’s lineup was chosen with its real competition (they are currently top in Segunda B) in mind.

So what do we have with Adama Traore, besides blinding talent in a man’s body?

Don’t know yet. Could be Neymar with power, could be Deulofeu with muscles. But a few things have to happen for us to know decisively, all most likely away from Barça.

Playing time

Any talent needs time to grow, come into its own and get nurtured in the hands of a talented coach. That talent also needs regular time in a group that is good enough to force it to grow, but not so good that it is always floundering. This means a very, very carefully selected loan team for a player such as that, a player such as Traore.

Even as people are suggesting that he get more first-team time, the question is always, “Where?” A group of supporters that demands a Treble-quality player of any and all transfers or people are stupid, will have how much patience with a young player trying to learn the game at the highest level.

Couple that with a coach who is playing for wins and championships as well as his own hide, and what do we reckon is going to happen to Adama when he is promoted? More time than Sergi Roberto, less time than Tello? So a loan would seem the obvious conclusion, even as that would spark the “Another Thiago!” supporter cries of a club that would appear to be shipping its best talent away as people lose knowledge of how a player transfer works.

Traore needs playing time. He made it look easy against Huesca. He makes it look less so in Barça B, though his talent is apparent and his future bright. The few times that we have seen him with the first team against quality opposition, he has demonstrated the same dart for the end line/suspect decision making under pressure as Deulofeu, along with that something special that special players have. You also noticed that during the Huesca match, off the ball he was walking around, not disinterested but kind of disconnected. There is a lot of learning to do, even as his up side is colossal.

Traore needs to come up against a defender as big and strong as he is, needs to be put on his butt, needs to have his runs to the end line walled off so they become high-speed darts to nowhere. He needs all of this so that he can become everything that he can be, so that we can see exactly how good he is.

The next Munir?

Development in a calm environment is also important. Munir scored a few goals, and people were ready to anoint the hell out of that dude. Now that he isn’t scoring them, people are wondering what’s wrong, and suggesting Sandro should leapfrog him, etc. Forgetting for an instant about what seeing that kind of stuff does to a young player’s confidence, Munir is pretty much doing exactly what he should be doing.

He’s too good for B, but not yet good enough for the first team. How he is going to get the playing time to develop into the kind of player that he needs to be is beyond me. Copa matches won’t really do it until later in the competition, but then a coach who is wanting to win the tournament will be bringing more and more first-teamers into the side. So does Munir get garbage time runs, or will it be time to consider a loan for him next summer, as well?

Hype explodes fast, and can kill just as quickly. Gai Assulin was the next Messi. Bojan Krkic was the Boy of a Thousand Goals. Each one ascended fast, then hit a talent ceiling. People talked about Deulofeu as they are talking about Adama. These days, Deulofeu isn’t an automatic starter at Sevilla, much less Barça. Players don’t develop as their talent dictates. Other times they do, but that level just isn’t sufficient. It happens, but we don’t know what will happen unless we let it, and stop trying to rush it.

munir

Traore’s goal was brilliant, but it was men against boys. A few have suggested in social media that next year he should be getting looks in that Cuadrado-type role as the club begins to phase out Pedro. Hype is lovely, but Pedro is a first-team selection for Spain, and a favorite of his current club coach, for good reason even as he has his detractors. A newly promoted youth player learning the game is not ready to displace a high-quality veteran.

Traore, like Munir and Sandro, need time and patience, that last in short supply from an increasingly panicked fan base. Let’s say next season Traore gets that run out, gets turned by his man who gets loose and scores or assists a goal. Given the reactions to conceded goals of late, what then? A proper reaction would be, “He’s still learning the game, and mistakes will come,” right? But Douglas can’t even perform a logical back pass without the multitudes screaming “What a crap player! That back pass was terrible! Why did we buy him?!”

Munir’s bandwagon is a little lighter, even as he is exactly on schedule. Deulofeu is behind schedule. Sandro is as yet uncertain, but he’s another player who will have to struggle to find time as we discover whether he is the real thing, or the next Jonathan Soriano, a quality player in a lesser-quality first division league.

Dangerous times

Barça right now have a great many players who need time and development, who are fast becoming good enough even as we don’t quite know how good they are, yet. The Adamaboom echoes the Deulohype. But the club also has Munir, Sandro, Samper, Halilovic and Grimaldo, all of whom will be ready for something more next season. What, and whether they can get it at Barça will be a complex debate. Complicating everything else is that the likes of Denis Suarez and the aforementioned Deulofeu will be on the radar.

Something has to give, and it should start with the propensity to hype the hell out of something really good. Traore is a talented young player. Take that for what it is, just as was cautioned with Munir, when his hype balloon began to inflate.

Let things happen, and see what develops. Breathe deep, and enjoy all the talent that we have, while we have it. Because even when we think we have it, as we did with Assulin, Krkic and potentially Deulofeu, it sometimes works out that we don’t have it.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

14 Comments

  1. Jim
    December 17, 2014

    Yup. Good reality check.

    I’m old enough to remember cautioning against this sort of hype way back on the old offside when everyone was falling over themselves to drop R10 for Bojan and GDS.

    I would hope that this might be Puyol’s first project – to look at what we’ll have next year, line up some football playing clubs and organise the loans then following it up next season by regularly visiting and touching base with the loanees to keep them feeling wanted and offering advice as needed.

    • Jim
      December 17, 2014

      Don’t want to take this off topic as it’s an important one but Barcastuff now apparently back temporarily on @barcastuffrip. Seems it was Mediapro who complained.

      First suggestion for a suitable loan club. Mine. Scottish cup holders and can guarantee opposition defenders to kick lumps out of any aspiring starlet …

  2. agar2515
    December 17, 2014

    So true, the munir hype on social media was very loud. I think so many want Adama to be ready so soon because many think he can occupy the spot that LE
    intended for Cuadrado,and one cannot deny his physical gifts. Agreed on everything though,Masia stars are too often born overnight and are busts by sunset.

  3. Davour
    December 17, 2014

    Indeed – another thoughtful post! In good form, Kxevin. There is a fascination with talent that is difficult to resist, a potential candidate to be “the next one” that fits a heroic narrative so well. I remember seeing Assulin against Man City in the Gamper (I think) years back, and thought – wow!

    I have not seen that much of Adama (just love the name, being a Battlestar Galactica fan), but he seems – as you indicate – to rely on his physique to a large degree, which can create a false sense of security. Hopefully he will survive the trials you suggest and add something to the team.

  4. December 17, 2014

    Nothing more to add really, except that the more I think about it, the more I realize that Barça’s fanbase is indeed in a state of panic. Why? No bragging rights.

    I say this even though I realize I’ve done it numerous times, The Fans want their dose and they want it NOW. The Fans need that dose, because then we can make the social networks glow with mocking messages to the rivals, past, present and future. We can be the top dog for supporting the biggest and baddest club.

    That is NOT the way. Nor it should be. But it will be, for quite a bit of time.

    I actually will say that and say it here: Sometimes I envy RM fans. They don’t give a fuck for their B team, unless it produces someone and that someone makes awesome contributions. Then they put that player on a pedestal, and if/when he doesn’t deliver, the monument is covered, until it starts delivering. Yes, selective memory.

    One particularly prolific commentator at MD was gloating over and over and over again that EE had signed Assencio. I told him that Barcelona doesn’t need that kid, because there are already too many in his position in Barça B. His reply?
    “I don’t give a fuck about the player, the important thing is that we got him from you.”
    What about the money spent?
    “Not my money. Club’s money. If he delivers, then awesome, if he doesn’t we still got him from you.”
    Bragging rights.

    Barcelona fans are different. We are all “La Masia!!!” Our bragging rights are that Barcelona churns awesomeness off the conveyor belt at Mini Estadi. So when that player shows something, oh boy! Get out of the way, Hype incoming!

    Realistically, few players will get to shine in the first team. Before Pep came, how many were there? Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes and Messi. The fact that right now Barcelona has no less than 12 players who either developed completely or significantly in La Masia is awesome. But we cannot expect that La Masia will continue to produce world class talent.

    If you don’t believe me, take it from Graham Hunter. I’m quoting from memory on when and where exactly he wrote that, but he was specific:
    Lots of kids fail to make the difference age jumps. Some don’t make the jump to 14 years. Some don’t make it at 18. Some fail to make the jump at 21.
    What he means is that a player who is awesome at twelve may lose the physical advantages he has when he’s 15. A player who is awesome at sixteen may fail the expectations once he becomes a legal adult. Still others will not be able or capable of making the jump from teenagers to adult players.

    As an example: When Graham Hunter was interviewed for total Barca back in December 2011 (three years and one week ago), he said that there is one player in Juvenil, who is better than Messi was when he was 16. A player that could be giving defenders nightmares for years. A March 2012 article for Australian paper “The Age” (http://www.theage.com.au/sport/soccer/for-defenders-its-going-to-get-messier-20120316-1vatz.html) finishes like this:

    “For the moment you’ll just have to take it from me that Barcelona’s youth system has uncovered a talent so rare that the Messi comparisons will flourish, despite the two playing styles bearing little if any resemblance.

    He will, one day, conquer Spain, Europe and the world with Barcelona and it wouldn’t surprise if one day he’s a Ballon D’Or winner. That is his range.

    That player is Jean Marie Dongou, who is in his third Barça B year as of right now. I’m not saying this to discredit or smear Dongou’s talent. No, not at all. I am using it a bit as a cautionary example, because even though Bojan is right now resurrecting his career at Stoke City, we seem to have not learned. I certainly wish that Dongou becomes what Hunter saw in him. So far this hasn’t really happened, but it could, because there are footballers who fail at one age, then jump back a couple of years later, when they have overcome whatever made them lose their focus, advantage or edge.

    Perhaps, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t overhype Barcelona’s future prospects. Perhaps, if don’t put them on pedestals so tall, they won’t wobble every time the wind turns from a breeze to a blizzard. I think we owe it to ourselves not to place them on the columns of our expectations. If the platform is too high, every little stumble can lead to a fall so hard he won’t be able to pick up the pieces after all the dust has settled.

    Nobody’s bragging rights are worth that.

    • BA
      December 17, 2014

      “Before Pep came, how many were there? Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes and Messi.”

      besides…. Pep himself? La Masia was only established with a clear, Cruyff-inspired identity since the mid-90’s; about the time kids named Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol were signed up. that the conveyor belt halted a bit in the mid 00’s was in part due to the lack of interest from presiding Barça managers to test out young talent; the likes of Ivan de la Pena and Pepe Reina plied their trade for other clubs, while Thiago Motta and Oleguer were patient servants for many years.

      we can look at the system of nurturing young talent, and the talents that have emerged out of that system, and be proud of what the club is doing. that’s just about the only thing that really separates us from other big clubs now that successive presidents have gone about stripping Barça of much of its uniqueness in other areas. Adama, Deulofeu, Munir, Samper, are SERIOUSLY talented players who will succeed in football if given a chance by any club. not many clubs (no other club?) are currently producing that level and quantity of talent out of their youth systems.

      and i’d argue that this process doesn’t even just enrich our club, socially, financially (less money having to be spent on transfers) and in footballing terms; it enriches the whole league. so many of our former youth players are in established sides in the top 2 divisions of Spanish football; which is again not something you can say about most big clubs.

    • December 17, 2014

      I agree entirely with you. My point is that there wasn’t that pervasive notion that La Masia is producing the next awesomest player, the next Xavi, the next MESSI!!!!!!!

      I was about the players who were definite 1st team squad when Pep came.

      Pep took with himself Busi, brought back Pique, then upped Thiago, Bojan and Pedro.

      Also, @Barcastuff is back, after apparently being taken down illegally.

  5. December 17, 2014

    Be that as it may, Adama is special, and I’m not saying that because he lives on my block (or actually, since I’m the newcomer, I live on his). I was at the Camp Nou last night and the only word I could think of to describe him was “electric.” Sure enough in SPORT’s player ratings the next day, where they accompany the grade with an adjective of description, they chose the same, “eléctrico.”

    I’m with Kevin in that he shares some of the virtues and faults of other Barça B star And current Sevilla bench warmer Gerard Deulofeu. Too much individualism and iffy decision making. The huge difference is that Deulo’s individualism is due to a lack of humility, and I fear that if a Masia education doesn’t teach you humility… Well… Adama dribbles because it’s what he’s good at, it is easy for him to blast past defenders and more often than not he ends his dribbles in trying to cross rather than going for glory.

    I’ll also point out that I remember Deulo’s debut in our first team and his subsequent underwhelming appearances. Adama lit up the stadium in his first ten minutes under Gerardo Martino.

    The problem as I see it is that in Barça’s current team it’s hard to see how that specific skill set would fit in. The “Cuadrado” role, aka Dani Alves reborn? I harboured those same thoughts until I saw the kid play. He is an out and out winger and at this point asking him to play anywhere else seems like a waste of his potential.

    Take our time or, as Kevin put it, having our patience to bake it? Yes. But make no mistake that talent wise, Adama Traore has more than LE’s current favorites from the B-team, Sandro and Munir.

    • December 17, 2014

      Well, Bale used to be a left back.

      It would utilize Adama’s dribbling, speed, youth and physique, without actually relying on him to beat numerous defenders and score goals.
      And if he manages to work in that spot, there will be minutes for him, minutes in the first team and training with the first team.

      Puyol was a striker until he joined Barcelona.

    • agar2515
      December 17, 2014

      Agreed Peter, plus he’s only 18… Not like his position is set in stone forever at this point

    • December 18, 2014

      Scoring goals is not his thing, really. I agree that nothing is not set in stone, but he is a pure winger if I’ve ever seen one (and really, in Holland we know our wingers).

  6. we are dooomed
    December 17, 2014

    I wouldn’t loan Adama out. He can play a role in the first team next season. Just look at the recent Getafe game. 1 injury to Neymar and Pedro is starting, not delivering and getting subbed off for … Munir to rescue the 3 points. That’s how quick it goes. I’d rather Adama trains with the first team next season and gets, say, 20 sub appearances + a few starts here and there which is completely manageable rather than some loan where he might or might not get playing time (see Deulofeu) in a completely different environment.

    • December 18, 2014

      He’s already training with the first team quite a lot.

    • December 18, 2014

      Adama already has a clause in his contract that will either see him with the first team or he will be loaned out.

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