This is a guest post from @Jeffreyklz on Twitter, who is also part of the @Youngcules account. Both are very useful follows for anyone wondering about the future of the club. This piece came about through conversations and musings some folks were having about the future, short and long-term. Who is ready, who is almost ready, who is worth looking out for?
Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez, Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha Alcantara, Sergi Roberto, Marc Bartra, Gerard Deulofeu — just a handful of players who came through FC Barcleona’s famed La Masia, footballers still playing for various top teams across Europe. There are some who shouldn’t have left but did, others who have never fulfilled their potential. But the job of an academy is to create professionals, and this La Masia does. We know what’s come from the recent past, but let’s take a look at what’s in store for the future, the players from Barça B and Juvenil A who might be available for the first team in the short term and who’s a possibility for a few years down the line?
Right back, extremely solid defensively and does his part in attack. Definitely not a Dani Alves type of player, but one of the most reliable defenders you’ll see. He’s also determined, passionate and a true captain for Barça B. In La Masia he never really stood out; he was good but he didn’t start shining until his first season at Barça B. Palencia is one of the things that Vinyals got right when he replaced Eusebio.
Palencia is already more than capable of being Semedo’s back-up in the first team.
As Sach from Youngcules once said in a totalBarça article: “[The potential to become] what Cesc should or could have been.” Aleñá is not Iniesta and he’s not Xavi, but he is a Barça midfielder through and through. Known for his powerful left foot, Aleñá has great passing range a long-distance shot that is nothing to laugh at. Like Palencia, he is a very level-headed, and has also shown leadership qualities. Unlike Iniesta and Xavi, Aleñá is tall (5’11”) and is also physically strong. These qualities conbine with his dribbling skill to make him a treat to watch, and the biggest reason to watch Barça B in this coming season. For the first team, Aleñá should be integrated as soon as possible; not only to learn from Iniesta – but to fill the gap that missing in midfield at the moment. As we said at the start of the season: “This season should be for Aleñá what 2010/2011 was for Thiago”.
Barça DNA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTYmILvNzoc
Cucurella, or Cucu, is many cules’ hope in getting to do what Grimaldo did not get the chance to do: reach the first team. Cucu arrived at Barça from Espanyol in 2012, made his debut for Barça B in November 2016 and has been a starter ever since. Cucu has established a fairly good connection with LW Jose Arnaíz already and has been a solid aspect of the team this season. Franc Artiga (Cadet A) praised Cucurella’s work rate and said he is a reference point for any canterano. Cucu is a very interesting sight to see on that left back position: fast, defensively solid and always running up and down the pitch with his curly hair. As for first team prospects, he recently made his debut in the Copa but it seems unlikely that he’ll play more in the first team this season with Alba and Digne playing at their current levels. But there is no doubt he’d do a great job if called upon.
One of the summer transfers for the B-team, Arnáiz has quickly established himself as a guaranteed starter on the left. Arnáiz made his professional debut for Valladolid and has been playing in Segunda ever since. In the Copa fixture against Murcia he made his first-team debut for Barça. Arnáiz is a left winger with good dribbling skills and with a very powerful right foot. His idol is Cristiano Ronaldo, which shows when you watch him play. While he can do crazy stuff with the ball at his feet, he also has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long for his own good, when there are better options available.
With a severe lack of real left wingers in the first team and not every forward performing as well as expected, Arnáiz could be someone to ignite the attack in the first team every now and then.
In case the first team finds itself riddled with injuries on the back line, the safest bet for the centre back position is Costas. The right-sided centre back has been a starter since his debut, and travelled with the first team to Bilbao for the fixture against Athletic Club. He is currently on loan from Celta de Vigo, but the club has a purchase option at the end of the season. Given his current performances, it is one the club will trigger. Costas is known for his pace, and ability to play out of the back.
Cuenca arrived from Alcorcón in this summer, choosing Barça over Real Madrid. Cuenca (not related to Isaac) made his Segunda debut with Alcorcón in March of the 2016/2017 season. The 17-year old made his Barça B debut at home against Lugo in a 1-2 loss and has been starting most matches ever since (also due to Martínez’ injury) at left center back. Cuenca is tall, passes the ball well (also with his less favoured left foot) and positions himself well. His youth still shows and he isn’t that strong physically, but he is a talented player. With Umtiti bossing that left centre back position for the first team, first team chances aren’t bound to happen very soon for Cuenca, but he is very young and a lot can happen in the years to come.
Obligatory “No, not related to Sergio,” but there are definitely similarities besides surnames. Like Sergio, Oriol plays the same position and has a very similar style. While Oriol makes use of his physique more in a defensive setting, he is still a very elegant central defensive midfielder that can play his way out of pressure very easily. He doesn’t yet have the fancy, futsal-like skills that Sergio shows on a weekly basis, but he consistently finds creative solutions all the same. His passing range is fantastic and he is performing very well for an 18-year old in his first Segunda División season. Valverde recently called him up for the first team match against Athletic, but he didn’t play. As for first team possibilities, he definitely has the potential but with Sergio performing at the level he is, Paulinho being his back-up and Samper also still out on loan; the near future is not really an option in this case.
The main man for Spain U17 in their World Cup campaign before they were stopped in the final by England. Only turning 18 next January, Ruiz is the player with the most caps for Spain U17 (37) and the most goals (27), convincingly scoring more than names such as Jonathan Soriano (18), Bojan (16) and Paco Alcácer (15). Despite always being taller and stronger than his opponents in the youth ranks, Ruiz has adapted well to playing opponents that are his height. Still strong on the ball, Ruiz is a great striker with the typical eye for goal. In recent years, Ruiz has also played a bunch of games on the left wing; but the striker position is where he is clearly the best. While he is still very young, a chance in the first team might not be that far off, given a certain striker’s current form.
While the current Juvenil A team is not the best one in the recent past, there is still talent to been seen in this team. The appointment of Garcia Pimienta to replace Gabri (who left for Switzerland’s FC Sion) will certainly be a positive improvement for the players in the team. As even the players in this team are still very raw and young, our assessment of the youth ranks will stop here.
When Iñaki turned 16, Manchester United came knocking on the door, but Barça convinced him to stay, promising him a spot at Juvenil A. Unfortunately for him he didn’t get the starting spot (due to injuries) until new signing Carevic got injured in the last preseason. This season Peña has been very solid whenever called upon and the team (despite missing Miranda, Orellana and Mate for the most part) have conceded only 7 goals in 11 matches, a lot due to Peña.
Juan Brandariz Movilla “Chumi”
Usually a regular for the Spain youth sides, Chumi joined Barça in 14/15 from Deportivo. In these years, Chumi has mostly been tormented by injuries but the kid is a solid CB talent. Hopefully he can stay injury free in the next few years.
Jaume Mateu Morey “Mate”
Extremely solid right back for Juvenil A and the Spain U17 team. While he still makes mistakes, as is expected of a youth player, Mate has been excellent defensively as well as on offense. His crossing is excellent and it is fair to say that he was Juvenil A’s best player until the U17 World Cup. He was also Spain U17’s best player in the Euros, in which Spain lifted the trophy (he scored 3 goals as a right back).
Like Cucurella, a very promising left back. While Cucu provides a bit more balance on the left side, Miranda is a player that is always bombing forward up the pitch, and loves to be an offensive outlet. Miranda is tall, but still agile and fast with the ball at his feet. Like Mateu, Abel and Gómez he was a part of the Spain U17 team that reached the World Cup final.
This player is a Barça midfielder through and through, with good passing, positioning and a great left foot like Carles Aleñá. He had a relatively slow start to the season, but with Garcia Pimienta replacing Gabri as Juvenil A coach, it looks like improvement is well underway. Collado had a stellar performance against Olympiakos in the UEFA Youth League, scoring two goals and providing an assist. He seems to be the first name for the coach on the sheet, starting every match.
One of the up and coming talented defensive midfielders galore, Orellana joins the line of Sergio, Sergi Samper and Oriol Busquets. Jandro, unlike the other three, is a more mobile CDM, but still fits the Barça system perfectly. He is more eager to make runs and has good long range passing abilities as well. Unfortunately, Jandro suffered a long-term injury at the beginning of the season and is out for some months. This hurt Spain U17 as well, where he is usually the starting CDM.
The right winger for Spain U17 and Juvenil A, Sergio Gómez has a left foot that is one of the finest in La Masia. He is an intelligent player who usually occupies the right wing, but Gómez is a mix between winger and midfielder. In his last tournament outing, he scored this great distance shot in the quarterfinals against Iran U19.
Carles Pérez, Vitinho, Josep Calavera, Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta