This was what a young Carles Aleñá had to say in front of former president Sandro Rosell and around 300 boys and girls at La Masia, showing his Barça spirit:

“Wearing this shirt with this crest and defending these colors is an honor and we all feel privileged. Maybe one day we can be part of Barça’s first team and contribute to this club’s greatness.”

That’s the kind of player he is:  a leader, a capitá, with the talent to make it to the top at Barcelona. He has been the captain of every single bracket at La Masia since he was with the Benjamin A side (U10) a couple of years after he joined the Barcelona cantera.

Coming from the city of Mataró in one of Catalonia’s largest regions, Maresme, Aleñá has been a Barcelonista since the beginning, with his family being Barça fans, too. When Aleñá was younger, he was smaller than the kids at his age but he hit an unusual growth spurt in when he reached the Cadete youth group, and he now has a great size, easily coping with physically tough Segunda B against players above his age. Towards the end of his time in La Masia, he also started playing in older brackets.

He is a todocampista, as they say in Spain, a player for every position on the pitch. In other words, Aleñá is a complete player. He can dictate the play and provide the inch-perfect pass like Xavi; he can get back and defend like Busquets; he can instantly change pace, do the pausa and create an attack like Iniesta; and he can score and assist goals like Fàbregas. He is habile in the air, knows how to put in a good set piece and has a great long shot. Mix all these together with great leadership abilities and you have a fine talent.

Foreign Interest

Premier League teams have been hunting around La Masia for quite a few years and ensnaring many of the kids over the past 10 years. Luckily, it looks like Aleñá knows where his heart is, seeing that he rejected several offers from English clubs before signing his first contract with Barça after his 16th birthday.

When he was younger, Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo compared him to Maradona, with their curls and his game with the great Argentine. ‘The Maradona from Mataro’ is also a nickname that has been used by several local commentators during his games for the B side.

Star Man

Aleñá has been prominent for his teams since the very start of his Barça career.

While he played at Alevin A (U13), Aleñá was a well-known name in the tournaments around Spain, and was also the star player at the Torneo de Estepona in 2010 when Barça beat Real Madrid in the final. Back then Aleñá played on the wings for the majority of that tournament, positions that Barça B coach Gerard López also use him in from time to time while defending leads, Aleñá scored six goals and was named player of the tournament.

The next season at Infantil B (U14), Aleñá again played an important role against Real Madrid in the final of the Torneo de Arona, in which Barça triumphed again.

With eight goals in the 2011/12 season with Infantil A (U15), Aleña helped his team to win the Infantil league in Spain. They later won the prestigious Lennart Johansson Cup in Sweden after beating Red Star Belgrade in the final. That season, Aleñá also scored a beautiful free-kick against Atletico Madrid in another tournament final.

During his Cadet A (U17) years, he really started growing, which meant he could start testing his abilities against the older boys. And so he did. Towards the end of the season, Aleñá was a regular with the Juvenil B’s (U18), and it was also here I watched him live for the first time in their final league game of the season against Cornella in which they clinched the title. During the game, it was not possible to spot the difference between Aleñá and the rest, in terms of size. But technically, Aleñá shone.

After another successful individual season at Juvenil B the following season, Aleñá was given chances with Barça B in his first year as a Juvenil A player during Autumn 2015, which is highly unusual. At a time where the B team struggles immensely, Aleñá came in and improved the team. Gerard López quickly told the media that he wouldn’t rush the kid and that he’d get his time. And so he did.

Since the start of the 2015/2016 season, after a promising pre-season with the first team, Aleñá has been, together with captain Sergi Palencia, Barça B’s most influential and best player. He has started every game so far this season, and is one of the main reasons that Barça B will be among the contenders for promotion to Segunda A. When you watch him play, it doesn’t look like he’s still a player in the Juvenile age category. Whether he is playing next to Kaptoum, Xemi, Fali or Gumbau, all experienced Barça B or Segunda B players, he is the one controlling the game. Regular appearances on Segunda B Group 2’s team of the week testifies that Aleñá is having a terrific season so far, and he could be rewarded with a debut for the first team, as he has been called up by Luis Enrique for today’s game against Valencia at Mestalla, in the absence of Arda Turan and Rafinha.

The sky's the limit for Carles Aleñá, who could be the next great La Masia midfielder.

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