masia | 2015-07-20
Carles Pérez - La Masia's Robben
Despite losing Bobby Adekanye to Liverpool this summer, Barcelona fans shouldn’t worry much. When it comes to left-footed attacking talents, La Masia is loaded with talented youngsters and Carles Pérez might be the best example yet.
Born on April 16, 1998, the 17-year-old Spaniard is is also a great example of hard work and dedication as he works to fulfill his potential. Pérez wasn’t a child phenomenon, hunted by Barça from the beginning. He started at the bottom of Catalan youth football, and eventually made it to the top.
Pérez grew up in Granollers, a Catalan city just outside of Barcelona, and started playing football for the small club of Vilanova de la Roca. There he played for three years without attracting much attention of the two Catalan titans, Barcelona and Espanyol, who are also the giants in local youth football.
Instead the Catalan winger moved to CF Damm and from there, everything changed. After two seasons at Damm, Espanyol picked him up in 2008, without any significant competition from Barcelona. But it didn’t take long for Pérez to start giving some headaches to La Masia rivals.
At Espanyol, Carles Pérez became a nightmare for opponents, Barcelona in particular. In his four Espanyol years he didn’t just battle a very talented Barcelona team, but beat it plenty of times as well, most significantly in the Catalan Cup in which Pérez’ team won twice in penalty shoot-outs (in Infantil, then Alevin).
Pérez’ technique was notable from the start but his development as a youth player really boomed during his Infantil years where he improved his physique, adding speed and power to his game.
In the summer of 2012, Barcelona brought him to Franc Artiga’s Cadete B in a window where the club signed all three of the best youngsters on that Espanyol side, including defenders Carles Torrents and Marc Cucurella.
Pérez started phenomenally at Barcelona. Essential to the invincible Cadete B side in 2012/13 with 28 wins and two draws, Pérez linked up brilliantly with Lee Seung-Woo when attacking, scoring 18 goals as a winger in the 23 games he featured. He didn’t finish the season as he was picked for Quique Álvarez’ Cadete A, which was in need of extra forwards at the end of the season. At Cadete A, Pérez was used as a substitute but still had an effect. He scored two game-winning goals in important matches against Nástic and Cornellá, helping to secure the league title for Cadete A.
Pérez spent the 2013/14 pre-season with García Pimienta’s Juvenil B and started the league campaign with the team, starting twice in the first three games of the season vs Figueres and Espanyol. He later returned to Cadete A, where he scored 12 goals in 11 games before Christmas break, and helped the team to win the league comfortably with a 14-point margin from rivals Espanyol.
Despite Espanyol getting its revenge in the 2014/15 season, winning the league by 6 points, Pérez did not show any signs of stagnation. He has improved in key areas of his game, including playmaking and defending, and continues to be dangerous when facing goal. He also played a couple of games with Juvenil A this season where he was impressive, such as the Zaragoza contest in which he started the game, and got the match-winning penalty.
Despite being very one-footed, Pérez is a player who can occupy both the right and left wing. As you would expect, being compared to Bayern’s Robben, Pérez favourite position is on the right side, where he constantly drives toward the middle with speed and a good touch on the ball.
But that’s not the only reason Pérez is called the “Robben of La Masia.” He has a thunderous left foot, and is content by having plenty of efforts toward goal. The difference between Robben’s and Pérez’ long shots is that while Robben likes to have a bend on the ball, focusing mostly towards the far corner, Pérez focuses on power rather than placement, scoring some real stunners this season.
While there is no doubt of Carles Pérez’ strengths, he needs to continually evolve to make it to Barcelona's first team. His defending is still lacking even when taking into consideration his intensity and work rate, and that differently from Deulofeu he doesn't neglect his defensive duties. Pérez just needs to improve his decision making when tackling and backtracking, as he sometimes makes rash decisions without looking, instead of picking the right pass or shooting. If he improves these deficiencies, Pérez’ goal tally is certain to increase.
In terms of personality, Carles Pérez is very calm and down-to-earth, focused on playing football despite not watching a lot of it apart from Barça’s games. Pérez is happy to admit that he continually watches the 2011 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United.
Next season, he will be a main player for Quique Álvarez’ Juvenil A and if his development continues on its current pace, we could see him with Barça B as well, which will lose its forwards this summer.
Through hard work and dedication, Carles Pérez has risen to where he is today, two ingredients that are vital in reaching the first team. Look out for him in the near future.
You can watch his highlights from last season here:
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