Sergi Roberto had featured in El Clásico at the Santiago Bernabéu before. in 2011 as a 19 year old substitute for David Villa. Few years on the path, it was hard to think Sergi would make it. He was always lauded to be the one with the talent, technique and understanding of the game, yet was not being able to break into the team. In the beginning of the 2015/16 season, the same Bernabéu saw Sergi beautifully assisting Luis Suárez for the first goal. And he didn’t look back. He deputised for Alves, Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic with ease and panache, and after Alves’ departure has now cemented his place at right back, a position Luis Enrique first field him against PSG (with Alves suspended). It's fair to call him the Catalan version of the Swiss Army Knife.

2015/16 was Sergi Roberto’s breakthrough season, whence he came forefront into the limelight from the shades of doubt. There was however, another similar player creating ripples at Villarreal. A player who was strangely let go by Manchester City, and whom Barça cleverly snapped up. He was sold to Villarreal with a €3m buy back clause in 2016 and 6m in 2017, and boy did he shine. Racking up 11 assists. He had the most assists (7) in the Europa League. Against Sparta Praga, he made an astonishing 9 key passes, more than any other player in a Europa League match last season.

Apart from just assists, Denis is a baller: exquisite control of the ball, vision, and sizzling line breaking passes. The understanding of the game this Celta Vigo youth product possesses, is on par with La Masia’s best prospects. He understands, quite like the legendary Iniesta and Xavi did, when to run, when to pause play, and when to release the ball. He doesn’t rush things, as so many his age try to do, in order to impress.

Add to that the diversity he shows, quite like Sergi. Denis is comfortable on both sides of the midfield, and even upfront. As he said himself, he doesn’t have a preferred side, he can play wherever the team needs him to. Although he primarily operates as an attacking midfielder/playmaker, he is also happy being deployed on the flanks. A brilliant player between the lines, dissecting opposition blockades with dribbling. It was obvious then and at Villareal, how adept Denis is adept at finding spaces. One thing he stands out for is his tendency to use the outside of the boot; his stupendous pass against Chile U20 in a U20 World Cup warm up game perfectly showcased that, when he carved open a whole defence with one pass.

Denis' versatility enables Luis Enrique to either use him as a winger, attacking midfielder, or a deputy to Ivan Rakitic- mixing positioning between central and wide areas and linking up with Messi and the right back, Sergi Roberto. His appetite for dribbling, more than that of Rakitic, adds a new dimension to the right side, and can be useful in important times of the season.

If mornings were ever an indicator for the day, Denis managed to perform when replacing an injured Iniesta, a feat unthinkable in recent times, given Barça’s ailing squad depth (recently bolstered), the Spaniard will go on to have a breakthrough a season at Barcelona.

It's easy to forget that demigods like Xavi and Iniesta started out trying to replace their idols too. From Villarreal and Europa League, Denis is progressing to Barcelona and Champions League. Higher standards, higher demands. But he has the quality to meet and even surpass those, quite like Sergi Roberto did.

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