masia | 2015-06-30
The quest to find Xavi's successor
In the last decade or so, FC Barcelona have been replacing some of the great players who leave with homegrown players. Pep Guardiola was replaced by Xavi, Deco by Andrés Iniesta and Ronaldinho by Lionel Messi – to mention the most prolific ones. Now that Xavi has ended his prolific career at the club for 17 years, will a La Masia player be succeeding him in the long run? Here are some of the older canteranos who might be interesting to follow as we prepare for a future without Xavi in the heart of our midfield.
Samper is 20 years old and is currently playing for Barcelona B. He's a main player for the B team and is on the verge of being promoted to the first team, with interest coming from various other clubs. The Catalan has also been playing a couple of games this season with the first team, like Barça’s opening match in this year’s Champions League group stage against APOEL and both legs in the Copa del Rey against Huesca. He is a fantastic distributor of the ball who controls the tempo exactly the way he wants. Despite playing as defensive midfielder which led to comparisons with Pep Guardiola, there has been debate on whether or not Samper will be tried in central midfield when he joins the first team, just like Xavi who was also originally a defensive midfielder. It’s a position Samper is familiar with from his earlier days at La Masia and he is also more known for his passing and technique rather than his defending. Time will tell what Luis Enrique plans with him.
Kaptoum is 18 years old and, like Samper, is also currently playing for Barcelona B. Kaptoum is a bit of an outsider to become the next big La Masia midfielder and the fact that he has been injured for most of this season doesn’t help his chances. But the talent of the young Cameroonian is unquestionable. With central midfield as his territory, he controls the play and distributes the ball well, with a touch of class as well. After some very promising years at La Masia, Kaptoum must now show his worth at Barça B, and now that they will play in the third division after being relegated, an expected mass exodus is coming this summer, which means that Kaptoum could get a more significant role next season where he will try to help the B team in their fight for promotion.
Aleñà is a 17-year-old currently playing for Juvenil B. He is arguably the biggest midfield prospect in La Masia, if we exclude Barça B, and that says a lot because there are loads of talented midfielders in the club’s academy. The Catalan has all the technical capabilities to succeed at Barcelona, and on top of that, he is a born leader, having captained almost every side he has played for at La Masia. Despite not being the exact same type of midfielder as Xavi, Aleñà still dictates the play, while also bagging an impressive number of goals and assists every season, especially for a midfielder. One could say that he’s more like Cesc Fàbregas, but Aleñà is also able to dribble past two, three, or even four defenders due to his low center of gravity, technique and physique. He is quite simply a unique and complete midfielder, and he’ll try to lead Juvenil A, where he will be promoted, to glory next season.
Abou is 16 years old, currently playing for Juvenil A. Born in 1998, Ayoub has been playing with older kids for the past few seasons, and he has been able to thrive, despite being one year younger than the rest. Although he hasn’t quite had a successful season with Juvenil A due to injuries and an interim ban from playing while his transfer to the club was being investigated by RFEF, Ayoub is still one of the most talented midfielders in the academy. He’s is a two-footed attacking midfielder, who is also able to play on the wings or as false 9, but he is still very commanding when he plays in midfield, distributing the ball and playing the final passes authoritatively. The Moroccan turns 17 this summer and could leave to Portuguese club Porto instead of featuring for Juvenil A next season where he could form what looks to be an incredible duo with Carles Aleñà in central midfield.
A 15-year-old, Ramón Rodríguez Jiménez, also known as Monchu, is currently playing for Cadet B. Monchu is another midfield gem to keep an eye on. Joining the club in 2012 from Real Mallorca, Monchu rapidly adapted to the Barcelona way of playing and became a key player at Infantil B who already had good midfielders before his arrival. He was originally a central midfielder who sat deep in midfield and distributed the ball, but since he joined La Masia, he has developed into a more complete midfielder who is also able to take on attacking duties in midfield. Right from the start he stood out as a team player that simply enjoyed playing football, always playing with a positive attitude on the pitch. Hopefully that will continue in the next years, together with his development as a player.
Only time will tell if our “next Xavi” will come from La Masia, but we sure do have many talented midfielders in our academy and they will be interesting to keep an eye on over the next years.
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