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Barcelona first team may have won a treble in 2014-15 and a domestic double last season, but that doesn’t mean all is right at the club. Success under Pep Guardiola was based on the team’s homegrown spine. The likes of Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Lionel Messi were the flag-bearers for the Catalans, having made it to the senior squad from the famed La Masia.
But under current manager Luis Enrique, Barcelona have achieved success with outside purchases — Neymar (signed the year before Enrique), Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen being the chief among them.
Barca B have been relegated to the third tier of Spanish football and La Masia’s name has somewhat been tarnished due to issues in signing South American youngsters. On the B team’s performance in the season he arrived, Luis Enrique was disappointed with many of the club’s youngsters.
This season, the manager went out and spent heavily on the likes of Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Lucas Digne, opting to release academy players like Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi and the promising left-back Alejandro Grimaldo. It has been an unnatural development at Camp Nou, moving away from the philosophy that brought them so much success and glory in the past.
However, it may well be argued that the quality in the supply line isn’t at the same level as before. But the fact that the new signings that were made this summer have hardly had any impact (barring Samuel Umtiti), brings Enrique’s policy into question. Gomes, Alcacer and Digne have struggled to adapt at Barcelona and have been on the fringes. Wouldn’t Enrique have been better off bringing in players from the academy instead? With transfer funds drying up for Barca, wouldn’t it have been more prudent for them to induct talent from the La Masia rather than spending so heavily on mere squad players? Probably yes. Keeping that in mind, here we look at three talents in the current Barcelona youth side who are capable of slotting themselves into the Premier League:
It came as a huge shock to everyone around the club when Enrique decided to send this 22-year old midfielder on loan ahead of the season.
Samper, for long, has been touted as the man to take over the mantle from Sergio Busquets as the defensive midfielder for Barcelona. But the man in-charge deemed fit to farm him out temporarily and invest heavily in Andre Gomes, who has been a huge failure. Samper, on the other hand, has quietly gone about his job for loan club Granada.
The 22-year old has made 19 appearances for his loan club across all competitions and has impressed. A precocious talent, who is at his best when operating as a midfield pivot, Samper had been linked with the likes of Arsenal in the past and there are no doubts that he would add great value to whichever side he joins. Enrique surely missed out on a gem in Samper.
From the Juvenil A side to becoming the captain of the Barcelona B team, Palencia’s rise has been rapid and unprecedented. After having moved to the B team in February a couple of years back, the management had been so heavily impressed by the young right-back, that he was soon awarded a new and improved long-term contract.
Someone who wasn’t really tipped to make it big, it has been a journey full of hard work and toils for Palencia. The Argentine idolises compatriot Javier Mascherano, despite playing in a different position. It has been a surprise that Enrique hasn’t called him up, given Barcelona’s struggles at right-back. The 20-year old has played 27 times for the ‘B’ team this season and has made two assists.
There is potential in plenty and the will and the effort that Palencia has displayed in his fledgling career will only hold him in good stead moving forward in his career.
Barcelona’s games in UEFA Youth League two years back were largely dominated by the young Cameroonian midfielder Wilfrid Kaptoum and the 20-year old was soon promoted to the B side after his performances.
He arrived at the La Masia from the Samuel Eto’o Foundation, where he was called as ‘Zizou’ by one of the coaches, who likened him to current Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane. He has also been compared to Thiago Alcantara after he arrived at Barcelona.
Injuries have hampered his development in recent times and have restricted him to only 10 appearances this season, in which he has managed a single assist. But once he regains full fitness, he could be a real deal in the future.