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Player Reviews 20/21

Barcelona season review 20/21: Ilaix Moriba

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Photo via Imago

Moriba Kourouma Kourouma, more commonly known as Ilaix Moriba, has been one of the best news of this season at “Can Barça”

At just eighteen years old, he made his professional debut for Barcelona on January 21st, 2021 in a Copa del Rey game against Cornellá, in which the Blaugranas suffered to defeat the third-division team in extra-time, with a final result of 0-2. His La Liga debut came shortly after, on February 13th in a home game against Alavés, in which he even gave an assist to Francisco Trincao

First goal

His first goal was probably one of the most important of his budding career. A beautiful shot from outside the box in a game at Osasuna on March 6th, closing out the Catalans’ victory for 0-2. Coincidentally, his teammate and good friend Ansu Fati scored his first professional goal for the club in the same stadium, back in August 2019, when Fati was just a sixteen-year-old.

With that goal against Osasuna, Moriba became the fifth-youngest player to score for the Azulgranas in their history, setting the tone and announcing himself as one of the key players in the club’s future.

Announcing himself. (Photo via Imago)

His presence

Since arriving at La Masia at just eight years old, Moriba has been a midfielder whose presence has been felt in all the teams he has played in. He is believed to be one of the most exciting prospects of his class, with Ansu Fati, of course. He is a player that smoothly mixes the typical quality for a Barcelona youth prospect and a physical presence that is rarely seen in an eighteen-year-old footballer.

His quality has been developing during his formative years but what has been a game-changer for the youngster is his physicality, which has been rising to a more than admirable level. All his qualities have been strongly felt on the field since his debut, and his minutes have been proven so, as manager Ronald Koeman has been choosing him as a regular player in the squad’s rotation, coming off the bench in most games. 

His quality and, more specifically, his physical presence has been what Koeman liked the most about Moriba. It is rare to find eighteen-year-olds who have this sense of the game combined with a lack of fear when having to deliver.

Regularity with Koeman 

It would be fair to say that Koeman has liked Moriba since the youngster was first called up for first-team training. In fact, stats are the greatest example to show how impressive Moriba’s first season as a professional has been. He has played 18 games with the first team since debuting in January 2021, in which he has scored a goal and has given three assists. As Moriba has played a total of 672 minutes, the numbers speak for themselves, proving to be one of the most used midfielders by Koeman in the second part of the season.

Backed by the gaffer on the biggest of occasions. (Photo via Imago)

Other young prospects that have been affected by the abrupt appearance by Moriba, prospects such as Riqui Puig, who was asked to look for another team at the start of the season due to minute-playing lacking. Puig has only played 581 minutes and, unlike Moriba, has been in the first squad since the start of the season. He has been given minutes in huge games such as the Champions League second leg of the round of 16 against PSG and crucial La Liga games against Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. 

Playing with Barça B and first team 

In fact, Ilaix Moriba has not only played with Ronald Koeman’s side but also Barça B’s team, which currently sits in Segunda División B, the third-tier league in Spain. This season, he has played 798 minutes, elevating the total season playing time with both teams to 1377. If we put these numbers in context, only three other midfielders in the Catalan club squad have played more minutes than him. They are the typical starting midfield: Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, and Sergio Busquets, in that order. 

His season with García Pimienta’s Barça B was crucial as he proved to be one of the best players on the team. Unfortunately, a great season by the second team concluded with a painful ending as they lost to UCAM Múrcia on the penalties of the semifinals to secure promotion to La Liga Smartbank (second division).

Despite this final disappointment, let’s bear in mind that Barça B’s main goal is to develop great players for the first team, which is what happened this season. Big prospects such as the captain Álex Collado, the recently renewed Nico González, or the seventeen-year-old left-back Alejandro Baldé will be names that Camp Nou attendants will hear about sooner than later. 

Overall season rating

On the whole, Ilaix Moriba’s season has been one for the books as he has made the biggest progress in his career. He has shown a great attitude on the field and has also shown off a great skilling package and an admirable physical presence. It is clear that if he gets to renew his contract in affordable conditions for the club, the culers will for sure be really excited to see such a prospect develop and settle in the first team. 

Technique and physicality in equal measure. (Photo via Imago)

If we had to give a mark to Ilaix, it would be a. It is clear that his presence as an eighteen-year-old is extremely remarkable, but the truth is that, like all the team, his level decreased as the end of the season was approaching. However, regardless of how he was playing a game, his attitude was always exemplary, something which has been constantly lacking in seasons gone by.

Having said that, it is amazing to analyze the progress of such a young player with a bright future ahead. If he continues to quickly improve as he has done in the previous seasons, the physical midfielder that the club has been constantly seeking in the transfer market will be right in their hands.

Barça Universal rating: 7

My unconditional passion for Barça started the day I was born, when my grandfather made me a member of the club. Watching countless games at the Camp Nou, countless suffering and celebrating nights after, I can assure that Barça has created a boundary with me that will never be broken. One of my other passions is journalism, so what an amazing opportunity it is to be able to write about Barça in such a global page as Barça Universal.