After years of big signings and poor outcomes, Barcelona has finally decided to turn to youth. These are the youngsters that will help the team dearly next term.
? — The 'new' Barça. [sport] pic.twitter.com/jzMLBZPFQV— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 25, 2020
There isn’t anything much more beautiful than seeing a player climb through the ranks for his boyhood club. There is added pride when the youngster achieves significant milestones for the club. Recently, Birmingham City retired Jude Bellingham’s number 22 because the 17-year-old decided to sign a pro contract with the Championship club to leave for a more significant fee as Birmingham’s finances were in the red. Birmingham can be proud of their youngster, but he did not achieve anything with them. If one took a trip to the North of Spain, they’d be mesmerized by the amount of joy youngsters have given their club.
Whether it is the eternal Aritz Aduriz who had three spells with his Athletic Club side and scored 172 across all competitions with them, José Marí Bakero who won two league titles with Real Sociedad before leaving for Barça and becoming a part of Johan Cruyff’s dream team or several great Barça youngsters over the years, Spain has provided the brightest talent in the world.
Their golden generation won everything there was for club and country. However, if one compared Barcelona’s youth talents before and now, they’d obviously see a slight dip in La Masía’s talent pool. From Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi to players such as Isaac Cuenca, Martin Montoya, or Jonathan Dos Santos, the Barcelona academy has suffered from mediocrity, and that’s mainly on the board which kept blocking the way for bright youngsters to make their debut at Camp Nou. That’s how Alex Grimaldo, André Onana, or Hector Bellerín find themselves playing respectively for Benfica, Ajax, and Arsenal and fulfilling their enormous potential while being rumored to join Barça every summer.
In recent years, the board tried to cover the flood of homegrown talent with big signings, and most of them have disappointed. Always-injured Ousmane Dembélé, disappointing Philippe Coutinho or underwhelming Nelson Semedo. These are the kind of signings Culés have been treated to, and the complaints have flooded the board. Now, with little to no money in the bank, the board has to use their talents.
After years of blocking the way for Riqui Puig with André Gomes, Arturo Vidal or other older players, the Catalan has finally gotten his chance to impress under Setién, and he has been one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season in Blaugrana. For Ansu Fati, he was meant to be a makeshift left-winger as there was an injury crisis in Barça’s frontline, but his scintillating season has earned him a pro contract along with Puig. And the two brightest La Masía gems will have company next year, as signings will be scarce. Indeed, with no big wallet, there will be no big-money signings such as Lautaro Martinez and that will force Quique Setién and the board to trust in youth. The freshness rapid and energetic youngsters such as Pedri and Alex Collado, who can play as wingers and midfielders will surely help rest the tired veterans in 33-year-old Messi and Suarez and 34-year-old Arturo Vidal, especially when Arthur, 23, has left for Miralem Pjanic, 30, to take his place.
Against intense teams, using a more dynamic system in midfield with tireless players such as Frenkie De Jong, Sergi Roberto, and Riqui Puig could be key to win. On the bench in those sorts of games, Carles Aleña, who can also play as a false nine, could add some energy and the club already told him that they plan to use him after his loan to Real Betis this year. It will be Carles’ first real opportunity as a Culé, and he has to take his chances just as Riqui did.
In defense, Setién might have found the perfect Piqué replacement. Step in, Ronald Araujo. Indeed, the Uruguayan has played a handful of games at Camp Nou but has shown a lot of promise in a limited number of minutes. Piqué’s entering his last few years and trying to incorporate a composed centre-back with a lot of potential could help ease some pressure off the Catalan’s back. The defence also doesn’t need that much revamp as Nelson Semedo has found some sort of form for once, Clément Lenglet is one of the best in his position at only 25, and Junior Firpo could blow up if he’s given the right amount of confidence.
While we covered most of the young talent who are going to play for Barça next year, one enigma remains, and that’s Ousmane Dembélé’s case. As mentioned, the Frenchman has had trouble with his fitness since joining in 2017. However, when he has played, he has shown many promising signs. At 23, he’s one of the most skillful wingers in the league and can terrorize defences just by running at them at full speed. He can provide the width Setién’s team needs, and he has got that X-factor. Also, when he’s in the mood, he’s in the mood for a long time. We’re talking about a player who won the most points in 2018/19 in the league for Barça after Messi. That’s pretty crazy given his injuries.
The young group of players emerging at Barça will help the team when they require change and energy. The older brigade has done its part, winning many league titles and a Champions League. It’s time to have confidence in hungry youngsters rather than feeding the full veterans. Next year will be the year where everyone will get a fair chance, hopefully.
Why Erling Braut Håland should be Barcelona’s future number 9
While he would be an unconventional player at the club, why should Barcelona target Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Håland after the departure of Luis Suárez?
A 19-year-old Erling Braut Håland took the footballing world by storm last year when he scored a hat-trick of goals on his Champions League debut and then went on to become only the second teenager to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition.
In the winter transfer window, Håland moved from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to German side Borussia Dortmund in hopes of both improving his game and leading Lucien Favre’s side to the Bundesliga title. The Norwegian wonderkid ended the Bundesliga season with 13 goals and 3 assists in 15 games, and Dortmund finished second on the table.
Håland’s 44-goal season put him on the radar of all the top clubs in the world, and while the striker is at the top of his game at Dortmund, his departure to a top European club in the future is inevitable at some point. Following club legend Luis Suárez‘s departure from Barcelona, the Catalan club is surely looking for El Pistolero‘s heir. With Barcelona looking for a top striker for the future, and the Norwegian machine looking at a European giant to move to, Håland might just be the name that reads on Barcelona’s number 9 shirt.
The transfer market is unpredictable, and Håland’s agent being notorious superagent – and supervillain – Mino Raiola, makes things even more complicated. Instead of looking at if Barcelona will seek Håland’s services, this article will look at why Barcelona should seek Håland’s services.
To begin with, let’s talk about Håland’s statistics. In the 2019/20 season, he scored 44 and assisted 10 goals. 10 of the goals were in the Champions League. He scored more goals than expected with his G90, 1.10, being higher than his xG90, 0.75. It has been established that Håland is a goalscoring machine. The Norwegian’s physique is absolutely astounding. At 6 feet 4 inches (1.94 metres), Håland provides quite the aerial threat, something the blaugrana club severely lacks.
In spite of his towering height, Håland is incredibly fast; he reached a top speed of 36 km/h and was 0.3 seconds off from breaking the world record for a 60-metre sprint. Football has evolved in recent years, with training facilities improving and more money being invested in fitness training, players have become more athletic. A striker who will face off against athletic defenders definitely needs to be a physical demon.
When at RB Salzburg, Barcelona rejected to sign Erling Braut Håland because he did not have the suited profile | Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos via Getty Images
Does Håland have the technical ability of a prime Luis Suárez or of a Samuel Eto’o? No. Would he be heavily involved in the build-up play like some of Barcelona’s preceding number 9s? No. If Håland was to join, he would be the most uncreative player in the squad, and believe it or not, that is exactly what Barcelona needs right now.
The recurring humiliations in the Champions League knockout stages have had one thing in common – apart from the poor defence –: the lack of a runner. Every elite team in Europe has elite runners: PSG have Kylian Mbappé, Liverpool have Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mané, Bayern have Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.
The Barcelona team, all these years, has been stacked with players who love having the ball at their feet all the time – Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann…The reason Messi’s last few years have been wasted is that he hasn’t been provided with a runner to get at the end of his through balls. This problem cannot occur again.
Barcelona’s future lies with talented playmakers like Francisco Trincão, Pedri, Riqui Puig, etc, and these playmakers need a proficient and clinical striker with good off the ball movement, to score goals for the team. Håland doesn’t only have a good physique, he is also an intelligent footballer. He knows how to time runs, how to hold the defence, and is a lethal shooter of the ball.
Erling Braut Håland would be quite an unorthodox signing for Barcelona. Quite unlike all of his predecessors. But if the club’s transfer policy fails to evolve while the game itself is evolving, then the Catalan club is going to become a relic of the past. A player like Lionel Messi is never going to appear again. Thus, after his departure, if Barcelona want to dominate in Europe like they once did, the team is going to have to function like a system, and Erling Håland is the piece that fits the puzzle the best.
So apart from everything discussed in this article, why should Erling Håland join Barcelona? Well, in his own words: why not?