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Ilaix Moriba has become the new obstacle for Riqui Puig at Barcelona



Photo by Gerard Franco Crespo via Imago

In a very frustrating draw against Paris Saint Germain in Paris, Ilaix Moriba had his debut appearance in the UCL. Ilaix had his first training session with the first team soon after the loan move of Carles Alena was finalized. The teenager was handed his debut in the Copa tie against Cornella, and has gone on to win Ronald Koeman’s trust, and has been a constant name in the team sheet for weeks now.

Ilaix left the city rivals, Espanyol, to join La Masia in 2010 and has been touted as one of his generation’s best players by many coaches in the youth setup. As soon as he turned 16, many big clubs, including Juventus, Manchester City, and Chelsea, wanted him. This meant that Barcelona had to offer him a more significant contract than they wished to.

Over the years, La Masia graduates have been taught to pass and move; however, the Guinea-born midfielder wants to run with the ball and has a very prolific vision too. His tall and robust physique indeed allows him to shrug off opposition players, which even the first team lacks.

Former Barca U-19 coach Denis Silva Puig highlighted that game has evolved, and it’s good to have someone tall and strong like Ilaix in the team.

“He’s physically solid, but he’s also a knowledgeable player,” former coach Denis Silva Puig told Bleacher Report. “Most people don’t appreciate this. Here he’s called the ‘Pogba of Barca’ because he’s like a young Pogba, but he is also very intelligent—and that is his enormous potential. He is a top player, no doubt.

“He’s a little bit, maybe modern—in the English football kind of sense. It’s good to have him at Barca. The academy can’t be all about the Riqui [Puig]’s or the Monchus — small players with a lot of talent. Football trends change every year, every month. Still, Ilaix is here not because he is tall or strong, but because he is outstanding in every facet of the game.” said Denis Silva Puig in an interview with Bleacher Report.

All things considered, the sudden rise of Ilaix means that there is more competition for Riqui Puig to be the fourth midfielder in the team. With a long-term injury to Philippe Coutinho, it was almost certain that Puig will get more minutes which he did initially. However, over the past few matches, it has been visible that the Dutch manager prefers to send in Ilaix as the first change, and credit to him for grabbing the limited opportunities with wide open hands.

Photo by Bagu Blanco via Imago

One thing is for sure that once again when Barcelona was with their back against the walls, La Masia has not disappointed. Many quality players have emerged in this season, and some, including the likes of Alex Collado and Alejandro Balde, are still to leave their impression on the first team. Clearly, there is healthy competition for different spots, which will surely motivate the players to strive to be better than they were the day before.

It must be a headache for any manager to select his team with so many talented players at your disposal. Certainly, it’s a good headache to have for Koeman, who has done a magnificent job with La Masia youngsters, allowing them to bridge the B team and the first squad gap almost perfectly. However, with so many talented young players, Koeman and the entire coaching staff must rotate the squad well.

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