Sometimes talent takes time to come to light. While Adrià Capdevila is currently a substitute at the Cadete A, he’s a pure midfielder raised at La Masía and tailormade for Barça.
There are many circumstances that influence a youngster’s development, as well as many obstacles he has to overcome. It is extremely rare, if not impossible, to find a successful professional footballer that, when he was a young boy, did not have a single moment of difficulty, of people who did not believe in him, of indecision, of lack of faith, of problems of adaptation. At present, Cadete A’s Adrià Capdevila seems to be going through one of these tough moments. Nonetheless, he has more than enough talent in his boots, and in his head too.
Born on 12 January 2004 in the tiny town of Gurb, next to Vic, Catalonia, Adrià Capdevila has always had a smile on his face. He began playing for Vic Riuprimer REFO, until, ahead of the 2012/13 season, he was recruited for Barcelona’s Benjamín D. In the following campaign he was promoted to the Benjamín A, where he joined what would be his inseparable teammate and friend: Aleix Garrido. On and off the pitch, they have always been together ever since.
Understanding each other to perfection, they have made some La Masía enthusiasts link them to the duo of Xavi and Iniesta. Aleix is the number 8, while Adrià, the number 6, is more often compared to Xavi. Then the more creative and attack-minded Pablo Páez Gavi, arriving from Betis, was added to the mix in 2016, forming an incredibly balanced midfield trio in the extremely promising 2004 generation.
Still, it was Capdevila who won the MVP awards in most trophies they took part in. World Challenge Cup, St. Kevin’s Boys Club, Torneig Arnedo, MIC 2018…or the prestigious La Liga Promises in 2016, which Barça won. There Adrià started to grab many people’s attention, but it was in the World Challenge Cup in the summer of 2016 when he had his most applauded gesture. The Infantil B beat Japan’s Omiya Ardija by 0–1, but, instead of going to celebrate, the Barcelona kids saw that their rivals had broken into tears and went to comfort them. In particular, Capdevila consoled each of his Japanese opponents one by one.
“Our gesture in Japan is Barça DNA”Adrià Capdevila
Their coach Sergi Milà later said about Adrià: “He’s Catalan from head to toe. We asked him what was he telling them and in which language did he speak them to, and he answered that in Catalan, but that he had understood them through gestures”. These values saw the Infantil B claim the prize for the Laureus Awards’ Best Sporting Moment of the Year. In victory and in defeat, Barcelona, and Capdevila, have been exemplary.
It’s not the only admirable gesture Capde has had, of course. For example, after the 2016 La Liga Promises title, he expressed: “We dedicate it to the teammates that have not been called up”, as 11 players had to stay at home as only 12 were allowed to participate in the competition. And, in spite of being the captain, he let Diego Almeida lift the trophy too because “he has had a great tournament and deserved it”. For his attitude and values, Adrià represents all what Barça should be.
Unfortunately, the past season and a half has not been ideal for the teenager. In 2018 Biel Vicens arrived from Girona, and that added competition to his spot. Biel is, like Capdevila, a natural defensive midfielder, but with a greater goalscoring and attacking instinct, and more physical. The small stature and lack of imposing physique have seemed to penalise Adrià, apart from the change to a double pivot in the Cadete. Even so, Barcelona should make sure to trust talent.
Another somewhat incomprehensible situation is how Capdevila has never been called up for any of Spain’s youth national teams, despite, as mentioned, he had been picking most MVP awards for Barça until 2018. Let us hope that, soon, football does justice with the 16-year-old in club and country.
If there’s a position where La Masía has been producing hot prospects on a regular basis in recent years, that’s midfield. And, more specifically, holding midfield. Oriol Busquets, Jandro Orellana, Álex Rico or Adrià Capdevila himself. They are all pure Barça DNA, and Adrià is no different. He may be small, but his tactical and technical talent is immense. It’s his commendable maturity, way beyond his years, which allows him to obtain most of his advantages.
Adrà Capdevila is leadership and maturity | Photo by La Liga Promises
While, for instance, Aleix Garrido is super smart as well, in terms of intelligence and reading of the game Capdevila is one of Cadete A’s best. Always properly positioned, knowing which spot to occupy and which spaces to fill. That happens now, when he’s aged 16, but it happened when he was only 12 too, when him and Aleix where the ones who made the entire team move. By that time, in 7-a-side football, it was common to see Adrià drop deep to defence and add support to the lone centre-back, picking and passing the ball from there.
Capde has a brilliant mind, being very calm and a total controller from deep. His passes are very accurate, and his body orientation and controls always favour the ball circulation. He by no means is a regular goalscorer, nor a brilliant shooter, but he does have an eye for a pass to break lines and exploit any gaps in the opposing defences. His distribution, short and long, and after one touch or following a previous control, is superb too. He organises and dictates play from midfield. And then he’s a born leader with a great attitude. It’s mostly in the physical side where he has been struggling the most lately, but his quality remains intact.
What does the future hold for Adrià Capdevila?
Always one of the unquestionably best players of the 2004 generation, now Adrià is finding some difficulties to establish himself as a starter due to injuries, the competition with Biel Vicens and problems to keep up with the physical level of this category. However, his intelligence and tactical, technical and cognitive aptitudes should make us more optimistic. In fact, several years ago Aleñá and Riqui Puig even had the same problems. Hopefully, this is just a hurdle that he will eventually overcome, and his evolution will, in the end, be a positive one. A matter of trusting the process?
Barcelona B: Changes which we can expect this season
For Barcelona, its youth setup – Barcelona B, and the famed La Masia – has often served as one of its core components, and not a subsidiary, like a lot of clubs around Europe. It has often been the first step for players before they join the first team, learning the ways and about the heritage of the club.
Currently, a part of the Segunda B, Barcelona B were in the Segunda not more than two years ago and failed to gain promotion last season after coming oh-so-close. As another season starts, Barcelona B must balance their success on the pitch and the development of youth players simultaneously. Barca Universal takes a look at the changes we can expect from them this season.
Barcelona B must, without compromise, involve new players from the youth teams every season as much as possible. This is best showcased by Garcia Pimienta, who uses the youth teams to bolster his squad. Similarly, there are some specific players we can expect to see this season.
Against Cornella, Cadete A player Ilias Akhomach debuted for Barca B and played an entire half. At just 16 years of age, he probably won’t get a lot of chances, but if he does, we can count on him to repay the manager. The winger who has grown meteorically through the youth ranks of the Catalan club in rapid succession looked comfortable playing against much older players in the Segunda. He’s someone who could make an impact this season.
At left-back, Barcelona has a player who has progressed immensely. Alejandro Balde has played above his age group for a long time, and his development has been incredible. At 17, he is a starter for the B team and is among the players who can definitely contest for the first-team in the future. Balde is good both defensively and offensively – his pace, dribbling combined with his tracking-tackling skills makes him a capable asset down the wing.
Apart from these two, we might see attacking midfielder Brian Pena and defensive midfielder Alex Rico. Towards the end of the season, Diego Almeida, Txus Alba, Gavi might be given their debuts as well as part of an up-and-coming generation coming through.
This is a change seen in subsidiary teams such as the B team usually when there is an adjustment in the tactics for the first team. Since the team has a new manager in Ronald Koeman, the tactics are rather fresh as well. Under Setien, a 4-3-3 formation was the preferred choice, whereas under Koeman it is a 4-2-3-1. Though Barcelona played a 4-4-2 under Valverde, the B team continued in a 4-3-3. The shift to a 4-2-3-1, however, is quite less, compared to a 4-4-2.
Koeman has brought with him a plethora of changes, the major one being the team setup. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)
The second team’s sole purpose is to facilitate for the first team, which remains the priority this season as well. It just so happens that the Spaniard has three remarkable players at his disposal who can play in a double-pivot and can soon step-up to the first team – Nico Gonzalez, Jandro Orellana and Oriol Busquets. Implementing a double pivot with these players would also benefit the rest of the players. Matheus Fernandes or Alex Collado could play in the number 10 role where they can excel. Additionally, there is an interesting option in the form of Brian Pena whose style resembles Philippe Coutinho’s, could get to feature for the B team in the mediapunta role. In turn, Hiroki Abe, Ilias Akhomach, Nils Moreno, among others could play feature on the wing.
Formation changes for Barcelona B would not only help the players transition from the B team to the first team but will also improve their tactical flexibility. One of the biggest advantages of playing in a 4-2-3-1, however, leads us to our next change.
Barcelona have produced many incredible number 9s in history as well as recently. However, there has been something about the 4-3-3 system which hasn’t suited these talents – for example, Abel Ruiz. An undisputed starter for Spain’s youth sides, he was benched by Alejandro Marquez in some instances owing to his failure to rack up goals for the B team.
Abel Ruiz failed to live up to his own prophecy. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
A very promising striker coming through is Gerard Fernandez, or Peque, as he is called. Playing a 4-2-3-1 system would bring out the best in him. As a forward who is incredible at pressing the defence, he would get that freedom in a 4-2-3-1. Another one of his strong attributes is his ability to link-up very well with his teammates. With a no. 10 behind him and a winger on either side, he would get the opportunity to further develop his anchor play.
The problem Barca B have had with the number 9 role is one that could make the difference between reaching the playoffs like last season and earning promotion to the Segunda A.
Barcelona B are a very dynamic team. There are always multiple changes in multiple positions due to the nature of the team. A manager focused on developing youth, Garcia Pimienta has made sure they are a very capable collective as well. With the changes we examined in this article, Barcelona B could top last season’s playoffs and finally get promotion to the Segunda A. And if not that, we can be sure that they will continue to roll out incredible players that will become Barcelona stars one day.