A detailed analysis of La Masía 16-year-old Fermín López. A review of his profile, playing style and expectations for the long-term.
Laureano Ruiz is one of the fathers of the Barça DNA, the Methodology of La Masía and the rondo. He was a visionary that laid the foundation for the philosophy and the principles that Barcelona is so renowned for at present. Many decades ago, he had to counter the myth that footballers had to be tall and strong. To do that, he started signing short talented players instead.
He organised games to see the kids play and judged them based on quality, not on their physical conditions. Yesterday, in an interview to Cadena SER’s Què t’hi Jugues, he declared the following on his beginnings at the Catalan academy: “I saw a poster in Barça’s secretariat that said: ‘If you come to offer a youngster under 1.80 metres, we are not interested’. I told them they were wrong. The best players in history: Messi, Maradona, Pelé, Di Stefano…all were short“
“Barça wanted to get rid of him [Pep Guardiola]. They considered him scrawny, bad defensively and ineffective in the air. What nobody saw was that he had the basic qualities to go far: he had game intelligence, speed in his execution, technique. If I hadn’t been at Barcelona, for sure he would have been sold to a Segunda Division club”Johan Cruyff in his autobiography, on how he saved a young Josep Guardiola from the axe
Football has evolved a lot since. Without Laureano’s influence, probably Barcelona’s most dominant team, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all under 1.71m, wouldn’t have been possible. At present, La Masía is symbolised by its technical and smart footballers, not by the robust ones. Currently, at Barça B, Riqui Puig is challenging all beliefs on physique. But he’s not alone. At the Juvenil B, another tiny player is breaking the barriers of prejudice too: Fermín López.
Fermín López is another of the talents that were recruited by Barcelona while playing in Andalusia, southern Spain. Ansu Fati was one of them too. Ansu, though, was signed from Sevilla, while this week’s protagonist emerged from their city rivals, Betis. Fermín López Marín was born on 11 May 2003 in El Campillo, Huelva. Aged 8, Fermín began playing football at his hometown’s club, El Campillo, before moving to Recreativo de Huelva one year later. There he faced Barcelona for the first time, in a semi-final of the Torneo Internacional Ricardo Godoi, in Portugal. However, his next club, after only one season, would be Real Betis Balompié. Fermín was fulfilling his dreams, as he had been a follower of the Verdiblancos since he was a kid.
There, Barça started following Fermín, and were eager to watch him at La Liga Promises. Nevertheless, unexpected chickenpox left him unavailable to feature in the prestigious tournament. Every club was after him. Despite certain difficulties to move from 7-a-side football to F11, he regularly was the top goalscorer in his age groups. In the summer of 2016, Fermín López decided to move to a Spanish giant and, due to the quality of life and the project at La Masía, he chose Barcelona.
“Barça is my second family”Fermín López
His father often travels the 1.000 kilometres from El Campillo to watch his son, but Fermín’s adaptation to the blaugrana system was fairly smooth. In his first season, he went from less to more, but ended with more than 20 goals for the Infantil A. Three years after his arrival, López is playing for the Juvenil B. In spite of some struggles to take the leap due to the competition in his position, Fermín López is still considered a bright gem at La Masía. In March 2019, before turning 16, Barcelona renewed his contract until 2022.
As mentioned previously, Fermín López is a very tiny footballer, but this is nothing new to him. He has always been one of, if not the, smallest players in his teams. That’s the main reason why changing from a category to another has continuously been challenging for him. He struggled to move from 7-a-side to 11-a-side football. Then, at Barça he started slowly even if he finished as one of his side’s top goalscorers. And even last term he played more games coming off the bench than from the start at the Cadete A. The same is happening this campaign at the Juvenil B, which already are big words. Although quality always ends up imposing itself, it’s undeniable that for someone so small he needs time to get used to things.
Notwithstanding, he’s much smaller yet much more intelligent and gifted than his rivals. Riqui Puig’s case was somewhat similar. He wasn’t a regular starter in the youth teams either but used his footballing brain to neutralise his a priori physical weakness. The short stature has given Fermín admirable agility and cleverness. The 16-year-old is very competitive and fights for every ball, and has had that big player instinct to be decisive in finals or Clásicos.
Juvenil B’s Fermín López rocking the blaugrana colours | Photo by FC Barcelona
Last season, coach Carles Martínez experimented with him in various positions. Fermín López used to be a mediapunta or attacking midfielder, but the coach had many options for midfield. These included Txus Alba, Jorge Alastuey, Xavi Simons, Marc Casadó or Arnau Solà. Therefore, Fermín was deployed regularly on the left wing, showcasing his ability to cut inside with his stronger right foot. He can be direct and skilled in one-versus-ones, mostly thanks to his quick explosive movements, but his reading of the game and vision are extraordinary as well. The Andalusian teenager likes to position himself between the lines and pick out passes, dribble or unbalance tight defences. A wide set of skills for a versatile attacker.
What does the future hold for Fermín López?
As he continues to progress at La Masía, Fermín López will have to define his position on the pitch. Naturally an attacking midfielder, for Barcelona’s 4–3–3 he may have to choose between playing deeper as an interior or being a left winger permanently. What’s for sure is that, while stature can be a handicap at times, past and present examples have proven that it will never be a definitive problem. In fact, quite the opposite, as he has been using it to his advantage so far.
Besides, he will need to find regular playtime at the Juvenil B and continue with his progression, in the hope that he hasn’t stagnated. If he manages to overcome all the obstacle, Fermín’s future may look bright, very bright. Trust the quality.
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.