We take a closer look at another La Masía talent, Cadete B’s striker Iker Bravo. The long-haired wonderboy has taken significant steps in the last few seasons. Raising from the shadow of Cristóbal Muñoz, Iker Bravo has proven himself to both the Blaugrana fans and national coaches.
Football fans around the world have been wondering themselves in the last years what happened to La Masía. The youth academy where players like Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were educated. The drought looks to be over after the excellent debut season for Ansu Fati. Ansu might be the next big thing at the Camp Nou, and if you were wondering – the amount of quality talents at La Masía is still astonishing: the latest proof is Iker Bravo. Bravo is an explosive attacking force for a Cadete B side that looks better than ever. The story of Iker Bravo is a story about fear and shyness, about one promise, and a mentality to reach the sky.
Iker Bravo Solanilla was born on 13 January 2005 in the Catalan city of Sant Cugat del Vallès. He started his footballing career when he was five years old, when his friends pushed him to join Espluguenc. Here he did not have a smooth start because of his shyness. He even felt it was ashaming when others saw him play. Iker didn’t want to play, but he wanted to watch the games. Therefore, his parents took him to a game and sat with him in the stands. His coaches invited him to play and, just like that, the Spaniard found the place where he belongs, in the field.
“Happy for my first call-up with the national team. Now it’s time to focus on my club, FC Barcelona“Iker Bravo
One day, when Iker woke up, he didn’t want to eat. His parents were worried and it all ended in a quarrel. To fix the situation, his parents showed him clips from the FCB Escola tournament. The whole situation ended with the promise that Iker could go and play at the FCB Escola tournament. It was during this tournament that FC Barcelona found their interest in the young five-year-old. Some tryouts later, they were all convinced. They wanted him to join the Prebenjamí. Iker Bravo has never looked back since and is now a lethal centre-forward for the Cadete B, the Catalan team and, at last, the Spanish national U16 team.
Playing style: The goalscoring machine
At La Masía, Iker Bravo has always been big for his age. In fact, the opposing coaches would often ask if he could stop “shooting too hard”. You might believe that the powerhouse was using his great physical attributes to his advantage, but Iker has always had exceptional abilities with his feet. Iker’s ability to do the unthinkable gives us flashbacks of Zlatan Ibrahimović. The size, the flair, and the lethal goalscoring ability are just on another level.
Iker Bravo has an outstanding physique for his age | Photo by FC Barcelona
Where Iker Bravo is most dangerous at is when he receives the ball at the 30 feet mark. His ability to shield the ball against opponents and his first touch to create room for his deadly finish are just outstanding. His way of reading the game when he makes his run into the box for a cross is remarkable as well. Another capability we find in Iker’s toolbox is his work rate. The way of pressing two central defenders is an overlooked art, but, after all, an art. Iker does it better than most attackers.
His smartness gives him the option to close out the centre-backs without the ball and put pressure on the ballcarrier. In this way, the Cadete B recover a lot of balls high up the pitch that they can use to their benefit. With 10 goals in 10 fixtures this season, Iker is the main reason the Cadete B find themselves at the top of the table. With a goal ratio of a goal per game, Iker proves why he is a starter for the Under-16 national team.
Because of his skillset, Iker Bravo can also be a part of the build-up play in his side. Coach Marc Serra has done a great job in getting Iker Bravo involved in the build-ups, which gives the Cadete B an extra man to generate superiorities. His overview is excellent, and his passing ability is also crisp sharp. It is easy to see how the Cadete B is lacking attacking threat when Iker is off the pitch.
How does the future hold for Iker Bravo?
Last season was an awful one for Iker Bravo’s team. With a new coach and a new system, the young culés were not able to perform to their true potential. Fans of La Masía started to lose confidence in the group that, one year earlier, had won La Liga Promises. Before this campaign began, Barça’s technical secretary made a move and gave Marc Serra the challenging job of getting the Cadete B back on its feet – and boy has it turned out well.
One of the most significant achievements of Marc Serra so far is getting Iker Bravo to perform at this incredible level. Raising from the shadow of the fantastic prospect in Cristóbal Munoz, the shy boy has taken steps nobody could see coming. Well, except Marc Serra. More regular playtime with the older Cadete A might be in sight for Iker this spring. If Iker Bravo continues his outrageous development, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him join the 2004 generation on full terms next year.
Barcelona B vs Valladolid Promesas: Match preview – First step towards promotion
Everything you need to know ahead of the match between Barcelona B and Valladolid Promeses at Malaga
As Barcelona B face Valladolid Promesas at Estadi Ciudad de Malaga, we take a look at the very crucial match-up in this match preview.
Date and kick-off time: Sunday 19 July 2020, 20:00 CET
Stadium: Estadio Ciudad de Málaga
Competition: Segunda División B play-offs for promotion to Segunda, first round
For a team like Barcelona, for whom youth development is one of the core philosophies, the Barcelona B team’s results are highly important as well. After getting relegated to Segunda B, Barcelona B started another quest to get promotion to the Segunda division. After a hard-fought season at Segunda B, the B team under the superb guidance of García Pimienta, has reached the playoffs. These playoffs are the stepping stones towards the Segunda. This is a very important match for the Blaugrana youngsters as they face Valladolid’s B team, the Valladolid Promesas and in this preview, we’ll take a look at this match-up.
Due to the unfortunate pandemic this year, the playoffs have had a few changes made to them. The qualifying criteria are still the same. The top four teams of each B league are drawn into the playoffs. From here, the usual final between the two winners to decide the overall Segunda B winners was removed. Instead, the losing semi-finalists will enter the play-off round for the remaining two promotion spots.
The four group runners-up will be drawn against one of the three fourth-placed teams outside their group. Whereas the four third-placed teams will be drawn against each other in a single game matchup. The six winners will advance along with the two losing semi-finalists to determine the four teams that play for the last two promotion spots.
Basically, the Barcelona B team will need to do their best in the next three rounds to gain promotion.
For Barcelona B, this match-up has gotten tougher than expected. Firstly, Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo won’t be allowed to play in the playoffs. Barcelona coach Quique Setién clarified this in a recent press conference.
Barça B will have many key absences in the playoffs | Photo by Aflosport via Imago
The fact that some of the strongest players that Barcelona B had throughout the season along with Ansu Fati, who made the jump to the first team from Juvenil A, won’t be present to help them win promotion is a major setback. Along with this, Álex Collado won’t be able to play as he recently suffered an injury. For Valladoid, this is a major advantage. The reason for their absence was specified so as to not avoid any complications in the Champions League.
“I would have liked the circumstances to be different, I’m sorry but it will not be possible for them to play with the B team”
Players such as Kike Saverio, Guillem Jaime, Chumi, and Hiroki Abe who were important parts of the team won’t be able to play as well due to their contracts not being renewed. This should mean that we see a lot of Juvenil A players get a chance to play. Especially since 9 of them have been announced in the squad.
The silver lining
Many people are of the opinion that since getting promotion to Segunda would mean that our La Masía players get more playtime at a better level next season. This is a very valid argument. The fact that Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig, and Ronald Araújo have still been restricted from going for the play-offs is quite controversial. But there is a silver lining.
With their absence and the many expired contracts, we see that 9 Juvenil A keepers have been called up. These players will get an opportunity to play for the B team in an important match, which will definitely help them as they rarely get to play at a match this important. Players such as Monchu, Ilaix, Jandro will get to prove that they are capable of filling up the massive personalities that Puig and Collado provided. It’s a good chance for them to display their abilities. For players like Konrad, Peque, Nico it’s a good chance to show that regardless of the result, the B team will be in safe hands next season.
And if they do get promoted, it would be a major boost for all the La Masia graduates looking at their seniors and looking up at the players who made it into the first team from La Masia. The players at Barcelona B would next season have an excellent opportunity to develop in the Segunda against the more experienced teams.
Winning this match would of course be an achievement for Pimienta. But if he were to win the playoffs in such difficult circumstances, Pimienta’s status as an excellent manager and a youth-development expert would only be solidified even more. This should make him a real contender, and not a plan B, in case Setien has to leave Barcelona in the near future. Pimienta definitely deserves it and this would be a great opportunity for him to show that he is ready.
Barcelona B face a very challenging match-up now. It certainly is a daunting challenge. Even though they don’t have the services of many of their players, they still have their greatest weapon in Garcia Pimienta. He is more capable than almost anyone to lead this group of youngsters with whom he has worked closely for such a long time.
Pimi, along with his players are a capable team. This match however, is much more than just a win-lose moment. Winning this match would signify that another generation of promising players such as Alena, Puig, Miranda, Oriol is coming through. Not only this, but it would provide the juniors, especially the Juvenil A and Juvenil B with hope that there is a way to get close to the first team and that the Barcelona B team is still a capable force that they should strive towards aiming for. The match against Valladolid Promeses is important not just for Barcelona B but for La Masia itself.