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Monchu, Barça B’s total midfielder deserving of more

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Hungry, intelligent and gifted, Barça B’s all-round midfielder Monchu Rodríguez is ready for the First Division, and for the blaugranas’ first team too.


It’s a bit strange, not to say unfair, that the player with most minutes at Barça B and certainly one of the most important ones is by no means one of those receiving most attention for a promotion to the first team. Ramón Rodríguez, commonly known as Monchu, has been growing in importance and maturity in these past two seasons. But, while he has been absolutely key for García Pimienta, he is being treated almost as if he was a secondary actor. Why so?

Monchu is the captain and leader of Barça B. The versatile midfielder is, by some distance, the player with most minutes with the reserves this season, in 2.307, as well as their top goalscorer with 8 goals. While he takes free-kicks and penalties, his high scoring figures already hint at one of his main strengths: his instinct and arrivals into the box. He knows when to make a surprising run into the penalty area to get at the end of a cross, and is extraordinary at shooting from short and long range as well.

His character and maturity defines him on the pitch. Despite being only 20 years old, he’s one of those footballers who you know for certain that will not shrink once they play alongside the senior stars. Whether it’s in a training session, in a Second Division B match, or a potential fixture at the Camp Nou, Monchu never lowers his intensity and concentration. If he has to share the pitch with the likes of Messi and Busquets, you can bet on him to play with his head held high and without fear. Such boldness, nerve and personality characterised someone like Thiago Alcântara when he was his age too.

Monchu Rodríguez Malcom Barça midfielder

Monchu has only appeared with the first team in friendlies, and clearly deserves better | Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

As much as he is passionate and committed, though, his technical and tactical quality can by no means be neglected. His attitude many times hides his incredible talent to pass, move, shoot, carry the ball and protect it. He is an outstanding distributor, in tight spaces, short distances and at one touch, but also with his pinpoint long balls into a teammate. In spite of often being linked with someone like Vidal for his spirit and freedom to push forward, in some ways he’s closer to Xavi. Differences apart, obviously, Monchu is similar to Xavi in terms of being very positional, but by no means static. He moves, yet knows how to move. He never disturbs other zones, but will drop deep or go forward depending on each situation. A low centre of gravity, small stature at only 1.73 metres, and a lot of mobility and dynamism. An organised, yet not static, interior.

One of Barça B’s turning points this season was when Pimienta placed Jandro Orellana in the holding midfield role, and moved Monchu to central midfield. With Jandro as the pivot, Monchu and Riqui as the interiors, and Collado as a false winger, the blaugranas have been highly functional in their dominance of possession, positioning and pressing. For his smartness and passing range, Monchu can comfortably act as the defensive midfielder, but as a number 6 or even number 8 he can have a much greater impact in the attacking end.

For his extremely high rhythm and maturity, the Mallorca-born talent really looks like a first team player that has dropped to the B to provide them some help. His competitiveness and leadership is really hard to find in someone of his age, as he’s hungrier than everybody else. While he may not be the prototype La Masía midfielder, like Riqui or Jandro, he does have all the concepts required for Barcelona plus other attributes that make him unique. With a complete skillset and his dynamism, his profile can be very complementary in the senior side.

If the question is Is he ready for the first team?, the answer should be clear: no doubt. Nevertheless, responding to Does he have a place in the first team? is much harder, since it not only depends on him. His contract with Barça expires in 2021, but, like with Álex Collado, the club has the option to automatically extend it to 2023. They clearly should. According to Mundo Deportivo, teams from Spain, Italy, Germany and England, with Brighton and Bournemouth, have shown interest in the 20-year-old. No wonder why. Monchu is completely prepared for the First Division, and should be playing in it next campaign. However, while the midfield is overcrowded, Barcelona should seriously consider keeping him in the first team. Thankfully, Monchu has been training under Setién these days, and at least deserves his official debut with the Catalans. A loan would not be a bad alternative, but the azulgranas should not overlook the midfield general of Barça B.


See more

Scout Report: Analysis of Barcelona academy players

Specialists vs generalists: which type of squad should Barça have?

Álex Collado: A renewal on the horizon for Barça B’s merciless poet

Barcelona, it’s time to bet on potential

Barça B will take part in the play-offs for promotion to the Segunda A

As someone once said, football is the most important of the least important things in life. Football, though, is a passion lived 24 hours, 7 days a week. My life could not be understood without Barça. Having always lived in Barcelona, the deep love for this club was transmitted to me from before I can remember. With an affection that can be found in my most profound roots, my goal now is to share this admiration with other football enthusiasts.

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La Masia

Best starting XI of ex-La Masía players

Jan-Michael Marshall

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

With the once-glorious academy ignored in the last few years, Barça Universal attempts to put together a starting XI of the best ex-La Masia players in the world, based on their ability and form.


FC Barcelona’s fabled La Masía is often regarded as one of the best academies in world football. Having produced players like Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, and Xavi Hernández, to name a few, it’s no question why.

The Blaugrana are in a fortunate spot where they can integrate promising youngsters from their youth teams into their senior squad; however, in recent years, there has been a divergence from this approach. Consequently, Barça have seen their fair share of homegrown starlets slip through the cracks.

In this piece, we at Barça Universal will be forming a starting eleven of the best active ex-La Masía players in the world. Based on their quality and recent performances, these are the best eleven players who either left the Catalan club at a young age or never cemented a place in the first team. We have decided to go through with a 4-2-3-1 formation for the team.

GK: André Onana

Between the sticks, there are few better than André Onana. The Cameroonian international left Barça at 19, and has not looked back since. He’s developed into a premier goalkeeper and has been linked with a move to big clubs all across Europe.

“I think André [Onana] is fantastic. He came to Ajax aged 18 or 19 and the way he developed, and the natural attributes that he already had, his speed, his reaction… I think he set himself as a great goalkeeper.”

Edwin van der Sar, 2018

Onana has decisive command of his box, quick reflexes, and is a great shot-stopper. Across 31 appearances last season, he had 11 clean sheets and a formidable 75.5% save percentage. He has also led the Champions League in the last two campaigns with post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed, a stat that measures how well a keeper fares against shots that are expected to go in. He achieved a mark of +4.5, meaning he prevented Ajax from conceding almost five extra goals. 

The Catalans would surely regret letting him go if they did not have Marc-André ter Stegen taking charge of the gloves.

RB: Héctor Bellerín

Héctor Bellerín is a clear choice at right-back, edging out the only other realistic option, Real Betis’ Martín Montoya. The Spaniard left Barça in 2011 for Arsenal, after spending 8 years at the club. Although injuries have derailed his recent progress, he’s become a key asset for the Gunners. 

Bellerín is quite talented, consistently blistering down the right-hand side with his pace and influencing all aspects of the game. He’s finding his footing after being in and out of the lineup for the last few seasons but already has two assists this campaign. He also earned his first national team call-up since 2016; a positive sign of things to come, maybe.  

CB: Eric García

Whether due to his ability or the fact that he left La Masía for a Manchester club, Eric García has been dubbed by some to be the next Gerard Piqué. He spent nine successful years in Barcelona’s academy before joining Manchester City in 2017. 

Eric Garcia ex-La Masía

Pep Guardiola wooed Eric Garcia away from Barcelona, and the teenager has proved him right. (Photo via Getty)

Despite being only 19 years old, García plays with poise and composure beyond his years. As a ball-playing defender, he’s comfortable in possession and sharp with his passing, averaging a 96% completion rate last season and 93.8% this season. His high tactical awareness and high-grade positioning make up for lack of aerial prowess.  

“He’s so smart, so intelligent. His physicality is not so, so strong, but he resolves the situation by thinking. I like to work with smart people, intelligent people. He is one of them. I can count on him.”

Pep Guardiola, 2019

In recent months, García has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club, a testament to his abilities and a sign that Barça repent letting him go. His quality and high-ceiling make him an unquestioned choice at centre-back for this list.

CB: Marc Bartra

The other player in the heart of the defence is Marc Bartra. The 29-year-old could never quite cement a spot in Barça’s first team and was often a backup for Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, and Javier Mascherano. Consequently, he left the club in 2016 for Borussia Dortmund, after making over 100 appearances for the first team and winning 13 trophies. 

Like most La Masía-bred defenders, Bartra is lauded for his passing ability. He adds to that with his top-notch aerial ability and solid tackling.

He now finds himself playing in the La Liga with Real Betis, where he’s a key member of their squad, and one of the first names in the list for the Seville outfit. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of centre-backs to choose from, but Bartra still deserves his spot on this list.

LB: Álex Grimaldo

Rounding out the defence is Álex Grimaldo. He was revered as a youngster, making over 100 appearances for Barça’s B-team, but ended up leaving for Benfica in 2016 in search of more playing time, when that spot became Jordi Alba’s to lose.

Grimaldo is quick, intelligent, a great dribbler, and is a persistent threat going forward, fitting perfectly into Benfica’s expansive, attacking side. Since the 2018-19 season, he has 23 assists and eight goals across all competitions. 

“For me, Grimaldo is one of the best five left-backs in Europe. Many Benfica players are ready to, someday, play in a world-class team. Grimaldo is good enough to play for any side right now.”

Tiago Pinto (Benfica Sporting Director), 2020

The left-back has quietly developed into one of the best in the world at his position and is certainly someone Barça should wish they could have right now. He’s one of the best players in this list, and his inclusion goes with little to no fuss.

CM: Thiago Alcântara

Thiago: the one that got away. Despite his immense talent, he was unlucky in his first few years at Barça having to find a spot in the first team midfield that was dominated by the likes of prime Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets. A certain Cesc Fabregas was left as an outcast in this team; there was only so much Thiago could do. As a result, he left the Catalan giants in the summer of 2013 for Bayern Munich, where he would cement his status as one of the best midfielders in the world. 

Thiago Alcantara Barcelona ex-La Masía

One that keeps the Barça administration and fans up at night all the same. (Photo via Imago)

The Spanish international is lauded for his technical prowess and intelligence. He’s a great passer, averaging over 89% completion rate for the past four seasons, has fantastic vision and is a treat to the eyes on the ball. He’s not only an ideal Barça midfielder but a world-beater by any metric. 

Thiago was a key part of Bayern’s treble-winning side last season and now finds himself at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield. He’s a player Barça should have tried to sign back and will be remembered as one of the best La Masia graduates of the last decade. 

CM: Oriol Romeu

Oriol Romeu may not be a familiar name to most, nor is he someone fans are clamouring to have back, but his performances this season for an impressive Southampton have earned him a spot in this XI.

Romeu left the Catalan side in 2011 for Chelsea but struggled to settle anywhere before moving to Southampton in 2015.  

The Saints are currently sitting fourth in the Premier League heading into the international break, in no small part thanks to Romeu. He’s played in all eight league games this season and is third in total minutes played for his side. The Spaniard is an anchor in the midfield, aggressive in tackles and inept at stopping plays. He’s leading the Premier League in tackles this season, averaging 4.42 tackles plus interceptions per game. 

He’s not what you could call the idea player for Barça or one the club necessarily laments selling, but he has been truly incredible this season and deserves recognition all the same. 

RW: Adama Traoré

Adama Traoré followed the path of many before him, leaving the Camp Nou for greener grass. He made his first-team debut at only 17 years old and managed to grab one goal in four appearances, but the front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez would see him get little-to-no playing time.

Adama Traore Barcelona ex-La Masía

Culés still remember Adama Traore’s fantastic solo goal in the Copa del Rey. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP)

Traoré settled in at Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2018 and has realised his potential there. He had a breakout season last year, with 6 goals and 10 assists, as well as an astounding 5.22 successful dribbles per game — one of the highest in Europe. This season, the Spanish International is leading the Premier League in terms of the number of players dribbled past — 30 in eight matches. 

The 24-year-old is a magnificent player. His physical attributes stand out, being one of the strongest and fastest players in the world, and unstoppable at his best; but he’s much more than that. His technical ability and close control are excellent, and that coupled with his physical gifts make him a sight to behold on the pitch.

The Spaniard’s inclusion in this list is fairly straightforward. He’s on a meteoric rise and is the type of squad option Barça wish they could have right now.

CAM: Dani Olmo

Filling in behind the striker is Dani Olmo, yet another starlet Barça that slipped through the cracks. He spent seven years at La Masía before a shocking move to Dinamo Zagreb in 2014, but the decision has fared well for him. He dominated his spell with the Croatian side, tallying 34 goals and 28 assists in 124 appearances. 

The 22-year-old is now a squad member at RB Leipzig, where he’s dazzling the Bundesliga with his dribbling, creativity, and vision. He has three assists in seven Bundesliga appearances this season and is only getting better. 

Olmo is one of the brightest young Spaniards in the world and is currently in their squad for the international break.

LW: Marc Cucurella

Marc Cucurella never had a chance to prove himself at Barça, and he’s now excelling at Getafe. He was developed as a left-back but has now been successfully converted into a wide midfielder, playing on the left of a 4-4-2, since making a permanent move to the Madrid outfit in July this year.

Cucurella is a work-horse on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he’s a pest who consistently tracks the ball and fights for it, making up for any lack of physical prowess. He’s also great at pressing and tackling for a physical Getafe side, averaging 3.38 tackles and interceptions per game last season.

Offensively, he darts down the left-hand side and utilizes his pace and stamina along with his noteworthy off the ball movement. He had five assists last campaign and will be looking to improve upon that. 

Cucurella may not be the flashiest name here, but much like Oriel Romeu, his recent performances are commendable, thus earning him this spot at left-mid.

ST: Mauro Icardi

Rounding out the team is Mauro Icardi, a name some might not recognize as an ex-La Masía player. Although he has off-the-field issues, his sheer talent alone sanctions his spot in this draft. Not to mention, his prolific goalscoring record as well.

The Argentine left the Catalans in 2011 after a brief 3-year stint. After a few seasons in Sampdoria, he moved to Internazionale Milan, where he broke out, gathering 124 goals and 28 assists in 219 appearances. In his current club PSG, the goals have continued raining in as he has scored 22 times in only 38 appearances. 

The 2018 Serie A Player of the Year is a classic #9 who prefers to do all his damage in the penalty box. As a forward, he’s lethal in front of goal and always makes the right movements to get into scoring positions. 

“In my opinion, Icardi is the second-best striker in the penalty box who I’ve ever marked.”

Giorgio Chiellini, 2018

Icardi may not be a player Barça would desperately want to return, give his multiple tantrums or one that fits their style, but he’s the best ex-La Masía striker in the world, and that stands almost without question. 

Closing Thoughts

If this starting eleven indicates anything, it’s that Barça should be diverting more attention to La Masía and the gems they produce. Promising youngsters like Grimaldo, Olmo, and Traoré should have never departed without being given ample time to prove themselves, and the club should hope that history doesn’t repeat itself with prospects like Riqui Puig.

ex-La Masía players best XI

There are plenty of good players – Munir El Haddadi, Rafinha Alcântara, Cristian Tello, for instance –who didn’t make this list due to positional constraints or being edged-out by better options, and they serve as a further example of how much talent Barça has let slip through the cracks in recent memory. This is not to say that all La Masía graduates will grow up to reach the heights of Messi or Xavi, but they should all at least have the chance to stake their claim in the first team.

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