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 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.
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.