Barça Universal takes a closer look at three clubs who could latch-up Carles Aleña on loan this January as the youngster looks for minutes this season.
When Carles Aleña first broke into the first team, he was an exciting prospect. At the time, the Spaniard looked like the first La Masia graduate in years that was going to make an impact on the squad. He came into an ageing midfield and gave it a new lease of life.
However, not long after this promising start, the minutes started to dry up. Ernesto Valverde ignored the young prospect, instead deciding to overplay the veterans who eventually ran out of steam. This has been an issue at the club for years now. The board prioritised big-money signings, believing they could buy success, instead of trusting their world-famous youth academy.
Since his debut with the club during the 2016/17 campaign, the 22-year-old has only featured for the Catalan side 24 times in La Liga. It is not surprising given how poorly Barcelona have handled their young talents over the last decade. That has only become worse since Ronald Koeman arrived at the club, having pre-decided the midfielders he wants in the XI, eventually freezing out the Spaniard.
With that said, his career at the Camp Nou is not over yet. A loan move in January, as it has been reported, for the remainder of the season, could be an option. Getting regular minutes is essential for the midfielder’s development.
Carles Aleña was at loan at Real Betis last season but has not been given a chance to showcase what he learnt from it. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
If he can prove his level, and with a new board coming soon, Aleña could still salvage his career at Barcelona, under a new manager. He has already been on loan to Real Betis last season, and he did get the chances to play regularly at a top side.
Carles Aleña would make a great addition to any side, particularly ones that play attacking football. His strengths are his accurate passing, how quickly he can move the ball, positional play, and dynamism. The most important factor in a potential loan move though is the guarantee of regular game time.
AFC Ajax and FC Barcelona have always shared a strong connection from their philosophy of football to many players featuring for both clubs. Ajax manager, Erik ten Hag, has proven that he is excellent at developing young players. Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech are just a few of the names that ten Hag has helped to develop in recent seasons.
Playing under ten Hag, even on loan could do a world of good for Carles Aleña. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Carles Aleña would be a great addition to the Dutch side and would fit their style of play perfectly. He is an attack-minded midfielder that loves to take control of the ball anywhere on the pitch. The number six is effective in the final third with an eye for goal from range and a defence-splitting pass.
The issue would not be if he had the level to play with Ajax, but if he would get enough game time. Davy Klaassen was signed at the start of the campaign and has been in fantastic form. Apart from this, the midfield has been unsettled and has changed most weeks. Apart from that, we can also expect Aleña to feature as a false 9 – a role ten Hag has used often.
The team from Amsterdam has been hit with injuries and COVID-19 cases too. This could allow Aleñá to find a regular role in the team and help him develop at a club that suits his style of play.
A loan deal to a team from La Liga could also benefit Carles Aleña. Getting that much-needed experience in the league could show the Barcelona hierarchy that he is at the required level to compete in Spain.
Sevilla are one of the top sides in the country, but have struggled this season. They currently sit 12th in La Liga after seven games. Their biggest issue seems to be a lack of goals, having only scored seven so far.
Carles Aleña has experience playing against Sevilla, but working with them on loan would be critical in his development. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
They have a lot of talent in their midfield such as Ivan Rakitić, Joan Jordan and Fernando. However, these midfielders are more suited to the deeper build-up play and do not offer as much in the final third. Aleña could bring more balance to the side and be that creative midfielder around the box that Sevilla desperately need.
From the Barça midfielder’s point of view, he would get the chance to work under Julien Lopetegui, who is one of the best coaches in the world. If he was assured regular minutes, he would get a chance to continue at one of Spain’s best sides and the Europa League winners. This could be the most likely destination for the 22-year-old.
A slightly more obscure and unrealistic potential loan move could be to English side Leeds United. So far this campaign, the newly-promoted side have been inconsistent in their performances. They have been scoring goals but also conceding too many. The Peacocks could do with some more quality in the centre on the pitch, giving Marcelo Bielsa the option to bench the ageing Pablo Hernandez — a man Aleña can learn a lot from.
One of the biggest appeals about Leeds is their manager, Bielsa, and his incredible approach to the game. He is highly regarded as one of the greatest minds in football. There is no question that he would be able to get the best out of the 22-year-old and give him some much-needed confidence.
Marcelo Bielsa is a football mastermind, and even a short loan at Leeds would go a long way for Carles Aleña. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
There would be potential game time as Aleña does possess the quality to break into the English side. However, the transition to the Premier League is usually difficult, due to its physicality. It does not always favour those coming from more technical leagues.
Whatever the case may be, the Barcelona midfielder does need to find more consistent playing time. He has struggled with this for most of his senior career and it will only be limiting his development.
Too late for Barcelona to kickstart a title race in La Liga?
Ever since Lionel Messi came onto the scene, La Liga title races have been monotone. One team, usually Barcelona, dominates from start to finish and keep adding to their tally.
Whenever a team not named Barcelona wins, it looks, and feels, like an anomaly. However, this season, Barcelona winning the league would be the anomaly. The giants’ start to the season was lacklustre, and they are only finding form in January after losing several points due to errors and less-than-adequate lineups.
In their first 15 games of the season, Barcelona lost four times while drawing the same number of games. Players like Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, Clément Lenglet, and Lionel Messi were severely underperforming, while others continued to have their ups and downs. The Catalans made four errors leading to goals to end 2020, one each from Ronald Araujo, Lenglet, Neto, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. All these errors were unprovoked, amateur mistakes and that should never happen with Barcelona.
In fact, Barcelona ended the year the same way they opened it by drawing. This time, Eibar, a team that usually gets a thumping loss at Camp Nou, won their first point away to Barça. Ronald Araujo was on the end of a rookie error, and the hosts had to be rescued by Ousmane Dembele who came on as a substitute.
However, in 2021, Barcelona look like a different team. A lot has changed since Messi’s interview with Jordi Évole.
First, the captain himself feels happier, as he claimed, and the team looks set to revolve around him again. Then, the team looks way more composed, as if leaving 2020 relieved them of a heavy burden.
For example, against Granada on Saturday, Frenkie de Jong made a mistake in the opening five minutes of the game. Marc-André Ter Stegen parried the shot that followed the Dutchman’s weak pass, and almost forgetting all about it, de Jong had a top-notch display.
All in all, 2021 has started well for Barça. Three away wins in a week, and the Catalans were two points off Madrid following their 4-0 victory at Estadio Los Carmenes. And after an unbeaten run of eight games in the league, and just one loss in 2021 so far, Culés might want to entertain the thought that they can disrupt both Atlético and Real Madrid and win the league, or at least come close.
However, as it stands, it all seems like a distant dream. The recent displays might have shown Culés that Barça can play well, but often require a reality check to get going in front of goal. The last three opponents the Blaugranas faced were rock-bottom Huesca, Athletic Club with Marcelino managing his first game and a decent Granada.
Playing against Granada and Bilbao away from home is far from a simple task. Last season, Barça lost to both sides without scoring. However, these are the games that define a season. If Ronald Koeman could not win against those sides, the fans would call for his head.
Not to mention Atlético are still first in La Liga, and seem to be running away with the title. Los Colchoneros were meant to play against Athletic Club before the Granada-Barcelona game, but a snowstorm got in the way and postponed it. After Atletico’s win over Sevilla and Eibar, though, they are ten points clear off Barcelona and four clear off Real Madrid, with two games in hand.
Assuming Atléti win those two games, they will have a 16-point lead on Barça. This margin looks too big for Barça, or any team, to leapfrog Diego Simeone’s men. Nonetheless, Luis Suarez’s teammates have never been in the La Liga driving seat. This means that the pressure could still get to their head and they might lose many points soon.
Atlético already lost against Cornella in the Cup, Real Madrid in December and Bayern Munich back in October. Barcelona could destabilise the current leaders by beating them at Camp Nou in May, especially if Koeman’s tactics persist.
The sudden change to a 4-3-3 by Koeman came after five months of stubbornly trying to fit four attackers in a 4-2-3-1. The 4-3-3 revitalised the side and propelled Messi’s teammates towards a comeback against Athletic Club and demolition of Diego Martinez’s Granada. Clearly, this lineup fits everyone better than the unbalanced 4-2-3-1.
Ousmane Dembélé, de Jong, Pedri, Messi, and Griezmann all found form in the 4-3-3, and they do not look like stopping anytime soon. Even when one or all of them have less-pleasing performances, the others come and help them get through their rough patch, because the 4-3-3 is much more balances, and allows every individual enough room to create and slaughter.
For example, Dembélé had a bad display against Granada but still registered an assist thanks to Griezmann’s brilliant off the ball run. Even against Cornella, Pedri was able to come into the lineup seamlessly and rescued the game giving two assists.
This is what champions do. When one player falls, others help him get back on his feet. This is how Atlético won their last two games in the league. With Suarez, everyone thought Atlético could win the league because they had a proven winner through their ranks. Well, Barcelona have Messi and a few other champions in their side.
Whenever champions fall, they only need a few games to get back up. Barcelona fell really hard against Bayern in August, and it took five months for them to get over the humiliation. This week might prove crucial to their chances of being in a title race. Until then, let’s hope Barcelona can keep their excellent form and end the campaign in better shape than the last one.