As the year 2014 approaches its final, it’s time to compile the La Masia XI of the first season half. It’s definitely not an understatement if I would call the last six months a rollercoaster with its ups and downs. From the nine FIFA banned youngsters to the win of the Powerade Cup (U12) in Spain and Hallen Cup (U15) in Germany. To set up some ground rules for this XI, I solely selected players from the U12-U19 category and disregarded the nine FIFA banned players of Barcelona’s famous youth academy. Enjoy reading and best wishes!
Andrey Onana (02-04-1996) has developed himself into the indisputable first choice goalkeeper of Barca Juvenil A (U19). While his team struggled for basically the entire first season half (5th in the league), it was Onana who saved their day many times. A pure athlete with cat-like reflexes and strong with his feet are some characteristics of this goalkeeper born in Cameroon. His strong performances didn’t go unnoticed by European giants like Arsenal, Manchester City and PSG. Reports suggest they have made contact with Onana’s representatives as the contract talks between Barcelona and the goalkeeper have been brought to a halt. The future will tell us whether he will flourish at Barcelona or somewhere else in Europe.
Sergi Rosanas (29-01-2001) is a rightback who joined La Masia six years ago at the age of 8. This Catalan born defender is part of the promising 2001 generation, but hasn’t been praised as much as his teammates Ansu, Take, Nico, Adrià and Eric. Still, Sergi is a kid to keep in mind as he is able to cover the entire right side of the pitch like Dani Alves in his glory days. He’s known for his razor sharp crosses from the right wing as was seen last weekend when he assisted his teammate Pablo Moreno.
Eric Garcia (09-09-2001) is arguably the most talented centreback in La Masia and as well part of the famous 2001 generation of La Masia. His leadership is one of his main qualities. This tall centreback has basically all the ingredients to become a future star at Barcelona. He’s able to build up from the back and shift into midfield to function as extra midfielder. This complete and tenacious centreback is furthermore recognized as one of the best tacklers and has a remarkable high sprinting speed. He develops himself into a real treat for many attackers and will be a kid to keep an eye on for the future.
Carles Torrents (21-01-1998) is – together with Carles Pérez and Sergio Gómez – one of the three players in this La Masia XI with a history at Espanyol. This natural born left footed defender is one of the best in his generation. He’s aggressive, intense, fast and has the ability to play with the ball on his feet. In my opinion the most reliable centreback of the Barca Juvenil B (U17) team. His only weakness maybe his height as this kid is only 1.75m. He joined La Masia in the summer of 2012 and had an astonishing first season with the club (28 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss). This season is a different story as he’s part of the U17 team managed by Garcia Pimienta. Due to the rotations in the backline he hasn’t earned a fixed starting spot, although it’s something he definitely deserves regarding his qualities.
I’ve to admit that Xavi Simons (21-04-2003) has a special place in my heart (see picture). Not in the first place, because he’s a fellow countrymen of mine. Named after his parents’ idol (Xavi Hérnandez), he travelled to Spain at the age of 3. The 11 year old midfielder is well-known for his technical skills, hard working rate and his long blonde curls. Also known as ‘the brain’ of the current Alevin A (U12) team, he received an interesting offer from Chelsea last month. Xavi Simons reacted without blushing, no. Despite being just 11 years of age, he has already had loads of success. To illustrate, his team went on winning the prestigious Powerade Cup in Spain last week by beating Real Madrid (2-0) and Espanyol (3-0) in respectively the semi-final and final.
Where do I have to start with this kid? Nicolás González (03-01-2002) – better known as Nico – has something special. A real gem. The son of former Deportivo player Fran is seen as one of the highest rated midfielders in La Masia and his father describes him as ‘more talented than I was at that age’. This right-footed midfielder has a pinch of Busquets in his game, although he’s more attacking minded. Those similar little moves and flicks are characteristic to Nico’s game. He joined La Masia in the summer of 2012 after rejecting an economical proposal of Real Madrid that was superior to Barcelona’s. From the very first start, Nico got used to play one category above his age as he’s doing nowadays at Infantil A (U14). Running the show on Barca Infantil A’s midfield is something he’s doing for months and will be doing for many years.
If I’ve to pick one player to captain my La Masia XI, it will be Carles Aleña (05-01-1998) without any doubt. He’s a well-known midfielder among the La Masia watchers. As captain of Barca Juvenil B (U17) and Spain U16/17, he’s believed to be the next player to shine at the highest level in Spain. With his curly black hair and his gifted left foot he has something that reminds me of Maradona. But he’s more than just a talented midfielder. This kid is a hard-working, no-nonsense midfielder with an excellent physical level. A very all-round midfielder. I believe he’s – together with Ayoub (Juvenil A) – one of the two midfielders who will shine within a few years in the Mini Estadi and later even in Camp Nou.
Sergio Gómez (04-09-2000) is the most attacking oriented midfielder in this XI. He showed from the very first beginning that he’s made of the right stuff. The first time I witnessed his talent was during the prestigious MIC tournament (U12) some years ago. He played a crucial role in that tournament as he managed to assist the winning goal in the final in order to defeat Atlético Madrid with the mighty Obama brothers. Nowadays, he functions as the conductor of Barca Cadete B (U15). With 9 goals in as many games, he’s the uncrowned topscorer. One of his trademarks are his lethal freekicks and corner-kicks which he displayed a few months ago: https://vine.co/v/OWtrUDiUJaw
Carles Pérez (16-02-1998) is part of the same generation as the previously mentioned Aleña and Torrents. The style of this left footed winger can be compared with Real Madrid’s Jesé Rodríguez. Drifting in from the right wing with his lethal left foot and bunge of technical skills make him a treat for nearly every leftback. It wasn’t a big surprise when he got called up by Jordi Vinyals for the Juvenil A team. Only recently he scored his first goal as a 16 year old for the U19 team during a friendly against Aspire. Considering the current situation of the Juvenil A squad depth, I won’t be wondering if he gets more playing minutes for the highest ranked youth team in La Masia.
There’s only one way to introduce Pablo Moreno (03-05-2002) to all of you. Just show you the numbers of this goal-scoring machine. Last season he played on a 7-a-side pitch for Barca Alevin A (U12) and scored 72 goals in 27 games. This season he started playing for Barca Infantil B (U13) on a full sized pitched and scored 8 goals in his first 4 games. These remarkable numbers didn’t go unnoticed by Denis Silva (coach Infantil A) and promoted Pablo without blushing to the Infantil A (U14) team in order to fill the gap left by the FIFA ban of Ansu Fati and Take. In one of his first appearances he knocked in two goals to help Infantil A on 1-2 win against Europa CE. In the end, Pablo Moreno managed to score 9 goals in 9 games for a team one category above his age level (same case as Nico). It’s hard to predict where his future will end as we are al aware of a kid called Bojan who had nearly the same numbers. But Pablo Moreno is showing what he’s capable of.
Abel Ruiz (28-01-2000) is named as La Masia’s very own Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This old school number 9 is more than just capable of scoring goals. A great physique combined with a repertoire full of tricks are some of Abel’s trademarks. This short vine shows some of his strengths: http://instagram.com/p/v9VEPnxhYS/. He joined Barcelona two seasons ago from Valencia together with midfielder Enric Martinez. After a strong first season, he got sidelined for 4 months with a knee injury in 2013, but bounced back very strongly. Despite being just 14 years of age, he’s already a regular starter for Barca Cadete A (U16). Number-wise he’s doing perfectly as he’s topscorer in the league with 11 goals in 13 games.