FC Barcelona have been a club that stress the importance of youth and quite unsurprisingly the La Masia has been at the centre of their success. The bar has been set so high that even the likes of Bojan, Deulofeu, Nolito, et. al. — who would fit into most teams in Europe — had to find alternatives to pursue their career. Recently the talented Thiago Alcantara ventured to Germany in search of more playing time. In the recent past, talented youngsters like Kiko Femenia, Gai Assulin, Mauro Icardi, Giovani dos Santos, Andreu Fontàs amongst others have made their way out of the academy into another team.
However, Barcelona have also been active whenever they had to scout talent for their youth academy. Iniesta, who started his career at Albacete, joined Barcelona at the age of 12, in 1996. Pedro Rodriguez, an alumnus of CD San Isidro, Tenerife, joined Barcelona at 17, in 2004. They have been prudent when it came to the likes of Iniesta and Pedro, but have failed when it came to the likes of Kiko Femenia, who arrived from Hércules in 2011. And now they have their eyes set on Manchester City starlet Denis Suárez, who joined the English team from the Celta Vigo youth team, after the former beat off fierce competition from Catalan giants Barcelona. This is Barcelona’s second attempt at the youngster – ergo, it testifies to the talent that is at stake here.
A member of Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad (EDS), Suarez made his debut for City during the North American summer tour of 2011. He scored a penalty to help the Blues to victory, after coming on as a substitute against LA Galaxy. Often touted as a replacement of David Silva, City paid a small sum of about £900,000 which could go up to 3 million, depending on his chances and performances. Barcelona are however, willing to pay up to £4 million to secure the services of the young Spaniard. His exceptional outing in the U20 FIFA World Cup, in Turkey, earlier this year made the Catalans sit up and take notice. Exceptional vision, flair and a strong shot roughly defines the youngster’s game, and these are the qualities that aids any team on the planet, and Barcelona are no exception. The offer from Barcelona might just be too tempting. Nouveau riche City have a plethora of midfielders and Suarez’s chance might just be a long way off. Conversely, Barcelona are offering one year with the ‘B’ side and then 3 years in the senior team. With midfield lynchpin, Xavi, not getting any younger and the apparent square peg in a round hole (read: Cesc Fabregas), Suarez’s chance might not be that far off at the Camp Nou.
At 5’11”, Suarez is exceptionally good in the air and has the innate ability to win the ball. His ability to dribble past opponents and to finish at opportune moments are better than his contemporaries. And it is only a matter of time for him to get into the top tier along with the best of professionals. Flair on the ball certainly adds to his repertoire but just like any 19-year old, he too has his frailties – his physique and tackling. Also, he is a little too offensive for Barcelona’s liking and usually doesn’t contribute much to the defense, thereby exposing the fullback on whichever side he plays. Barcelona have an exceptionally offensive left fullback in Jordi Alba, and Suarez can only open up more spaces on the left when the team succumbs to an opposition’s counter attack.
Primarily an attacking midfielder, Suarez can also play on the flanks and cut in – an inverted winger, which is quite an effective position and style as far as the Barcelona system of football is concerned. He bears a striking resemblance to yet another Man City Spaniard – David Silva, and quite fittingly is deemed to be a replacement for the former Valencia winger. What adds to his strengths are his exceptional first touch, immaculate close control, knack to make that final pass and also exceptional awareness in the final third of the pitch. The right-footed youngster is at his best when deployed on the left wing; there he has the license to cut in and take his chances at the 3 sticks.
Suarez wasn’t given too many chances by Roberto Mancini but under Pellegrini, the former Celta Vigo starlet can expect more opportunities. However, the predicament still remains – City’s bunch of midfielders and after investing close to a billion, the Sheiks won’t be too pleased to afford opportunities for youngsters to grow, in lieu of silverware. At Barca, he will however have enough opportunity to grow and learn from some of the best in the business. With the ball at his feet, Suarez is as comfortable as he is without it, a la most of the compatriots.
If Barcelona manage to pull off this transfer for as little as £4 million, it will certainly give them an option to fill the void left by Thiago in years to come. His build also makes him somewhat of a misfit for the rigors of the Premier League. However, players with slight frame have also coped and it is just a matter of time for him to develop physically.
Spain has an embarrassment of youth talent and despite the recent emergence of other super powers in Brazil and Germany, among others, the Spanish Armada will certainly keep setting benchmarks in years to come.