Despite all the criticism in the recent times, FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, is at the top of all training academies across all of Europe because of the talents and legends it has produced in the past—Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique and the list just goes on. Recent players from La Masia are of no comparison to the past but with the current team about to hit retirement, the team needs energetic phenomenal youngsters to step up and hold the club banner high. Here are a few Barcelona youngsters to watch out for in the future.

Ansu Fati:

It’s certain that Ansu Fati needs no introduction. Ansu proved to be the shining light when Barca had a slow start to the season. Bagging 5 goals and an assist, Ansu has already broken footballing records being the youngest UCL scorer in history and becoming the youngest La Liga and Barca player to score and assist in the same game. The latter took him only 10 minutes!

Ansu has a natural position on the Left flank, but can play in the right flank as well, when needed. It is rare to see such a young football talent thrive in such competitive and tough football competitions. Fati’s future in the team is scintillating; he’s already been compared to the likes of Lionel Messi. Having said that, he has a long road ahead of him and a lot of nurturing is still required to become a world-class player.

Carles Alena:

In 2011, Barcelona were probably the best team in the world and it was mainly due to the midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta. After Xavi and Iniesta closed the curtains on their Barcelona career, our midfield was never the same. But this guy is on his way to follow Xavi’s footsteps.

Alena has a rather impressive vision much like Xavi and his passing is just the Cruyff vision that fits perfectly. Standing at 186 cm tall, Alena has a well-built physique and that large presence helps in his high press approach. He can outwit opponents in any given situation and can dribble past defenders with ease. He also expertly shields the ball and blocks passing lanes beautifully. His first touch and understanding of the game is also quite fabulous. The ability to adapt into any position at any given time is what makes this young Phenom unstoppable. Even though he needs a lot of work, we can expect great things from this young lad in the not-so-distant-future.

Riqui Puig:

This young lad has been making headlines ever since the arrival of Quique Setien. Although not properly promoted to the first team, Puig is one of the very popular names around the world. The upside of Setien’s arrival was to see Puig being included in Setien’s midfield plans for Barcelona. Puig has a playstyle very similar to that of Xavi and Iniesta’s. He makes quick and accurate passes through the lines which maintains the tempo of the attack. He also has the ability to pick passes and to figure out when’s the correct time to pass.

In a midfield in its decline and Rakitic on the cusp of leaving due to constant criticism from the fans, Puig could be the Knight in shining armor for the team. But as I said in the case of Alena, a lot of his skills are yet to be nurtured. Will he be able to rise to the heights of Iniesta and Xavi or even surpass them? Only time will tell.

With the first team ageing and starting to near their retirement, it would be unwise for the club to let go of these gems. Even though there are players like Alex Collado and countless more being brewed, these young blades are still in the making. They need to be sharpened till they have that cutting edge. It’s fair to say that the youth coaches and scouts have been doing a superb job and we shall hopefully have a squad with a structure based on La Masia.

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