Amidst all this press mess, let us implore the situation at hand – do FC Barcelona need midfield reinforcements?
Needless to mention, FC Barcelona play the most exquisite football in the world. The Barca orchestra is essentially explains why football is still a beautiful sport. And at the core of this tiki-taka symphony are the conductors Xavi and Iniesta. One glance at this World Champion trio and you might be tempted to wonder if Barcelona needed Cesc Fabregas afterall! Arsenal Chairman Hill-Wood may or may not have said it but the world did ponder over the Gunners’ captain’s expects a chance in Barcelona’s best XI.
As deceptive, the starting line-up might be, one peep into the Barca locker-room would reaffirm all previous claims. On the bench is just one seasoned campaigner in Seydou Keita i.e. assuming that Victor Sanchez be loaned out again – seems probable with Zaragoza expressing interest. As to Hleb, well… he was never in Pep’s plans, was he?
FC Barcelona is a team expected to play in excess of 50 matches every season. And not just play but perform! Add to this mix the international friendlies and Euro qualifiers. Definitely enough reason to mull over, ain’t it? Can the ageing legs of Xavi keep pace with the demands of the game? Can the glass-ankles of Iniesta stay off the sidelines season-long? If so you suppose, break a leg!
As goes the saying, football is not played on paper but on grass. Suspensions and injuries are a part of this game. And a team-to-beat like Barca is expected to stay competitive despite these aspects of the sport. Can we fall back on Keita to replicate the vision of Xavi or the genius of Iniesta week-in week-out? Are we not lacking steel in our squad, now that the versatility of Toure is gracing English pastures and the luxury of make-shift Red Bull Marquez has crossed the Atlantic?
Enter scene: La Masia – A pool of talent waiting to happen. For a club which could conveniently mock UEFA’s new rules by fielding eight of its own youth products, the Academy is definitely a force to be reckoned with. More so when each of the World Cup finals this year (the other one being U19) has fielded atleast six starters who boast the La Masia legacy. Barca U-15 clinching the Nike Super Cup, the most prestigious club tournament for that age-group, is just another icing on the cake. And of course, there is the promotion of Barca Athletics to the Segunda division. Talk of progress and promise!
And true to the trend, in Thiago Alcantra, Jonathan dos Santos and Oriol Romeu, La Masia has churned out three promising options. With a very impressive outing for Spain in the U-19 WC, Oriol has cemented his serious contention for the defensive midfield. Thiago needs no introduction and his sublime assist to Canales in the U-19 tells you why. Courted by Chelsea and other big guns, he has snubbed them all to stay with Barca. Also in the fray is Jonathan dos Santos, Mexican international who barely missed out on a berth for the World Cup in South Africa. And yep, that young kid with a boyish grin is 20. Believe it or not.
Beyond all doubt, these three hold the potential to don the proud colours of the Barca first team jersey. All that stands to reason is now or later. Are they ready to cope with the physical aspects of club football? Would not a forward of Drogba’s stature run over the growing limbs of Oriol Romeu? or a Mascherano negate an inexperienced Thiago in the midfield? Should we risk their development by rushing them into the first team, only to fill the benches? Instead, could they not be eased into it with occasional call-ups while they continue to mature with their fresh acquaintances in the Segunda division? Maybe one step at a time!!
On the contrary, investing in fresh talent for the first team now,could block their induction into the senior squad later. In this regard, a definite compromise has to be reached. Oriol Romeu could be retained with the Athletic squad and a ball-winner be recruited to play second fiddle to Busquets. For the creative requirements, either of Thiago-dos santos may be promoted while the other would frequently be summoned to train with the first team or feature in Copa del Rey. Jonathan seems the favourite to ink the senior deal, given his age and pedigree at the international level. Amusingly, he was sporting the Guardiola No. 4 jersey at the pre-season friendlies.
Deja vu, anyone?