It's a dream come true for every footballer to win a title for their boyhood club. Oscar Mingueza, at 21, did that in a season where he wasn't even an official first-team player for Barcelona. He came quite close to winning the league title as well but in the end, Barcelona fell short.
But let's start from the beginning.
Oscar Mingueza's Emergence at Barcelona and for Spain
Born in Barcelona, Mingueza joined Barca's famed La Masia as a 7-year-old in 2007. He progressed through the ranks steadily. He was part of the Barcelona youth team that won the 2018 UEFA Youth League, in a star-studded age group that consisted of the likes of Carles Perez and Riqui Puig among others.
In 2018, he joined his Youth League-winning manager Garcia Pimienta at Barcelona B.
Although Mingueza was a regular for Barcelona B in 2018-19, last season he was often relegated to a spot on the bench behind Ronald Araujo and Jorge Cuenca. Nobody expected him to play for the first team, let alone reach this level.
Eyebrows were raised when Mingueza was called up by Ronald Koeman for a Champions League game away at Dynamo Kyiv. Looking at the lack of fit first-team defenders for Barcelona, Koeman said that Oscar might start.
Oscar did start. He looked very assured and collected for a debutant and even got an assist from a corner as Barcelona won 4-0. Culers were full of praise and wanted to see more of him.
But the initial performances were largely mixed. Although he was doing alright for an emergency call-up, there were a lot of deficiencies in his game and small but frequent errors which raised questions about his future at Barcelona.
But then, Sergino Dest got injured and with Sergi Roberto already out, the onus was on Mingueza to play right-back. To his immense credit, he shone there too. Although he's still positionally naive at times, he's a very quick learner and he is always improving.
This is what enabled him to play over 30 games, which is insane for someone who wasn't even an assured starter for Barcelona B.
The end of his season was even better. Not only was he a fixed starter at right centre-back in the back 3 formation, he was Barcelona's best defender for long periods. In fact, he even managed to score in El Clasico, which would have been a dream come true for a La Masia boy.
Mingueza's performances attracted the attention of Luis De La Fuente, the Spain U21 manager, who called him up for the U21 Euros even though he wasn't involved in the qualification.
He started against Italy in one of the group games and played really well at RB but got sent off in an undeserved manner. He came back in the second phase of the tournament, this time at CB and did quite well there too.
Spain were unfortunately knocked out in the semifinals by Portugal courtesy of an own goal by Jorge Cuenca.
However that wasn't the end of Mingueza's Spanish adventure yet. As the Spanish team prepared for the start of Euro 2020, captain Sergio Busquets was struck down with covid and the entire team had to go into a bubble.
This meant that they weren't able to play in the last warm up game. So the Spanish FA decided to call up the U21 team for the game against Lithuania. Because this was an official friendly, this meant that it counted as an international debut for all the youngsters.
Mingueza started the game, played his part in a clean-sheet and almost scored as Spain won 4-0. He was even called up to the alternate bubble that housed a reserve squad in case more people in the original squad contracted the virus.
What does next season hold?
If you thought that this season was as difficult as it could get for Oscar, next season would be even more difficult. Barcelona have signed Eric Garcia and have been linked with defenders like Lisandro Martinez, Laporte, Kounde, De Ligt and Pau Torres.
Thus, it will be quite difficult for him to get into the team and nail down a starting berth. Even at RB, Barcelona bought back Emerson from Real Betis meaning that it's now him, Dest and Sergi Roberto that Mingueza has to compete with.
This means that Mingueza will have to play at a very high level to be a first choice for Barcelona. Personally, I believe that he has enough talent and works hard enough to do it.
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