Guardiola returns to his roots to show off a new wave of brilliant Barça talent
He’s one of their ultimate prodigal sons. A La Masia product, who turned out over 260 times as part of Johan Cruyff’s ‘dream team era’ – a true Catalan legend. Yet few could have predicted Pep Guardiola’s meteoric rise in management, to become not only one of Barcelona’s most successful players, but coaches, too.
The B team boss done good, Guardiola celebrated his 200th game in charge last night, claiming his 144th victory, as Barça hit Viktoria Plzeň for four. A hat-trick for Lionel Messi, the first of which was his 200th goal for the club, and a Cesc Fàbregas strike, meant a remarkable 500 goals under Pep’s stewardship.
The records are continuing to fall, but look back to August 2008, and it wasn’t all such positivity. Guardiola left many nervous, after chopping established stars such as Ronaldinho, Deco and Gianluca Zambrotta in favour of building a new, home grown Barça.
Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Carlos Puyol and Víctor Valdés took centre stage, while promotions from the B team in the form of Sergio Busquets and Pedro, combined with the La Masia developed Gerard Piqué and Fàbregas have helped keep the club’s philosophy and understanding of values strong.
Now, 200 games and 12 titles in, Guardiola is readying a new wave of talent. Exciting pass-master Thaigo was promoted to the first-team in the summer, and has since been followed by fellow midfielder Isaac Cuenca. He’s taken advantage of a number of injuries, to seal a regular place in the side in recent weeks.
A 20-year-old technically excellent winger, Cuenca has been forced to do things the hard way, twice leaving the club in order to get his breakthrough. It finally came last month, with 90 impressive minutes against Granada followed up with a goal in a rout over Real Mallorca.
Cuenca is a natural wideman, and assisted Fàbregas’ effort in the win against Plzeň last night, cementing a place in the first-team for the coming campaign. But he’s not the only prospect knocking on the door. Step forward teenager Gerard Deulofeu, another winger with great promise.
He was chased by Europe’s elite last year, but opted to stay at Barça, where he’s currently flourishing. Pace, skill, energy and craft, many believe 17-year-old Deulofeu to have Messi-esque potential. His star performance for Spain’s Under-19’s in the summer, as they claimed the European Championships, did little to dampen expectations.
Deulofeu made his début against Mallorca last weekend, exactly eight seasons after Iniesta did. It’s a notable omen, but for a player who admits his mother supports Real Madrid just to ‘p*ss him off’, he has the character and talent to reach the top.
Further down, watch out for Thaigo’s promising brother Rafinha, stylish creator Sergi Roberto and defensive prospects Andreu Fontàs, Marc Bartra and Alejandro Grimaldo, all of whom have shown flashes of the potential that could see them soon plucked from Guardiola’s former B team to join his new wave of talent, bidding up to maintain Barcelona’s unrivalled dominance.Tagged in: FC Barcelona, football, Gerard Deulofeu, Isaac Cuenca, Pep Guardiola
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