Barcelona youngsters are among the most promising in world football. While this hasn’t been a vintage Barca season, fans have reasons to remain hopeful.
After their Champions League exit, Barcelona will play in the Europa League for the first time since the 2003-04 season. With the first team’s focus firmly placed on a top-four finish in La Liga, Xavi will likely play a few academy kids during the club’s European run.
With this in mind, we have chosen five Barcelona youngsters who could make it big next year. We only include players not under contract with the first team at the moment – no Pedri, Eric Garcia or Ansu Fati then.
At only 17, Gavi is already Barcelona’s biggest young prospect for some football experts. Xavi certainly agrees as he’s given him control over the midfield while Pedri recovers from a muscle injury.
Luis Enrique is also a fan. In October 2021, Gavi became the youngest player to ever get on the pitch for the Spanish national team.
Famous for his creativity and passing accuracy, Gavi has a few tricks up his sleeve. Versatility is one of them: he has started games in midfield and on the wings both for Barcelona and Spain.
Gavi’s contract ends this year, but rival clubs should look elsewhere. He’s expected to re-sign and become a fully-fledged member of Barcelona’s first team.
Nico González, midfielder
Football is in Nico’s blood. His father is Fran González, legendary one-man club for Deportivo De La Coruña. Nico joined Barcelona at age 11 and has been progressively working his way towards the first team.
Nico’s play might not be as spectacular as Gavi’s, but his solid tackling and good long passing make him a high-rated prospect.
His composure on the pitch belies his age. Nico, who turns 20 in January, could be the perfect replacement for Sergio Busquets, who will turn 34 at the end of the season.
Like Gavi, Nico could also sign his first-team contract in the next few months.
Ez Abde, winger
Despite not being a Masía product, Abde is one of the most promising Barcelona youngsters. The 20-year-old Moroccan was signed from Hercules Alicante this summer. Barcelona tried to negotiate a transfer with the club but ended up paying his €2m release clause.
Abde is a fast and electric winger with a talent for dribbling. It doesn’t take him long to kick into top gear and run past his defender. Xavi has given him starting duties three times already, so we’ll be seeing more of him as the season progresses.
Not this January, though. Abde has just been called up by Morocco for the African Cup of Nations 2021.
Iñaki Peña, goalkeeper
He’s the oldest player on this list, but at age 22, Peña is still young for a goalie.
He has been in and out of first-team training sessions since 2018 and was called up for Spain for last season’s under-21s Euros.
Peña is a classic Barca goalkeeper. He’s good enough at playing the ball with his feet to become an extra midfielder when his side is on the attacking end.
Still under contract for Barca’s reserve team, Peña is the first squad’s third goalkeeper. However, he could soon be promoted if Barca decides to sell one of their goalies to make space for Ferran Torres.
Alejandro Balde, left-back
However, Firpo was sold to Leeds United last summer, presenting a first-team space for the 18-year-old Alejandro Balde.
An academy product since he was eight, Balde is quick and skilled with the ball. His dribbling and vision allow his teams to maintain ball possession, which is critical for Xavi’s style.
So far, Balde has played six games for the first team, including one as a starter. He has struggled with injuries this season but is fully fit at the moment. The only proper left-back in their squad after Alba, Barcelona would be wise to give Balde more playing time.