A wave of cold air swept through Barcelona on August 8. The air was damp from all the tears it brushed against. The city of Barcelona was crying. You just watched your favorite player leave town after 21 long and glorious years. Lionel Messi formally said goodbye and burst into tears when leaving the club. But as they say, the show must go on. Hours later, Barcelona faced Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy. The future of Barcelona shone at night since his past and present were about to leave the country. Although they have lost Messi, the youth of La Masia would ensure that Barcelona and its glory continue.
𝗪𝗜𝗡𝗡𝗘𝗥𝗦 !! 🏆#TrofeuGamper pic.twitter.com/4iczuFi44Z
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
Lionel Messi was the pinnacle of football. He did both the simplest and the most complicated things. Messi’s magic led Barcelona to trophy after trophy. Not ignoring the other star cast who have done incredibly well. Now that Messi is leaving Barcelona, it is time for the other cast of stars to step up and be the face of the club. The club has been through a lot in the last two years. This season has to be the first step to get back to normal.
🎥 Leo #MessiFULL farewell press conference
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 9, 2021
As the club seeks to usher in a new era, it must find strength in an old, familiar place. La Masia used to be the best academy in the world. The talents that emerged were generational and shone more than any star. Few recently feel that the club is not making as good use of the academy as before. But a new crop of hopefuls is ready to overturn that misconception.
THE TRANSITION STAGE
Barcelona enjoyed a renaissance with Pep Guardiola in the late 2000s and the dominance lasted until the 2010s. The team featured legendary players such as Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, David Villa and Sergio Busquets. They used to conquer Spain and Europe regularly for fun. The trophies flowed like water to the scouts of the world.
But soon the father’s time caught up with everyone. The team peaked and many players grew old. The journey of joy had to end. Xavi and Iniesta, who formed one of the best midfielder trios of all time alongside Sergio Busquets, left the club. Many of the players who played second row in those teams like Alexis Sánchez, Thiago Alcántara left in search of better opportunities.
It was a great trip 💔 #Messi #FC Barcelona #Neymar #suarez #Lionel Messi #FCBlive #The league #UCL #MSN pic.twitter.com/4av63uAgPn
– FootTheBall (@FootTheBall) August 5, 2021
A certain forward three from Messi-Suárez-Neymar terrified the defenders. With the departure of Messi from the club, the last piece of MSN is out of Barcelona. This leaves Barcelona in a transitional stage. They have huge shoes to cover each and every position. The mismanagement of Barcelona by former president Josep Bartomeu did not allow him to succeed in the process of replacing the legends. The club should know that they have an academy that could save them millions in the future if they use it correctly.
RIQUI PUIG SEASON
If anyone deserves a second chance with La Masia’s Barcelona kit, it’s Puig. The young master is an ode to old-school players and can solve Barcelona’s midfield problem. Puig is a right-handed midfielder who plays on the left flank of a three midfield. Puig sounds eerily similar to Andrés Iniesta and is considered to be the long-term replacement for Don Andrés.
105 successful passes 🎯
Impressive first 90 minutes of the season for @RiquiPuig in #BarçaAlaves!
💙 @FC Barcelona ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Nu6M6zgLTn
– LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 14, 2021
He’s someone who excels at playing between the lines and making smart runs and playing smart passing. Puig also plays short passes well and goes back to recover the ball. He has high work rates and presses well to retrieve the ball in dangerous areas of the field. According to FBRef Puig averages 12 shots creation actions per game and averages 2 interceptions showing his versatility.
The midfielder for unknown reasons lost the favor of his boss. Koeman never envisioned Puig as the starter, and at times he even lost the bank by being excluded from the turnover policy. But whenever he plays, he keeps proving his manager wrong and demands those minutes.
💥 BOOM! 𝙂𝙊𝙇𝘼𝙕𝙊 !! @RIQUIPUIG IT GOES 3-0 IN THE FINAL GAME OF THE GAME! # BarçaJuve #TrofeuGamper pic.twitter.com/ofNfJNWR93
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
This preseason, Puig had the opportunity to impress while other youngsters like Pedri were off international duty. He took advantage of the occasion with a goal in preseason and another against Juventus in the Joan Gamper trophy. Fans have seen how Puig is influencing the games from deep down and could put pressure on Koeman to play it.
Puig is also perfectly suited to Koeman’s 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 for its adaptability. The young man has to train with more dedication to prove something to his boss. Still, Puig is too good of a player to waste on the bench when he could be a starter for half the La Liga teams in all fairness.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
At the end of a storm, there is a silver song. Barcelona kept their nerves together and cried when Messi left. But when the dust settles, they will return to their equipment without which life will not be the same. When they look inside the club, the talents of La Masia catch their attention. Barcelona have a good crop of youngsters at the moment and have another young point guard on the way.
🔐 Pedri made 11 key passes in # EURO2020, more than any other player 21 and under who has achieved in the tournament so far #ESP pic.twitter.com/NwrEMDFF42
– WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 9, 2021
Immediately, Puig, Pedri and Moriba represent the future of their midfield. Pedri, who came to Barcelona from Las Palmas last season, had the most grueling season in football history. Despite his age, the young man managed to play 73 games and shorten the holidays to return to training. Pedri’s dedication also matches his skill on the field, as he can create, score and dictate the pace of the game. Pedri was the best young player of the recently concluded Euros. Pedri along with Puig on a pivot would be a brilliant couple in the center of the park.
🤤 Of the 239 players who attempted more than 15 dribbles, Ilaix Moriba had the best dribbling success rate (89.5%) in La Liga last season. pic.twitter.com/B1lhWdSrOf
– WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 8, 2021
Illaix Moriba is the third untouchable beyond the new triumvirate. Moriba is more of a direct threat from midfield and can also play as a forward. The 18-year-old who becomes a major this summer has yet to decide how and where to continue his development. The club may be tempted to sell you that you will not sign a new contract. They also have other gems like Gavi and Yusuf Demir in their hands.
But Barcelona must know that it cannot take advantage of La Masia, as it would spell disaster for the club. So get used to hearing these names become household names shortly.