Barcelona have unearthed the next Gerard Pique – no wonder Pep Guardiola is ‘in love’

Back in January, a report in Spanish outlet AS claimed that Pep Guardiola was “in love” with Barcelona starlet Pau Cubarsi.

When it was published, the La Masia starlet had only just turned 17. He’d only played a handful of games for his boyhood club, yet it was claimed that he’s the perfect mix of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Guardiola was said to be facing a “major internal conflict” over the prospect of raiding the club that made him for one of their top prospects.

If you’re relatively switched on and have been consuming football media online for a while, chances are you’ll have developed an acute bullsh*t detector. Particularly when it comes to the Spanish press, who have a tendency to lean towards hyperbole as they look to fill column inches in their daily papers.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it all before. Every new academy starlet is the second coming of whatever club’s greatest-ever player in X position. How good can this kid be, really?

The answer, it seems, is actually outrageously f*cking good. Maybe there was something in that report, and maybe Guardiola is actually head over heels. Because on the evidence of his display in Barcelona’s 1-0 victory over Mallorca, Cubarsi looks like a Pique regen.

Cubarsi doesn’t turn 18 until 2025. As we’re seemingly obliged to tell you when it comes to these matters, the No.1 song when he was born was Irreplaceable by Beyonce.

And he might well prove himself irreplaceable when it comes to the future of Barcelona’s backline (sorry).

Xavi’s side were put on under pressure by Mallorca, who came to Catalonia riding the crest of a wave after booking their place in the Copa del Rey final in midweek. But Barcelona’s defence withstood everything that was thrown at them to keep a clean sheet, and just about keep themselves on Real Madrid’s coattails in the title race.

Lining up alongside Inigo Martinez, a centre-back with over 350 La Liga games under his belt, Cubarsi looked no less mature. His reading of the game and positioning was exemplary.

QUIZ: Can you name every player that Xavi has used at Barcelona?

“Pau Cubarsi doesn’t look like he’s 17! He’s super calm when he plays,” Xavi told reporters after the final whistle.

“Lamine Yamal has been wonderful too, but those Leo Messi comparisons are not gonna help him. Keep it calm

“For sure, Cubarsi and Lamine are different. Just different.”

Cubarsi and Lamine Yamal, who scored the match-winning goal, have a combined age of just 33. Robert Lewandowski is older than the two of them put together.

And yet they were Barcelona’s two best players on the night.

Over in the capital, Real Madrid are building what looks to be a terrifyingly strong team. With Kylian Mbappe all but confirmed as joining Carlo Ancelotti’s already-stacked squad, there looks to be a genuine chance of Barca’s great rivals enjoying a period of domestic dominance akin to their prime years under Guardiola and Luis Enrique.

Barcelona remain in a terrible state financially. They cannot compete with Los Blancos when it comes to star signings and big-money investments.

But as long as La Masia keeps churning out ridiculously talented prospects like Yamal and Cubarsi, there’s hope that they might just be alright.

There’s work to be done with Cubarsi, though. The teenage centre-back remains contracted until 2026, but the vultures are circling amid rumours of a €10million release clause. Chelsea are said to be in the mix alongside Man City. Tying down his future at the Camp Nou ought to be among the club’s top priorities, and sure enough negotiations on a renewed deal are said to be underway.

Whatever happens with Cubarsi, and wherever he’s playing his football in the coming years, he looks as though he’s destined to make it to the very top.

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