Xavi Hernandez is one of La Masia’s most famous sons and he continues to lean on the club’s distinguished academy as Barcelona manager.
The likes of Gavi and Alejandro Balde have made the step up from the youth team to become trusted senior players for Xavi and it looks like the talent factory just keeps on producing.
Pre-season gives Xavi a unique opportunity to take a closer look at the academy players on the fringes of the first team. Here are five talented youngsters hoping to make the most of their opportunities ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.
Having first made headlines back in April 2022 by controversially copying Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark celebration after scoring an outrageous overhead kick, Fermin has had an up-and-down time of it at La Masia and was relatively recently considered not good enough for the B Team.
But the 20-year-old midfielder was one of eight youth team players brought along with the senior squad for Barcelona’s United States tour. He’s certainly made the most of that opportunity, having come off the bench to score a screamer and notch an assist in their 3-0 friendly victory over Real Madrid in Texas.
Fermin’s current deal expires in a year’s time and he’s certainly one worth keeping an eye on. We’ve got you covered for all you need to know about the club’s latest rising star.
One of Xavi’s first acts as Barcelona boss was to call upon Abde. The winger was a teenager at the time and appeared off the bench in a 1-0 victory in the Catalan derby against Espanyol.
He featured regularly in the early weeks of Xavi’s tenure back in the winter of 2021 before falling back to the periphery. Last season he continued his development with a successful loan at Osasuna, who qualified for the UEFA Conference League and finished runners-up in the Copa del Rey. He also provided dazzling moments of skill in a series of eye-catching cameos in Morocco’s run to the World Cup semi-finals.
Earlier in the summer, Abde shone as Morocco’s Under-21s won the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil. He won the Golden Boot with three goals and returns to his parent club in a buoyant, confident mood.
Abde had been tipped to go out on loan once again, with Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis keen on his services for 2023-24.
But there are rumours that Ousmane Dembele will move to PSG in the coming days and that could open up a space in Xavi’s squad for the 21-year-old. He started in the 5-3 defeat to Arsenal and featured off the bench against Real Madrid, giving his coach plenty of food for thought.
“Aleix is a total Barca profile. He is a footballer that I like. Technically he is gifted,” Xavi told reporters after giving Aleix his La Liga debut in a 4-0 victory over Elche back in April.
“Pablo and Aleix are very young but I see a talent in them who can participate. Aleix would have made his debut earlier if not for the injury.
“They are players who we take it very seriously. We always try to give them opportunities but sometimes the competition within the team makes it difficult”
Whereas the other player Xavi namechecked – Pablo Torre – has been sent out on loan to Girona, Aleix has gone on Barcelona’s US tour and appears to be a part of Xavi’s plans.
The 19-year-old midfielder is yet to make an appearance in Barcelona’s summer friendlies but he’s been brought along on the tour and may yet feature in the upcoming matches against AC Milan and Tottenham before the La Liga season gets underway in mid-August.
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Barcelona have brought former Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu back to Catalonia following the departure of club icon Sergio Busquets. The 31-year-old La Masia graduate left Camp Nou all the way back in 2011 and has slotted back into the base of midfield in Barcelona’s US tour so far.
But strength in depth could be key as Barcelona acclimatise to life after Busquets and Casado will provide an alternative option in the defensive midfield engine room. He’s been described as one of the finest prospects at La Masia and appears to have the technical talents demanded by Xavi.
The 19-year-old made his debut as a substitute in Barcelona’s 4-2 Champions League victory over Viktoria Plzen last November and has made one further cameo appearance in La Liga since then. Expect more to follow.
Barcelona’s youngest-ever debutant at the age of 15, Lamine Yamal has been talked up as this generation’s truly special talent at La Masia.
Footage doing the rounds of the forward running rings round the opposition when he was just 13 genuinely recalls those grainy clips you’ve seen of a young Lionel Messi and seems to confirm that we’re dealing with an outrageously talented prospect.
He only turned 16 earlier in July and is currently hobnobbing around the States with the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan. What were you doing at that age?