Barcelona’s 15 wonderkids on FM2022: Nico, Gavi, Pedri, Fati…
Football Manager 2022 is out now, and as ever if you’re looking for a club stacked full of young talent it’s difficult to look past Barcelona.
It wasn’t so long ago that racking up silverware with Barcelona would have been a doddle, but their financial meltdown means that managing the club on Football Manager now presents a unique challenge. Leaning on youth is a must.
Fortunately for the ailing Catalan club, La Masia has maintained its uncanny knack of producing some absolutely exceptional young players, while they’ve cherry-picked some of the best talents from elsewhere in Spain and Europe.
According to FMScout, Barcelona have 15 wonderkids on the latest edition of the game. Here’s a round-up of all of them.
In one of football’s worst kept secrets, nobody was surprised when Eric Garcia left Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to return to his boyhood club in the summer.
The 20-year-old centre-back was reduced to a fringe role in his final year at City, after it became clear that he was running down his contract. But he’s instantly become a prominent player at Barcelona, starting 11 of their 15 La Liga matches to date.
Luis Enrique seems to like him, too. Garcia already has 14 caps for Spain after making his debut in September 2020 and was even entrusted to start the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy.
Santi Ramos Mingo
Just like Maradona, Santiago Ramos Mingo made the switch from Boca Juniors to Barcelona, but that’s where the comparisons end for the tough-tackling centre-back.
The defender, still just 20, has made 20 appearances for Barcelona B but is yet to make his first-team debut. He does appear to be in their plans, though – Ramos Mingo remains contracted until 2022, while reports suggest that the club shooed away interest from an unnamed European club in the summer.
An ever-present for Barcelona B this season, Mika Marmol has been praised for his versatility. Primarily a defender, he’s slotted in across the backline and has also featured in midfield.
Marmol, 20, isn’t physically imposing, but he is tenacious and technical – think more Mascherano than Puyol – and looks every bit a La Masia graduate in terms of his ability at playing the ball out from the back.
Interest from Celtic was reportedly rebuffed in the summer.
Another Barcelona B regular, left-back Alejandro Balde has graduated to the first team in 2021-22, making five appearances so far, though none as yet under Xavi.
We’ve been fans for a while. As, apparently, have Liverpool and Manchester United.
Dest is one of a number of young Americans giving hope that the USMNT could be genuinely competitive in years to come, with the 2026 World Cup on home soil the perfect time to peak.
Dest was born in the Netherlands to a Surinamese-American father and a Dutch mother, and couldn’t have hoped to have a better footballing education by going from boyhood club Ajax to Barcelona in 2018.
The jury remains out on whether he’s quite at the level required, but the 21-year-old right-back undoubtedly has bags of promise. It might just take the right coach to get him performing consistently.
Another teenage jewel from Barcelona’s La Masia academy, there’s genuine hope that Nico can form part of a new core of players that can go and emulate the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
That’s a big ask considering that homegrown trio was generation-defining for club and country, but such is Nico’s technical ability that it’s difficult to avoid hyping him up.
The 19-year-old midfielder has good genes, too; his father Fran is a bonafide Deportivo La Coruna legend, having represented the club at their title-winning ‘Super Depor‘ pomp.
“There are children of footballers who are already kicking a ball when they’re two or three years old, but it wasn’t like that for me,” Nico reminisced.
“In fact, the first day I went to train, when I was six or seven years old, I spent the whole time crying in the car. I did not want to go. I ended up going because I had friends there. That was my only excuse.”
"But within Barcelona, they've always backed Nico [Gonzalez] as the one that is going to make it."@riksharma_ picks out Nico Gonzalez as the Blaugrana's shining star, even ahead of Gavi.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 2, 2021
The midfielder joined Barcelona from city rivals Espanyol back in 2014.
The 21-year-old looked as though he might leave in the summer, but instead signed a contract extension for another year, with an option for another two on top of that.
Orellana, a deep-lying playmaker who works diligently to win back the ball, has featured frequently for Barcelona’s youth teams in recent seasons.
Believe the hype.
Lyon-born midfielder Kays Ruiz-Atil spent six years as a kid developing his talents at La Masia before joining PSG in 2015 amid the scandal of Barcelona illegally signing underage players.
He went on to make seven appearances for the Ligue 1 giants last term before rejoining Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer.
The France Under-20 international reportedly has a €50million buyout clause, but he’s yet to make his debut for the Barcelona first team.
Believe the hype, pt. 2.
Morocco Under-20 international Abdessamad Ezzalouli progressed as a youth player at a number of clubs in Spain before making the switch from Hercules to Barcelona in the summer.
A talented left-winger, the majority of Abde’s appearances in blue and red have come for the B team, but he has made five La Liga appearances for Barcelona, including all three of Xavi’s games in charge to date.
In spite of only making a small handful of appearances for Barca’s Under-19s, Angel Alarcon is evidently talented enough to have been earmarked for future success by Football Manager’s illustrious wonderkid tag.
Regular watchers of youth football seem to rate the 17-year-old forward very highly indeed.
Ángel Alarcón • El Killer • 2020/2021. 💥
Some of Ángel's best moments this season. Alarcón is a dynamic and mobile striker who can score goals from almost anywhere. Great finishing, acceleration, balance. He impresses with off-the-ball movement, intelligence, and positioning. pic.twitter.com/eKeUweJ89V
— Piotr Guziński (@Nyctophile1_) April 28, 2021
Another tricky winger, 17-year-old Ilias Akhomach made headlines after being handed a surprise debut by Xavi in his first game in charge.
Barcelona won the Catalan derby 1-0 against Espanyol, with Ilias replaced by Abde early in the second half. The new boss evidently isn’t afraid to give youth a chance.
Believe the hype, pt. 3.
Yusuf Demir, an Austria international, made the somewhat eyebrow-raising loan move from Rapid Vienna in the summer.
Barcelona have the option to sign the prospect for €10million next summer. He’s yet to score or assist, but most have his minutes have been short cameos off the bench, and he recently looked lively as a starter in a Champions League clash with Benfica.