Alejandro Balde is the latest hotshot to emerge from Barca’s famous La Masia academy as they turn to the kids amid financial struggles… but why has Koeman called up a 17-year-old who hasn’t even started for their B team?
- Carles Tusquets has stressed the importance of bringing through youngsters
- Alejandro Balde, just 17, has been tipped as the replacement for Junior Firpo
- Balde is a young athletic player who has the ability to get up and down the flank
- Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the latest star to emerge from their academy
Barcelona’s interim president Carles Tusquets has already hinted at how the club will need to bring through more youngsters to address the hole in the club’s finances.
Diario Sport’s front page on Thursday was a reflection of that with 17-year-old left back Alejandro Balde tipped as the replacement for Junior Firpo sooner rather than later.
Sportsmail looks at the latest name to emerge from the club’s academy.
Carles Tusquets says Barca will need to bring in youngsters to address their financial hole
Teenage left back Alejandro Balde (above) is latest name to emerge from the club’s academy
Not just before he’s played a game for the first team; before he’s started for the B-team.
The teenager who only came up from the under-19s this summer has a badly twisted left ankle at the moment and is unlikely to play again this year but when he returns it will be having jumped a level into the B side.
Balde has been tipped as the replacement for Junior Firpo (above) sooner rather than later
So why the front page news?
Because he excelled in pre-season and is very highly rated, and because Junior Firpo is one of those being ushered out in a bid to create some funds in January.
Junior was signed from Betis in 2019 for 18m euros plus 12 in variables (exactly the kind of deal Barcelona can no longer do) and has been linked to Inter.
He has so far only played 28 minutes against Ferencvaros and injury time against Juventus.
He knows he is surplus and the front page of his possible successor probably reinforced that.
So Balde steps in?
Well Jordi Alba is still likely to play almost all games. And when he doesn’t right-back Sergino Dest has shown himself capable of playing on both flanks.
But yes Ronald Koeman wants Balde training with the first team – another 17-year-old to work alongside Pedri who has impressed so much this season.
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman wants the teenager to be training with the first team
Is he at the same level as Pedri?
No, he remains very much in formation. Pedri had a season out on loan last year at second division outfit Las Palmas while Balde was still playing in youth football.
His athletic qualities are clear though and now B-team coach Franciso Garcia Pimienta wants to work with him closely this year to improve his defensive play.
Balde is not yet as good as Pedri, but B-team coach Franciso Garcia Pimienta is helping him
What most stands out about him?
His attacking play. He’s athletic and gets up and down the flank. The bursts of pace can take him past defenders and help him recover positions to cope with opposition teams’ quick transitions.
He has developed fast. His father Saliu wanted him to concentrate on Athletics. But his older brother Edy helped make sure it was football he chose.
Edy played for local side Sant Marti Condal aged seven and legend has it that one week his team were down a player and four-year-old Alejandro, watching with their mum from the sidelines, slotted in to replace his brother, despite the age difference.
By the age of eight he had been snapped up by Espanyol who moved quicker than their Catalan rivals Barcelona. But it was not long before he made the switch to the bigger club and has won the league at every youth level from eight to 18.
The left back has a burst of pace that can take him past defenders and help him in transition
And always as a full-back?
Is there any Spanish full-back who has ‘always’ been a full-back? He emerged as a striker scoring for fun until Barcelona tried him in a position where he could utilise his explosive pace arriving from deep.
When will we see him?
He should be fit to become a fixture in the B-team by the start of the year. And if Firpo is sold in January then he could become an increasingly familiar fixture in Koeman’s first team training sessions and possibly in Copa del Rey matches while Alba is rested.
If Firpo is sold in January, Balde could become a regular at Koeman’s training sessions
And are supporters right to be excited?
Spanish youth football expert Albert Roge wrote last year: ‘Running is very important. But if you can also run with the ball stuck to your foot and creating danger then that is the best.
‘Barca are lucky because in its academy it has a clear example of it. He plays as a left back and his name is Alejandro Balde.’
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