Patrick Mills provides a detailed scout report on Carles Alena, Barcelona’s exciting La Masia prospect.
Arguably the best club side of all time, Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Barcelona team was made up mostly of academy products. Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Pedro, Puyol and Messi, amongst others, all forged out hugely successful careers at the club with which they were developed as youngsters. In more recent years, fans at the Camp Nou have been witness to a change in the club’s approach. Xavi’s replacement came in the form of Sevilla’s Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic, while Pedro was pushed out after the arrivals of Brazilian Neymar and Uruguayan Luis Suarez. This summer, much of the talk surrounding the Catalan club is focused on who will fill the huge boots of Andres Iniesta, with the 33 year old’s impact slowly diminishing each year. Among those rumoured to be on the shortlist are Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho and Marco Verratti of PSG. Thiago Alcantara would arguably have been an ideal fit. However, the La Masia graduate was sold to Bayern in 2013.
It seems logical that a club like Barcelona, with such a rich history of producing young talent, would first look to their B team or Juvenile A’s in search of a like for like replacement. But in an era of impatience, the club appear unwilling to take a chance on one of their own. One youngster currently on the fringes of Ernesto Valverde’s first team is Carles Alena. Having impressed for the club’s B team last term and in a handful of cameos with the senior squad, the 19 year old represents an alternative option to spending big this summer.
Who is Carles Alena?
Carles Alena joined Barcelona’s youth system at the age of 7, following a successful trial. He progressed through the ranks at La Masia and began playing for Barcelona B in 2015, aged 17. Comfortable in central midfield or on either flank, Alena made 18 starts for the reserves last season, scoring twice. The playmaker has also represented Spain at various age levels and is captain of the country’s U19 team.
Before signing a 3 year contract at the end of June, Alena was being heavily linked with a move to England. Manchester United, Spurs, Everton and Newcastle United were all rumoured to be interested.
Alena made 3 substitute appearances for Barcelona’s first team last term and scored on his only start in a Copa Del Rey draw away at Hercules.
What is his Style of Play?
Although nicknamed Maradona growing up, Alena has said that his game is more similar to that of Iniesta. The nickname was apparently born more from his physical resemblance to the Argentine, as well as his left footedness. Alena believes he is most productive on the right side of midfield.
“That’s where I like playing- as an ‘interior’, on the other foot, so that I can cut inside.”
His game is perhaps most similar to that of former Monaco wide man and recent Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva. He enjoys receiving out wide with space to dribble infield before picking out a pass or taking a shot at goal.
What are his Strengths?
Having graduated from the famous La Masia academy, Alena’s close control and technique shouldn’t surprise anyone. This allows him to escape pressure well and retain possession for his team. Alena is capable at shooting from distance too, as shown below on his full debut for Barcelona. His intelligence on the field is also typical of a Barca youth product. He has good vision and is excellent at using his body to shield the ball from opponents.
What are his Weaknesses?
The excitement surrounding Carles Alena last season was occasionally tempered by comments made by then manager Luis Enrique. Following his impressive goal against Hercules, Enrique had this to say;
“Positionally he has to improve certain things. We expect a lot from him and we’re going to keep on top of him to ensure that he continues to progress”.
Presumably, Enrique was referring to the youngster’s role in Barcelona’s structure without the ball. Alena is aware of his defensive deficiencies and agrees that it’s an area of his game he must work on.
“My weak point is defending. It’s tough for me as a more attacking player.”
Should he make progress with his defensive game, Alena has the potential to forge a place in Barcelona’s starting XI in the coming years and lead his club into an era post Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Valverde, his new coach, will be sure to give him the chance to do so should he warrant it.
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