When the Pep Guardiola era was in its early days at Barcelona, it was a clear an objective of the Coach was to bring to the fore La Masia. Rather than invest vast sums in players from abroad, the focus would be on the famous footballing school that the club owes so much of its success to. Every now and then Barca chooses to bring in an import, but at the same time, for that position they have in mind, a player waits in the bowels of La Masia to contest it.
One such player waiting for his moment is attacking winger Gerard Deulofeu. Few have come from La Masia in recent years bringing with them the excitement and intrigue that Deulofeu does. That’s because few have the natural talent he does, and the attitude and self-belief that he is the best footballer on the field. He wants everyone to know this in each game he plays – sometimes it works and Deulofeu can be the defining point in a game with his individual brilliance. On other occasions, it does not, and the 18-year-old frustrates on a level few others can as he buries his chin into his chest, refusing to glance across the field for a teammate.
There’s something else about Deulofeu too – he causes great concern at Barca due to his activities off the field. A social networking account was shut down by the club because he was appearing to show perceived arrogance in some suspect photos and comments. Then rumours swirled of a general arrogant attitude around training as Deulofeu’s efforts weren’t quite what were expected of him. Several sources have had a word with the teenage tearaway though, to make sure that his entire focus remains on football.
He has dominated various youth levels with aplomb, showing off his outstanding abilities on the field in which he refuses to be intimidated by any opponent. Iker Muniain demonstrated when he came on the scene at Athletic Bilbao that he had no fear and with that anything could be achieved. Deulofeu plays in a similar vein and when harnessed correctly it has proven to be devastating.
Such was the impression made in the youth ranks at Barca, it soon came time last season for Pep Guardiola to reward the youngster and give him a chance with the first team squad. He remained on the bench against Real Sociedad in April 2011 but didn’t have to wait too long before his debut as a substitute against Real Mallorca. After that it was time for focus once again, but his return to the Barca B side saw his performances still lack genuine consistency. Coach Eusebio’s negative style didn’t help players like Deulofeu last term, but still more was expected. He finished the season with nine goals in 34 games, but his tally could’ve been far more had he kept more grounded.
A sparkling performance in the European Under-19 Championships saw him named Player of the Tournament by UEFA, as he often proved to be a key presence in the Spain team that triumphed. Although the frustrating aspects of his game were still evident this summer, there was an added edge about the performances, in which he looked for teammates and managed to get more involved with approach play. It could be the first step in a key juncture for Deulofeu, as his career could swiftly rise from here on in.
Rumours have persisted over the summer of a move to England on loan with various clubs showing an interest, but Barca are understandably reluctant and, with the player’s best interests in mind, they may opt to have him remain in Catalonia. After all, the wide eyes could grow even further if he’s let loose in the hustle and bustle of an English city. It’s best that he remains at home, with his family both at home and club, with a focus on next season.
With discipline and humility, Deulofeu can perhaps go on to be the most exciting player to come out of La Masia since Lionel Messi. Perhaps the wrong sort of statement to use about a player a club are trying to keep grounded. It’s difficult to do just that when watching Deulofeu however, as the time for his take-off seems ever sooner.