Discovering Mikayil Faye – the 18-year-old starlet Barcelona signed from the Croatian second division

Barcelona raised eyebrows this week when they secured the signing of 18-year-old central defender Mikayil Faye from NK Kustosija. Not least because despite their financial issues, they are taking a risk on an unproven youngster who has not enjoyed much club football in Europe.

Faye arrived at Kustosija in January of 2023, and by April, he had already convinced Barcelona to spend €1.2m on him, or €5m (via Sport) depending on which report you read. That is according to MD, who also claim that Olympique Marseille were watching him. By the end of April, Faye had only played eight games in the second division, where Kustosija only survived via a relegation play-off.

The 18-year-old was apparently clear that he wanted to join Barcelona ahead of all other clubs, and instructed his agents to give the Blaugrana priority. He hopes to live close to the Ciutat Esportiva, where Barcelona train, in order to be able to walk to work.

His agent, Andy Bara, also represents Josko Gvardiol, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo and Barcelona Director of Football Mateu Alemany. That may hint at why or how Barcelona stole a march on other European sides, having only departed Diambars in Senegal six months ago.

Faye is strong and tall at 6ft1 (186cm), and has a turn of pace that buys him time and space, as well as winning him plenty of battles. Sharing his game time in Croatia almost evenly between left-back and centre-back, Faye is comfortable getting forward and would often beat his marker with his speed on the outside.

TFA reviewed Faye very positively, explaining that he is also happy to play penetrative passes from the back when playing in the middle, something valued enormously by Barcelona and Xavi Hernandez in the position.

His pace also tends to allow him to nip attacks in the bud on the break, whether playing in the middle or out wide. In general, his largest attributes are his ability to win duels, his speed and comfort with the ball.

They do go on to say that he is playing at a much lower level in the Croatian second division than most top clubs do their shopping. Equally Faye’s eagerness to intervene will need tempering over time, as like many younger players, it leads to him over-committing at times.

Overall, it appears as if Barcelona have got themselves an enormously bright prospect. How he adapts to life in Catalonia, the higher level, and the idiosyncratic style at La Masia will define his progress over the next year or two. The raw talent appears to be there in abundance though.

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