Some of the top footballers in the European game have been produced from Barcelona’s fabled La Masia youth academy, with World Cup and Champions League winners galore being churned out over the years.
One of the brightest prospects to follow in the long list is Gerard Deulofeu, who is on loan at Everton this season. The 19-year-old finally got his first Premier League start on Saturday in the Toffees’ comprehensive 4-0 win over Stoke, scoring his first goal in the top flight in the process.
The talented winger joined the Barcelona youth system as a nine-year-old, and has all the customary trademark attributes that La Masia graduates generally possess; superlative technique, vision, excellent movement off the ball and the ability to do something spectacular.
Despite making two appearances for the Blaugrana first-team, most of Deulofeu’s senior football has been played for Barcelona B. Over the course of two seasons, the tricky attacker cemented a place in the reserve side and excelled.
Last season in particular the winger was an instrumental member of the side, returning 18 goals in 33 appearances – an excellent achievement from midfield.
Although Deulofeu has specifically caught the eye for his club, he has also been involved in Spain’s national set-up from under-16 level. The 19-year-old has made over 60 appearances for his country at various age grades, and has added to his already burgeoning reputation in the red of his nation.
Deulofeu has consistently played in an age-grade much superior to his actual age, allowing him to spend over 12 months with each team and string together consistent runs of games for the same side.
As a result he was part of the Spain side that won the Uefa under-19 championships in both 2011 and 2012, and was handed the golden player award for his efforts last year at the tournament in Estonia.
He has since progressed into the under-21 set-up, and has already played 12 times at this level, scoring five times.
At Everton, manager Roberto Martínez has introduced his countryman to Premier League football slowly but surely, with cameo appearances off the bench the norm so far. When given the chance to play in the Capital One Cup he has impressed, and also has put in a number of excellent showings as a substitute in the league.
After another impressive display in the Merseyside derby as a substitute, Deulofeu started against Stoke this weekend and showed exactly what he is capable of. A goal and an assist topped off an excellent showing, with the Spaniard captivating the Goodison Park faithful with his individual skill and vision.
Going forward Deulofeu will look to solidify a role in an Everton team with lofty ambitions this season, and there is no reason why he cannot be an automatic starter for the team.
His shows of skill suggest that he has everything it takes to be a real success during his loan spell in England, and can play a considerable role in Everton’s quest for a top-four finish.
In the long term, Deulofeu has stated that he wants to return to his boyhood club and fight for a place in the Barcelona first-team squad. If he continues his improvement at the current rate, the winger could be the latest in a long line of world-beaters to be molded at La Masia.