Barcelona were made to work hard to win against Apoel last week. The game didn’t go as well as Barcelona planned, but in the end they managed to come out with three important points. This was a game where Luis Enrique gave a few young players a chance to shine on an important European night, and to be honest, they didn’t disappoint.
One player who stood out that night was young Sergi Samper. The young Catalan midfielder seemed to enjoy himself and showed a lot of confidence for someone so young. He was magnificent on and off the ball, and I believe Barca fans went home talking about him as the next big thing to come from La Masia.
Samper looked like he had been playing in the first team for years – he showed tremendous quality, superb vision, and impressive positional sense for someone of his age. He amazed the crowd with his skills and his ability to read the game.
It will be interesting to see what role Samper will play this season in the first team – already full of high quality midfielders – but we may have to wait for another year to see the best of him. The problem for Samper is that the Barca midfield is congested with world-class players, so it’s not easy to get a chance to play there every week.
When you watch Samper play, you want to compare him with the way Busquets plays. His long-range passing is excellent, and the way he creates space for himself is something we have seen from Busquets. What amazes the crowd at the Camp Nou is his confidence. For someone of 19 years of age to have that confidence shows you that Samper was born to play on the big stage, and he isn’t scared. It’s easy to say Samper is a carbon copy of Sergio Busquets.
The Barcelona-based newspaper, Mundo Deportivo, likened Samper to Andrea Pirlo the Italian pass master, while many see Samper as the modern version of Pep Guardiola. I believe Busquets has some tough competition in few seasons to come from Samper, and this will only help Barcelona in the long run.
Luis Enrique has surprised everyone this year by providing opportunities to young players who show him that they can handle big moments. The minutes played by Munir El-Haddad, Sandro, and Samper this season show that Enrique isn’t scared to use young players, as long as they demonstrate on the training pitch that they can meet expectations. Samper will be more than happy to get a chance at a Champions League game in front of the home crowd at Camp Nou.
When you look at these young players coming of age at Barcelona, it’s hard not to agree that with good management, Barcelona will continue to dominate the world of football for years to come. But the tricky part of all this is how will they manage to keep all these young players happy. We hope to continue seeing Samper develop and getting the chances he deserves.