Barcelona’s new generation: Spanish press hail ‘operation future’

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Barcelona are in the midst of a renovation plan dubbed ‘operation future’ by the Spanish press.

The Catalan giants won La Liga last season by a stretch of 11 points but their side is now ageing, with even the effervescent Lionel Messi coming into the twilight of his career at 32 years old. 

Directors at the club have rolled out a ‘Renove’ plan, stepping up their efforts to sign and hone the finest young talent. Under coach Ernesto Valverde, Barca have seen 14 debutants from their famed academy, La Masia. 

Barcelona are in the midst of a renovation plan dubbed 'operation future' by the Spanish press

Barcelona are in the midst of a renovation plan dubbed ‘operation future’ by the Spanish press

The side have balanced this with the signing of the established Antoine Griezmann and deploying the likes of Junior Firpo, 23, in defence, along with the capture of one of Europe’s hottest young talents in Frenkie de Jong. 

The former Ajax man, 22, has played in all eight of his new side’s league games this season, also playing twice in the Champions League – scoring once and assisting once. 

Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic have all passed the 30-year-old mark and Barca have this season already deployed the likes of Ansu Fati, 16, Carles Perez, 21, and Jean-Clair Todibo, 19, lowering the average of the side to 25.58.

Barca also have several other young talents on their books that can come into Valverde’s side in the mid-to-long-term, identified by Mundo Deportivo as the ‘pearls’ of the future, Sportsmail takes a closer look… 

ANSU FATI, 16, FORWARD

He’s not 17 until the end of the month, but the boy born in 2002 has enjoyed somewhat of a meteoric rise since the start of the season, when injuries to Messi, Suarez and Ousmane Dembele meant the U19s star was drafted into the first team. 

Ansu Fati is the youngest player ever in La Liga to register a goal and assist in the same game

Ansu Fati is the youngest player ever in La Liga to register a goal and assist in the same game

He became the youngest player in La Liga history to register a goal and an assist in the same game in Barca’s 5-2 demolition of Valencia last month. More impressively, he needed just seven minutes to do so. 

Fati has scored two goals in five La Liga games now and also appeared in the Champions League, coming on for the last half-hour against Dortmund. 

The Guinean-born striker is now a Spanish citizen, after completing his 10 years of residency, and is already being lined up for the national team.

PEDRI, 16, ATTACKING MIDFIELDER  

Pedro Gonzalez Lopez doesn’t officially join Barcelona until July this year. The Canary Islander is still honing his skills at his home side Las Palmas but the Catalans are watching with a keen eye after paying nearly £4.5million for the 16-year-old.

Lionel Messi has himself identified Pedro Gonzalez Lopez as his successor at the Camp Nou

Lionel Messi has himself identified Pedro Gonzalez Lopez as his successor at the Camp Nou

According to reports, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has himself identified the youngster as his successor at the Nou Camp.

The attacking midfielder has scored three times in nine appearances in Spain’s second tier, assisting once. 

RIQUI PUIG, 20, CENTRAL MIDFIELDER 

The Barcelona youth product, who is a veteran in comparison to Fati and Pedri at 20 years old, is impressing for Barcelona B in the Spanish third tier. 

Riqui Puig is impressing for Barcelona B in the Spanish third tier, he has notched two goals

Riqui Puig is impressing for Barcelona B in the Spanish third tier, he has notched two goals

The central midfielder has notched two goals and assisted once in six appearances and won the Young Player of the Year award at Catalan Player of the Year awards in August.

Puig gave a standout performance in a friendly for the first team against Arsenal in the same month and is also said to have attracted attention from their rivals, Spurs.  

ILAIX MORIBA, 16, CENTRAL MIDFIELDER 

Another 16-year-old, another Guinean-Spaniard. 

The centre midfielder, who has been compared to World Cup winner Paul Pogba, would actually cost the same as the Frenchman did when he joined Manchester United in 2016 if he were to leave Barcelona.  

Barcelona have inserted a near £90 million release clause into Ilaix Moriba's contract

Barcelona have inserted a near £90 million release clause into Ilaix Moriba’s contract

Barca think so highly of the youngster, who plays for their Under 19s, that they inserted a near £90m release clause into his contract. 

He has scored once and assisted once in seven games this season. 

JEAN-CLAIR TODIBO, 19, CENTRAL DEFENDER 

With Clement Lenglet banned from playing against Sevilla after being handed a red card against Getafe and Samuel Umtiti still injured, 19-year-old Todibo partnered Gerard Pique in central defence on Sunday. 

Jean-Clair Todibo partnered Gerard Piqué, at just 19-years-old, in central defence on Sunday

Jean-Clair Todibo partnered Gerard Piqué, at just 19-years-old, in central defence on Sunday

The defender who signed from Tolouse had played three league matches for Barca before the 4-0 win, but all had been away games, except a non-official match in pre season. 

This was the Frenchman’s official Nou Camp debut but he was subbed after 73 minutes due to tiredness. He will have another chance at a top-flight game due to injuries and suspensions, at Eibar after the international break. 

RONALD ARAUJO, 20, CENTRAL DEFENDER 

The man who replaced Todibo against Sevilla, but was then wrongly sent off. 

The Uruguayan joined Barca B last year and came on for his debut in La Liga at the weekend, but played just 14 minutes before he was adjudged to have fouled ex-Manchester United man Javier Hernandez and given his marching orders. 

The Uruguayan joined Barca B last year and came on for his debut against Sevilla on Sunday

The Uruguayan joined Barca B last year and came on for his debut against Sevilla on Sunday

The 20-year-old is tall, imposing and strong and joined Valverde’s side’s tour of Japan this summer, starting against Andres Iniesta’s new team Vissel Kobe. 

He is so highly thought of at the Nou Camp that he too has a £90m release clause that will double should he become a regular feature in the first team.   

CARLES PEREZ, 21, WINGER

Perez outshone the usual stars in Barca’s 2-0 win in the aforementioned Kobe game in the summer, bagging both goals.

Carles Perez has featured in Barca's La Liga campaign, scoring once and assisting twice

Carles Perez has featured in Barca’s La Liga campaign, scoring once and assisting twice

The winger was too much for the Japanese side and their Barcelona alumni, Iniesta, Sergi Samper and David Villa. 

A Catalan by birth, he joined Barcelona’s youth set-up in 2012 from city rivals Espanyol and often draws comparisons to Arjen Robben.

He has featured in the La Liga campaign, scoring once and assisting twice in six games. 

He netted nine goals in 26 appearances from the wing last season, finishing as Barca B’s top scorer. He also has a £90m release clause.

ALEX COLLADO, 20, ATTACKING MIDFIELDER/WINGER

Collado has scored two goals in six games with Barcelona B this season, capped by a cheeky headline-grabbing backheel against Atletico Levante last month. 

Alex Collado has scored two goals in six Segunda Division B, Group Three games this season

Alex Collado has scored two goals in six Segunda Division B, Group Three games this season

The goal, which also included a ridiculous nutmeg, was Messi-esque and the La Masia product is another being touted as an heir to the Argentinian’s throne. 

He got his chance in the first team after Dembele was forced off after just six minutes in a 2-0 loss to Celta Vigo late last season and will be hoping for more opportunities this campaign.



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