Barcelona were always renowned for the quality of player that they would bring through to the first team from their La Masia academy, though it’s fair to say that the well has almost dried up in recent years.
It’s often been suggested that Pep Guardiola got lucky with the amount of homegrown stars he could call upon during his tenure, but while that might be partly true, the club were still more than happy to give the youngsters their wings.
There’s more of a reticence with the current board to do that, with Barca now competing with the biggest clubs in the world for the signatures of the biggest players in the world.
That’s great if you’re a supporter who wants your team to sign the best, but for a club like Barca, whose foundations were built on a different model, it’s understandable why their faithful remain unhappy at spiralling wages and lack of opportunities for their homegrown players.
It’s not as if they don’t have the players to bring in either.
Carles Alena is the most recent to have made the step up, and he can now consider himself a fully-fledged member of the senior side, and yet he’s the first since Sergi Roberto some years before to truly make a mark.
Fortunately, there are a few more players on the horizon that we could get to see in the near future.
The jewel in Barca B’s crown, Riqui Puig is the future of Barcelona if you believe club insiders.
Just 19, he’s cut from the same cloth as Andres Iniesta. A diminutive midfielder, but with Barca DNA, incredible balance and an eye for a pass, he’s completely fearless and a dream to watch in full flight.
Even AC Milan coach, Gennaro Gattuso, was forced to admit when seeing Puig play his side in a pre-season friendly that he was “amazed to see a lad with the face of a child treat the ball like that. I see that he feels football inside him and what he did was like poetry.”
High praise indeed, but Puig hasn’t allowed it to go to his head this season. He continues to knuckle down, work hard and listen to his coaches.
His chance will come soon enough.
Though he’s on loan at Eibar and the Basques have an option to buy him at the end of the season, Barcelona have a clause in the contract where they’re able to buy him back.
At present, it’s safe to say that Jordi Alba, while not untouchable, doesn’t really have a solid enough back-up at left-back to allow him to have longer than a game’s rest here or there.
By bringing back the 20-year-old at the end of the current campaign, it would afford Ernesto Valverde, or whomever may replace him, the opportunity of rotation in the position should he so desire.
Cucurella has certainly earned his stripes at Eibar and was a chief reason why the Basque club surprisingly humbled Real Madrid 3-0.
Not as fast as his contemporary, Alba, he is nevertheless a dogged competitor who will put in a shift in every game.
Perhaps a little raw when he left the Camp Nou, Jose Luis Mendilibar has buffed out the rough edges.
Luis Suarez isn’t going anywhere just yet, but the need for a long-term replacement for the Uruguayan is something that Barcelona must give their fullest attention.
A number of names have been mentioned in dispatches, but all will cost an arm and a leg. Money that the Catalans simply don’t have at this juncture.
And maybe they won’t need it at all.
Abel Ruiz has that innate quality that all top-level strikers seem to possess – a poacher’s instinct.
He’ll need a little time to develop his skillset, but when Suarez is ready to hang up his boots, Ruiz should be waiting in the wings, ready to take his place among the elite.
Not only does he share the same surname as his contemporary Sergio, but Oriol also plays as a defensive midfielder.
He’s been on the fringes of the first team for a while now, regularly training with them alongside his Barca B team-mate, Puig.
When Sergio is ready to exit stage left, the Catalans shouldn’t really need to look any further than Oriol, because his qualities are the same.
He’s technically brilliant, has wonderful vision, anticipates well and is always in the right place at the right time.
There really are reasons to be cheerful at the Camp Nou.