For anyone that was paying attention at the end of Barcelona’s season, you would have noticed that Xavi was not part of the squad in each of the last two games. This illustrates that the thirty-two year old’s body is not what it used to be. This isn’t to say that his days are numbered; it was just a reminder to me that the world’s best midfield maestro won’t be around forever. There is no need to fret, Cules, life doesn’t end with Xavi’s retirement. This is thanks in part to a seventeen year old currently being developed at La Masia.
Full Name: Sergi Samper Montaña
Team: FC Barcelona
Birth Date: January 20, 1995
Birth Place: Barcelona, Spain
Height: 5 feet 11 inches
He has been lauded as one of the “next big things” to come out of Spanish football which is praise enough when you consider the talent that has come out of Spain in the last few years. Sergi started out playing tennis as a young boy, but his grandfather, bless his soul, spotted his footballing potential and signed him up for a trial with the FC Barcelona Escuela. He passed the trial and in a matter of months, at the age of 6, he was snatched up for the club’s Benjamin B side.
Once within the club, Sergi shot up through the levels within the youth structure. He has played a key role in every side he has been a part of and he was the captain of many of them as well, showing leadership qualities which are a valuable addition to any side. At sixteen years old, he had already trained with the first team under Pep Guardiola, showing how highly the lad is rated and how close he could be to making his debut with the first team. His skills drew the gaze of Arsene Wenger, a manager who keeps an eye on and is never too far away from Barcelona’s La Masia. Arsenal’s manager famously signed Cesc Fabregas at a young age, and last summer he managed to lure youngsters Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin to London, but he was hoping for a triple swoop with Sergi Samper at the top of his list. Aresne’s dream went unrealized as Sergi was committed to making it at his hometown club and chose not to join his teammates in London. Last season Sergi was the star and captain of one of the strongest Cadete A sides in recent memory. He led the team to a trophy-laden year that included winning the Niker Premier Cup, La Liga, the Championship of Catalunya, and the prestigious Mediterranean International Cup.
This season, Sergi was promoted to the Juvenil B team. Soon after, it was realized that he was already beyond that level and so he was quickly promoted to play with Barcelona’s Juvenil A side under the highly touted coach, Oscar Garcia. Sergi Samper has shone and been an undisputed starter at the highest youth level at FC Barcelona (before the Barca B side) and he is destined to be promoted to the B side next season, if he is not given a chance in the first team before then. At the end of this past season, he was called up with three other players from the Juvenil A side to train with the first team.
The lanky midfielder plays a “number 4” role, and his play has been likened to Italian and Juventus midfielder, Andrea Pirlo. He has drawn comparisons to Pep Guardiola, but perhaps the best way to describe him is as a deeper lying Xavi. He has all the tools to be successful at the Camp Nou; he has a deft touch, intelligent positioning, and what his coaches have called a “privileged” vision of the game. This technical ability, coupled with the fact that he is only seventeen he has yet to finish developing physically, may prove to be the reason why there are still some smiles around Barca’s training grounds. His club performances have earned him a starting place with the Spanish U17 team and he recently led his country to a 4-0 win against England, contributing with a goal and another solid performance. His future is blindingly bright and Barcelona is counting their lucky stars that he chose to stay in Catalunya.