Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has sprung something of a surprise with his squad to face Granada in La Liga on Saturday.
The Dutch coach has called 17-year-old Ilaix Moriba into his matchday squad for the first time. The midfielder is still technically part of the club’s Juvenil A squad but could now make his La Liga debut at Los Carmenes.
The youngster has been training with the first-team in recent weeks and certainly appears to have impressed Koeman.
Moriba joined the club at the age of seven and has already been described as Barcelona’s ‘new Pogba’ as he has a similar playing style to the Manchester United midfielder.
The youngster makes a squad that is without Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Pique, and Sergi Roberto due to injury. Defender Clement Lenglet also misses out through suspension.
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Koeman Talks Ilaix
Koeman hinted that Moriba could make the squad in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game on Friday. The Barca boss said he was considering the midfielder as a replacement for Carles Alena who has moved on loan to Getafe.
We know that Alena has gone on loan to Getafe and so we need an extra player. Ilaix Moriba was with us in pre-season, he’s played for Barca B, he’s trained with the first team so there is the possibility that he will be on the squad list for tomorrow.
The Barcelona coach has certainly been willing to give youth a chance since taking over at the club from Camp Nou. Ansu Fati, Oscar Mingueza, Ronald Araujo, and Pedri have all enjoyed regular football under the Dutchman and Moriba could become the latest youngster to be handed the chance to impress in the first team.
What About Riqui Puig?
Yet there is one youngster who continues to struggle for game time at Barca. Midfielder Riqui Puig is another of La Masia’s gems and was promoted to the first-team squad at the start of the season.
However, the 21-year-old has struggled to force his way into the team and has managed only 79 minutes in all competitions in 2020-21. Koeman hinted once again in his press conference that it might be time for the youngster to go out on loan.
The decision is up to each individual player but, without saying names, I think for some players due to their youth and their need to get minutes I think it’s tough here. They need to look for other teams and improve as a player. We have respect for players when they spend time away. I’ve always said youngsters need to play and can’t be a year without playing at a high level.
Puig does appear to have a future at Barcelona despite his lack of game time. The youngster has already put pen to paper on a two-year contract extension that will keep him at the Camp Nou until at least 2023, according to Mundo Deportivo’s Ferran Martinez.