1. Nico Gonzalez
Nico Gonzalez joined La Masia at the age of 11 and has multiple accords to his name. He’s won titles at almost every youth level (Alevin B, Infantil B, Cadet A, Cadet B, Juvenil A) and his meteoric rise at such a tender age didn’t go unnoticed as clubs like Manchester City and Manchester United wanted to sign the then 16-year-old. But, Gonzalez always knew his heart was in Barcelona and he continued his development.
Gonzalez made noise of his progress once again when he was promoted directly to Juvenil A from Cadet A, skipping Juvenil B. Plying his trade as a midfielder, the Spaniard became a key cog in the Juvenil A team. Fast forward to 2021, Gonzalez has been one of the most eye catching players in pre-season. So much so that he could be a part of Koeman’s plans depending on the sales and departures of certain players.
However, Garcia Pimienta’s part in Gonzalez’s part cannot be ignored. Pimienta handed him the Barca B debut in 2017 and since then he has been an integral part of the B team. He played as a defensive midfielder under Pimienta but his abilities and traits do not limit him to one position. He’s likened to another La Masia graduate and a maestro of defensive midfield, Sergio Busquets. Gonzalez was often seen controlling the tempo in the middle of the park, which allowed Ilaix Moriba to operate centrally, and offer his services in the final third as well.
Gonzalez has neat dribbling skills too and can break the lines while making that press breaking runs. Learning the art from watching and noting Busquets, Gonzalez also searches for space and occupies spaces, creating a passing option for his teammates. He likes to dribble and move forward and can also operate as a number 8. It remains to be seen how his game evolves and whether he’s most comfortable as a number 8 or as a pivot in the midfield.
With the futures of Miralem Pjanic and Moriba unknown, Koeman could entrust Gonzalez with the duty of acting backup to the likes of Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. An exciting 2021-22 season awaits for one of the brightest emerging starlets of La Masia.