Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Rodríguez look to be leading a new vanguard of young talent that hints at a bright future for FC Barcelona, writes Richard Martin.
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FC Barcelona have never been shy about giving youth a chance – indeed this tried and tested policy looks to be once again paying off thanks to the likes of teenagers Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Rodríguez.
Munir opened his senior Barça account with a classy finish during the 3-0 home victory against Elche CF on the opening day of the campaign, while Rodríguez followed suit with Sunday's winner at Villarreal CF.
Nine of the 14 players who featured for the Azulgrana in that game were home grown, ranging from the experience of Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and all-time leading appearance maker Xavi Hernández to the new breed of Rodríguez, El Haddadi and Rafinha Alcántara. The prestigious Masia academy looks to be as prolific as ever.
El Haddadi was a key member of the Barcelona team that won the maiden UEFA Youth League last term – scoring 32 goals in ten fixtures – to provide further evidence of a bright future at Camp Nou. El Haddadi found the net 11 times to finish as the leading marksman, registering twice in the final – the second a sensational effort from the halfway line.
The Madrid-born forward's UEFA Youth League displays earned him promotion to Barça's B side midway through last season and he has not stopped since. He was top scorer for the first team in pre-season and shone against Elche on his debut, hitting a post in the first half before finishing with aplomb in the second to become the third youngest player ever to strike for the Catalan club after Bojan Krkić and Lionel Messi.
He is far from the only youngster tipped for big things. Pacy winger Adama Traoré was another key member of the team that won the UEFA Youth League and also earned his place in the B team last term. He now looks certain to be one of Eusebio Sacristán's side's main danger men this season.
Further back, 19-year-old Sergi Samper has the necessary discipline and intelligence to work his way into the Barça midfield and provide competition to Busquets, while great things are also expected of forward Alen Halilović, a signing from GNK Dinamo Zagreb who became a full Croatian international at the tender age of 16.
Barça may have spent more this summer than in any previous transfer window in a bid to wrestle back the Liga title from Club Atlético de Madrid, but the big money recruits such as Ivan Rakitić and Luis Suárez cannot afford to rest on their laurels – there are some new kids on the block, ready to fight for their place in the team.