Last season saw a somewhat rise to prominence for 22-year-old La Masia graduate Sergi Roberto. Making 27 appearances in the first team last season, the young midfielder was often the first choice to rotate into the Barcelona line-up when key first team players – Xavi, Iniesta, Fàbregas – were either injured or being rested.
Playing reasonably well in the appearances that he managed to pick up, he established himself as a very valuable squad member and was highly thought of under head coach Gerardo Martino. It was a breakthrough season for the Spain under-21 playmaker and he will certainly be looking forward to kicking on in this upcoming season under new coach Luis Enrique, whom he played under whilst maturing at Barcelona ‘B’ in the Spanish second division.
Sergi Roberto is very much in the now signature Barcelona midfielder mould – comfortable receiving the ball at pace into feet facing the goal or with his back to the goal, capable of gliding past one or two defenders at a time and an instinctive eye for a killer pass as well as knowing when a simple ball is needed to dictate the pace of a game.
All of these traits are essential to the way Barcelona play and have done since the reign of Frank Rijkaard. Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández in particular are now iconic role models at Barcelona and in world football and it is expected that young players try to emulate their styles of play for them to fit fluidly into the Barcelona first team. Sergi Roberto is certainly a player capable of filling in the boots of either of these midfielders should his rate of progression continue steadily upwards as it has done since his graduation from academy football.
Young Sergi has spoken about his early pre season work with head coach Luis Enrique and explains that it is more or less as it was in the Barcelona ‘B’ team – a theme which is now ingrained throughout the club – from under-8’s to under-18’s and right through to the first-team, each game is played in the same way – the FC Barcelona way.
“we’re doing more or less the same things that we did with the B team, the coaching staff are almost the same, there haven’t been many changes”.
The continuity in playing style that is encouraged at FC Barcelona bodes well for the progression of Sergi Roberto this season as he won’t be required to play out of his comfort zone and will assume a role similar to last season in that he will rotate with Xavi, Iniesta and new signing Ivan Rakitić, except he will perhaps now be required to impact more in the final third, supplying more assists and certainly scoring more goals, having only netted twice for the first-team.
Barcelona’s former legendary coach Pep Guardiola, back in his days as a player, once famously stated that it would be Xavi who would retire him, and furthermore stated that it would be a young Andrés Iniesta who would retire them both, and it is certainly possible that the next in the great long line of Barcelona midfielders could well be Sergi Roberto.
One potential problem for Barça this coming season is that the young midfielder is now entering the final year of his contract and will be free to move on in the summer should he not reach an agreement to extend. This will put leading clubs in England, Germany, Italy and most probably, rival Spanish clubs, on high alert. Should the player not get the chances he feels he needs to progress he could well choose to move on in search of more
first-team opportunities. After the much publicised Thiago affair of last summer, Barça can ill-afford to let another of their midfield prodigies leave and develop elsewhere. A new contract for this player should certainly be high up on the list of priorities for the Barcelona