La Masia: Chumi


Not since Marc Bartra has a La Masia centre-back broken into the first team. He did so in an era of quality youngsters at the position including Marc Muniesa, Sergi Gómez and Andreu Fontás, all still current professionals at Girona, Sevilla and Sporting Kansas City respectively. It seems that between Jorge Cuenca, Óscar Mingueza, Chumi and newly signed Ronald Araújo, there is a new crop of talents in the middle of defense that each have a shot at a future at the Camp Nou. Cuenca and Araújo were brought directly to Barcelona B while the Catalan Mingueza has been with the club since the U-7s. Chumi meanwhile made the jump as a 15-year-old and was quickly tabbed as a talent more advanced than other players his age.

Juan Brandáriz was born in A Laracha, just about a twenty minute car ride to A Coruña, on March 2, 1999. Due to the proximity to A Coruña, it should be no surprise that the youngster affectionately nicknamed 'Chumi' by his father was brought into Deportivo La Coruña's youth academy. He received his first footballing education in the years following the memorable days of Super Depor as the first team transitioned back into a middle of the table La Liga squad.

In 2014 he made the leap to Catalonia, hastily showing his worth and proving himself worthy of a spot with the Juvenil B team to play alongside athletes a year or two his senior. He made his mark on the Juvenil B squad under then coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta, and he has continued to follow his coach as they both ascended up the La Masia ladder.

He made two appearances in the UEFA Youth League in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 before taking on a major role in the squad's run to the tournament title. He started in nine of the ten games, coming off the bench in the tenth in the team's 5-4 win over Manchester City, the only game in which Barcelona's defense gave up more than one goal. He wore the captain's armband in three of those starts. On the international front, Chumi made twelve appearances with Spain's U-17s, starting in every match at the Euro U-17 Championship in 2016.

The centre-back made the bench for two Barcelona B matches in the winter of 2017, but had to wait until September of this year against SD Ejea to make his first professional debut. A trip with the first team to the United States during the preseason allowed the first team coaches to get a longer look at him, particularly in a successful shift against AS Roma, and there is great faith that Pimienta's guidance can help him improve. Alongside Mingueza, Cuenca and Araújo, Chumi could help usher in a new age of La Masia centre-backs at FC Barcelona.