La Masia: Ilaix Moriba


There has been a growing unpleasantness festering in the minds of Culés as La Masia continues to have its quality ravaged as some of the most promising academy prospects sign larger contracts elsewhere. Just in the last few weeks, 17-year-old midfielder Adrián Bernabé made his Manchester City first team debut under Pep Guardiola in the EFL Cup and 16-year-old forward Pablo Moreno scored for Juventus in the UEFA Youth League. Alongside Man City's academy players' player of the year last season 17-year-old centre-back Eric García, Monaco's Jordi Mboula and Borussia Dortmund's Sergio Gómez, the exodus of talent from Catalonia has certainly left a bad taste in a lot of mouths. Yet, it should be remembered that there is tons of talent still in the fabled academy, and while the other big clubs will come calling again, Barcelona do have some say in the futures of these prospects.

The latest tug-of-war between Barcelona and Manchester City is over 15-year-old Ilaix Moriba Kourouma. It's much too early to run with the comparisons for the young midfielder of Yaya Toure and Paul Pogba, but his technical abilities and superior physicality have given these lofty comparisons credence.

Ilaix was born in Conakry, Guinea on January 19, 2003, and joined La Masia when his parents moved to Spain when he was just 8-years-old. He moved up the ranks and really began to flourish with the Cadet A squad. As his star began to grow, he became affiliated with Nike, as both Barcelona and the outfitter began to see the player blossom against players one or two years his senior.

It was in August of 2018, now playing for Barcelona's Juvenil B squad under Francesc Artiga Cebrián that he made himself known to a much larger audience. Against Real Madrid's Juvenil B team in a tournament called The Cup, the central midfielder scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 dismantling of their rivals, including a rocket from outside the box and a miraculous goal straight off the second half kick-off.



The only downside to these kinds of performances is that other clubs start to take notice. Manchester City has reportedly come calling twice already and both sides are aware that his upcoming 16th birthday in January will be the day of reckoning if the player hasn't already decided his own fate before that. At that point he can sign a professional contract with the Citizens, just as García and Bernabé have done before him. Barcelona has recently stated a newfound initiative to keep their own talent, as evidenced by the raising of buyout clauses for many of last season's UEFA Youth League winners now playing for Barcelona B. Hopefully the younger levels are not forgotten.

The Catalan club still has the inside track on the player who was recently called up to the Spain U-16s alongside teammates David Navarro and Txus Alba, but they can't wait long. A player of this promise with this skill set isn't seen too often in La Masia, and Barcelona will need to do everything they can to keep the young midfielder from making the move to Manchester.

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