La Masia: Alejandro Marqués

Of all the positions at La Masia, forwards and goalkeepers seem to have the hardest time pushing their way into the first team. Goalkeepers are at the mercy of only playing one position while forwards deal with the immense pressure of scoring goals and never falling off. While Bojan Krkić, Sandro Ramírez and even Munir El Haddadi found their way into the first team at a young age, their inability to make a superior impact relegated them to the bench and away from the club. Munir has returned, but competing with Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi for minutes may be the most difficult task in the world. At their respective ages, the two superstars won't be banging in goals forever and Barcelona will need some cheap options to supplement the inevitable big money goal-scorer that will be bought on the market. Abel Ruiz has long been the heir-apparent as the next forward from La Masia, but fellow 18-year-old Alejandro Marqués has seen his stock rise considerably in the past year and may not be too far off either.

Marqués was born in Venezuela's capital city of Caracas on August 4, 2000. His family moved to Spain as he was entering his teenage years and he was able to get trials at Real Madrid and Valencia. While those moves didn't work out, he settled at Espanyol, but found minutes hard to come by. His talent was still apparent and he moved to UFB Jábac i Terrassa in 2014, a year after Riqui Puig had made the jump from the small Barcelona youth club to the Blaugrana. After a few seasons of polishing and becoming one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the club's history, the young forward made the move to La Masia in June of 2017, joining up with Gabri's Juvenil A squad before the manager was replaced by Francisco Javier García Pimienta in October of that year.

Under Pimienta the player really started to flourish at centre-forward. With Abel Ruiz already getting time with Barcelona B, Marqués was able to make the '9' position his own. He came off the bench against Juventus and Sporting CP in the UEFA Youth League group stage and was left on the bench against PSG in the round of 16. Three weeks later, however, he started as the right-winger next to Ruiz against Atlético Madrid, bagging a goal in the 2-0 quarter-final win. The semi-finals, a 5-4 victory over Manchester City, saw the player again play the entire match while getting another goal. Against City, the Venezuelan got the start in the middle, pushing Ruiz out to the left and bringing the best out of the Barcelona attack. If the previous two games were indicators of what was to come, Marqués saved his best performance for the biggest stage. His header goal in the 33rd minute opened the scoring and in the 52nd minute he forced a turnover by the centre-back and slotted home his second of the game against the run of play. Ruiz added a third to help Barcelona capture the trophy.

In the midst of his UEFA Youth League performances, he earned seven Barcelona B call-ups, starting and going 65 minutes against Osasuna last season. The Venezuelan has dealt with the injury bug this campaign, limiting his role in the UEFA Youth League to just two so-so appearances of 36 minutes and 45 minutes against PSV and Tottenham respectively. He seems to be regaining a bit of form in training, finding himself on the Barcelona B bench twice in December before making his season debut for Pimienta's side in their most recent match against Hércules CF. While still registered with the Juvenil A, it should be expected that Marqués will continue to split his time between the two sides this season.

At 6'2" (1.89+ meters) and still growing, the forward is a tall and lanky presence leading the line. His technical abilities have improved greatly in his time at La Masia and his ability to score in multiple ways has kept defenses guessing on how to stop the young attacker. His body will continue to develop over the next few years and if his last year is any indication, Alejandro Marqués should be on the first team's radar sooner than later.