La Masia: Diego Almeida

FC Barcelona has a strong connection with the continent of South America. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have all been well-represented while Chile, Peru, Colombia and Paraguay have provided the Blaugrana a few players as well. Due to the rules that limit the number of non-EU players allowed in a European side, it's not surprising that a country like Ecuador may not have many top players breaking into the largest teams in Europe. In recent years, the likes of Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia have raised the profile of Ecuadorian talents, but no major club outside of South America has yet to produce a talent on their own. This could all change with Cadet A's Spanish-born Diego Almeida, born of Ecuadorian parents and one of La Masia's top prospects.

Born in Rubí, Spain on February 12, 2004 to Ecuadorian parents who came to Catalonia for a better life, Diego Almeida Crespo was discovered rather early and came to La Masia to join Rafa Rodríguez's Prebenjamín team. He made vast improvements while with Alevín A and began to show an attacking prowess from the centre-back position in the mold of a mini-Gerard Pique. The leap that he made prompted his coaches to have him skip the Cadet B level altogether to join a number of phenomenal talents with Cadet A. In October of 2018, he played a large role in the team's championship run at the Istria Youth Cup in Croatia.

The teenage defender is also keeping his options open about his international future. After spending time with Ecuador's U-15s in August, Almeida joined up with the Spain U-15s in the beginning of October. He still has a bit of time before any decision will need to be made and then he'll have a number of years to file a one-time switch if the situation was ever needed. Keeping his options open and continuing his education with as many coaches in as many places as possible will only improve the player's footballing pedigree.

Anointing a 14-year-old the future of Barcelona's back-line or the savior of Ecuadorian or Spanish football is careless. The player seems to be handling the pressure with maturity so far, particularly surrounded by other highly-touted teenagers in the Cadet A squad such as Txus Alba or fellow defender David Navarro. The most important thing for a 14-year-old is playing the sport, taking instruction and enjoying yourself. Almeida has already garnered a reputation as a fun-loving teammate with the desire to dance; another reason why Culés will enjoy watching this young talent develop over the next few years in the hallowed halls of La Masia.