La Masia: Alejandro Balde

As Jordi Alba stares down that dreaded age of 30 and 19-year-old Juan Miranda continues to look unprepared for the first team, there is a growing impression that Barcelona are thin at left-back. There is truth to the notion that the next few seasons will put the position into a place of consternation unless a reinforcement is brought into the first team, but there is very little truth to the idea that left-back is a weak position in La Masia following the exodus of Álex Grimaldo a few years ago and Joel López to Arsenal last summer. A long-term answer at left-back could be 15-year-old Alejandro Balde of Cadet A, a player that has continued to make a name for himself at a position that doesn't get the same attention as Barcelona's coveted midfielders.

Alejandro Balde Martínez was born in Barcelona on March 18, 2003 to a Guinea-Bissauan father and Dominican mother. As reported by Albert Rogé, Balde's footballing journey began at the age of four when older brother Edy was playing for F.C. Sant Martí Condal and the team needed an extra player. Alejandro filled in and even at that age, his raw athletic ability was on display. He began playing with CE Sant Gabriel by the age of six as a forward who rewarded the team for their faith in him by scoring plenty of goals. Like many of the top talents in the city, he was soon on the radars of both Barcelona and Espanyol.

The following season he opted to continue his career with Espanyol, playing as a forward for the Periquitos for a year before coming to La Masia in 2011. Eight years and one major positional shift later, he's blossomed into one of the most promising defenders at the academy. Last season he suffered an injury to his tibia that kept him out of action for a few months, but it allowed him time not only to recover, but work on his strength as well. As The Athletic's Kevin Williams noted in the latest edition of The Barcelona Podcast, the modern full-back needs to be fast enough to defend speedy wingers one-on-one, strong enough to tuck in and help out centre-backs with physical strikers and also technically proficient with short passing and crossing. Balde is the closest thing to the modern full-back one might find in a 15-year-old, and the next step for the youngster is to improve upon and gain experience against tougher competition with all the tools he has at his disposal. Like many Barcelona left-backs, his attacking prowess looks well beyond his years, particularly his crossing that has led to a plethora of assists this season with Cadet A, but the defensive side of the ball will have to continue to be his area of focus as his body continues to develop.

Playing on La Masia's high profile Cadet A squad alongside other Spanish youth national team players has gotten him noticed and in October Balde was called up to the Spain U-16s alongside fellow Sant Gabriel product David Navarro as well as midfielder Jorge Alastuey. He has gained plenty of attention already this season, making his Juvenil B debut against Vilaseca in February. The next step for the player is to renew his contract as he nears his 16th birthday. Unlike some of his teenage teammates, Balde hasn't been linked to other clubs and the hope is that FC Barcelona can help develop this top talent for years to come.