La Masia: Xavi Simons

For those who've been watching this space every Friday since the season started as we profiled La Masia talent after La Masia talent, there has certainly been one name requested more than any other. While still just a 15-year-old, the captain of Cadet A is without question the most famous player currently working his way through the academy. Maybe it's a famous dad. Maybe it's a famous agent. Maybe it was the perfect storm of the youngster putting on a show just in time for YouTube skill compilation videos to take over your timelines. Regardless of the reason, Xavi Simons' performances are under the microscope more than any of his teammates and millions of Culés are waiting to see what's next for the Dutch prodigy.

The story of Xavi Simons really starts with his father, Regillio. The elder Simons was a striker for six different clubs in the Netherlands and one in Japan in a professional career that spanned twelve seasons. While playing for Fortuna Sittard in the 1998-99 season, he scored two goals in a win over Ajax in Amsterdam and an incredible four goals in a 6-4 victory over PSV. Unfortunately, these were the highlights of a career with less than thirty total goals scored. Regillio Simons immediately went into coaching after his retirement in 2005, starting at the now-defunct Turkiyemspor Amsterdam before bouncing around as a head coach for multiple lower level teams in the Netherlands and ultimately settling in at Ajax's academy from 2013 until 2017 when he left to be around his son in Spain.

While living in Amsterdam, the Simons family welcomed their second son into the world on April 21, 2003, naming him after Barcelona legend Xavi Hernández in the days before he was truly the legend that he became. Xavi Simons moved to Spain at the age of three and first played in Spain with CD Tháder Rojales located in the city of Rojales. At the age of seven, he was spotted by Guillermo Amor and made the move to La Masia, joining up with the Prebenjamín squad for the 2010-11 season.

As he has progressed through the ranks, Simons' teams have won the league at almost every level, including a perfect 25 wins in 25 games with the Alevín A back in the 2014-15 season. This was the year that Xavi started to gain major attention, winning the MVP award at the MIC International Cup. The Alevín A squad was unable to overcome Real Madrid in the final, but the 12-year-old had put himself on the map. His ascent continued the next winter when he was the best player at the La Liga Promises, a tournament that Barcelona would this time win. His performances might have been a surprise for some since the player had missed a few months of game action due to FIFA's investigation into Barcelona's signing of foreign talents. Simons didn't deal with the full ban as others did, but he appreciated the chance to get back on the field and dedicated the team's win at the La Liga Promises to his less fortunate teammates.

The next big moment for Simons' career came off the field when in 2017 he signed with well-known agent Mino Raiola. Raiola is the agent of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti to name a few, not to mention Barcelona target Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax. Raiola's signing of the then 14-year-old La Masia player only helped to raise the youngster's profile.

This season has proven to be another important campaign for the player. His more than 1.4 million followers on Instagram might constantly tell you that he is the only hope for Barcelona's future, but competition within the Cadet A squad is proof that if Simons is to have that future with the first team he will need to continue to challenge himself to new heights. After missing a few weeks to start the season with a broken wrist, the Dutch midfielder returned and joined the terrific pool of talent at the disposal of manager Carles Martínez. The current captain of Cadet A earned himself his Juvenil B debut against Mollet in December of 2018 and the idea is that he will continue there next season.

Meanwhile, the last two years has seen Simons get the chance to continue his career with the Dutch youth national teams, getting five call-ups and a goal for the U-15s in 2018 before making two appearances with the U-16s against Germany and Argentina in February of 2019. The 15-year-old is one of the shortest players on the field, but much like his idol and namesake, his importance to his teams cannot be defined by his physical stature.

The next step for the player is signing his renewal with the club, a deal that is reportedly very close to happening in the coming weeks. Alongside teammates Jorge Alastuey and Alejandro Balde, Simons is one of the priorities to be kept at the club for many years to come. As a central midfielder with the versatility to play both in more of an attacking position and as a defensive option, Simons can fit in multiple line-ups. His technical skills and intelligent positioning have never been in question; the sky is the limit for the youngster if he can improve his game with physicality, decision-making and a more impactful offensive contribution. Already equipped with a powerful agent and incredible hype at a young age, the humble teenager has a leg up on so many of his peers as the lights get brighter. If his career so far is any indication, the lights will get much brighter for La Masia's latest famous Dutch import.