With Andres Iniesta set to depart Barcelona after almost two decades, Lionel Messi feels this La Masia graduate can be an able replacement for the midfield maestro
What’s been a poorly kept secret, would be made public later this week. Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta will be leaving his boyhood club and joining Chinese side Chongqing Dangdai Lifan. Even though the announcement isn’t official just yet, it’s only a matter of time that it would. The Spanish stalwart made his senior debut in 2002. And since, had gone on to earn a staggering 669 caps for the Blaugrana, lifting 31 trophies along in what has truly been a terrific career.
So while his departure would leave a massive void, Messi seems to have found a replacement in Carles Alena. The 20-year old has turned in impressive displays with the B team and looks ready to be back in the senior side.
Alena made his Barcelona debut in 2016 when he started in the 1-1 draw to Hercules in the Copa Del Rey, also scoring the equalizer. He then earned his first La Liga cap in the 4-1 drubbing of Granada, coming on as a substitute to Ivan Rakitic. Later that summer, he also signed a three year professional deal with the club that includes a €75 million.
Like Iniesta, Alena too is a technically gifted midfielder. His vision and ability to read games can be an asset to the club. He only needs nurturing, which will come with regular appearances for the senior side. Alena has featured only thrice this season, all in the initial games of the Kings Cup. Since then, he’s back playing for the B side. However, according to Messi, he can fill in for Iniesta in future and become a midfield great like the latter.
The Catalan youngster has also struck 14 times in 69 appearances for the junior team, a testament to his goalscoring prowess similar to the departing skipper. Manager Valverde has also promised first-team opportunities next season onwards. So Alena is waiting in the wings to take over the mantle.
For all his prodigious talent, Alena largely remains an untested quantity at this platform. He’s yet to hit the throttle and in only the following season onwards can one adjudge his true potential. As far as Iniesta’s replacement is concerned, again, only time would tell if he fits the bill.