El Centrocampista

ONE TO WATCH – Andreu Fontàs

By Gautam Viswanathan

When football fans speak of La Masia, one usually thinks of players in the mould of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, and of late, Thiago Alcantara and Pedro Rodriguez.

Yet there is another graduate of the Catalan Club’s Youth Academy who is steadily climbing up the ranks of FC Barcelona: 21 year old defender Andreu Fontas.

Andreu Fontas i Prat was born on the 14th of November 1989, in Banyoles, Catalonia: a town populated by a little more than 17,000 people, and it was here that he took his first steps in football.

He spent eleven years at local club CD Banyoles and at the age of sixteen, was spotted by scouts of Segunda Division side FC Girona, where he plied his trade for a year, before swapping the northeastern city for the Catalan capital a year later, where he was enrolled at La Masia.

Fontas made the transition from Academy graduate to Reserve Team player in 2008. He played a total of 72 games for the Barcelona B side, scoring twice in the process and winning promotion to the Segunda Division.

It was while playing for the B side that he was converted from a defensive midfielder to a centre back by reserves coach Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona player.

The 2009 season saw him called up into the first team by current Barca manager Pep Guardiola, who included the then 19 year old in the squads for the Spanish Supercopa and UEFA Super Cup games, but didn’t make the bench on both occasions.

On 31 August 2009, Fontas made his first team debut for the Blaugrana, replacing fellow graduate Gerard Pique for the final six minutes of the La Liga home win against CF Sporting de Gijon.

The young Spaniard’s performances were making heads turn and Guardiola rewarded him with his first league start on the 20 November 2010, away at Almeria.

It turned out to be a memorable night for Fontas as he pulled the strings in midfield, and chipped in with an assist, a 50-yard pass that set up the fourth goal of the game, scored by Pedro Rodriguez, in what turned out to be an 8-0 drubbing of the home side.

Seventeen days later, on 7 December, Andreu Fontas made his Champions League debut in a Group Stage match at home to Russian side FC Rubin Kazan.

The Spanish side had already qualified for the knock out stage as group winners, effectively turning the game into a dead rubber for the hosts.

Nevertheless, Fontas impressed during the game and scored the opening goal, converting a Pedro assist in the 51st minute.

Fontas was made a permanent member of the senior team on the 16 March 2011, replacing French defender Eric Abidal who was declared unavailable for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a liver tumour.

He started three consecutive games during the month of May, playing at left-back. On the 15th, he started the game against Deportivo La Coruna at Centre Back, playing in his natural position as part of a mainly second-string team which included Marc Bartra, Jeffren Suarez, Jonathan dos Santos and Thiago Alcantara in a game that finished
goalless at the Nou Camp.

Like most defenders who come through the Barcelona youth system, Fontas shows great technical ability and is very composed on the ball.

Strong, cultured and elegant, Fontas is able to command the Barcelona backline with ease and is also very good going forward as a ball-playing defender.

In addition, he is extremely versatile and can play at Centre Back, Left Back and as a defensive midfielder.

He may have been at Barcelona only since 2007, but it is clear that the Spanish and European Champions have big plans for him in the future: on making the step up to the first team, his contract was extended to 2013 and the fee in his release clause is currently around 30 million euros.

Fontas has already been capped at international level for the Spanish Under-19, Under-20 and Under-21 teams and seems destined to follow fellow youngsters Thiago and Pedro in nailing down a spot in La Furia Roja’s roster.

He also boasts an impressive number of honours, having done his bit in securing the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League, two La Liga titles and three Spanish Super Cups.

In addition, he has won the 2009 edition of the Mediterranean Games with Spain.

Fontas once said he relished the prospect of more first team action. With current Barca regulars Carles Puyol, Maxwell, and Eric Abidal approaching the twilight of their careers, it surely won’t be long before the Banyoles native makes the Centre Back position his own at the Camp Nou.


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