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WHO CAN REPLACE XAVI HERNÁNDEZ? | El Centrocampista
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El Centrocampista

BRIGHT YOUNG THING – Have Barça already got Xavi’s replacement?

Sergi Samper Barcelona

Over the next few seasons, Futbol Club Barcelona face the unenviable task of finding somebody to fill the boots of magical midfield metronome, Xavi Hernández.

A player who has defined a generation by the way he plays the game, but a player who is also coming towards the end of his illustrious career.

Xavi truly embodies what the Catalan giants are all about. The man who has made the sideways pass an art-form. He has delighted football fans across the globe by dominating games with his subtle, skilful use of the ball and awareness of the whole pitch that surrounds him. Irreplaceable?

It is extremely naive to think that players can just literally step into the place of another and play the same way. No two players are the same; each will offer something different, even if they do play in the same position. The scramble to find successors is almost laughable as fans search for a player that shows small signs of similar traits.

It is one of the most damaging parts of the game for younger players trying to make a breakthrough. As soon as a talented youngster is tagged as ‘the new…’, it often results in huge amounts of unneeded pressure. Far too much for any aspiring professional footballer to deal with as they work they way up through the ranks.

However, it happens and nothing will change. The media’s coverage of the game is thorough; clubs have to protect their precociously talented players and let them mature in their own way on the pitch.

It has to be said that Barcelona, especially under Guardiola, shield their youngsters from the glare of the media spotlight very well. They give them the time and space to grow into truly magnificent footballers. One such player that currently needs this treatment is Sergi Samper.

At just 16-years-old, he has been ‘found out’ by fans and the media. Sergi Samper is a special player and – maybe unfortunately? – he plays in the same position as Xavi. Not only that, but he also possesses the talent that could well see him become the next in line to take the throne of midfield maestro at the Nou Camp.

Sergi Samper is, predictably, a product of La Masia. He is currently turning heads with assertive performances from the centre of midfield, his natural ability allows him to dominate games for Juvenil A. Often the man to receive the ball from the defence, Samper’s vision to start attacks is way beyond his years.

The temperament and tactical intelligence defies logic for a player of such a young age. Not just a play-maker, the Spaniard – although he has a skinny frame – is compact and not one to shirk a tackle. As well as his astounding ability, his leadership qualities have seen him become captain of the side. With all this, it is of little surprise that he has been compared to Xavi.

Everything from his movement, to his use of the ball and even right down to the half-roulette turn as he receives the ball – the youngster even wears the number 6 shirt.

The midfielder has apparently attracted interest from Arsenal, much to the disgust of Barcelona fans who are desperate for Sergi Samper to become a success for their club. Unfortunately, with this increased awareness of his ability, some are beginning to question where he will fit into the Barcelona system.

Currently sitting in front of the back four – or the ‘Busquets role’ – the question is where will he end up? Or, to put it another way, will he be the Xavi, Iniesta or Busquets when he finally makes the first team? It is almost identical to the questions that were being asked in the summer when it was clear Thiago was to be much more involved in the first team, with the added problem of signing Cesc Fabregas, too.

Much of the discussion was about where he would fit in. It is worth remembering that Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas have all started as ‘defensive midfielders’ in the Barcelona ranks. It seems that it is a staple of La Masia’s system; it is where they learn to be much more complete footballers.

Essentially, though, it does not matter. As said before, no two players are the same. Each Barcelona midfielder offers something that the others do not. That is why teams have squads – all different players that can change a game in their own way. The coaches at Barcelona will have plans for Sergi Samper; they will know how they will use him in the future.

He will be given protection and time so he can grow into the player that his potential deserves. He may well be – whisper it quietly – the successor to Xavi, but not a carbon copy.

He is irreplaceable.




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