- S.D. Eibar ready for maiden La Liga outing
- SD Eibar stengthen ahead of debut La Liga season
- Can ‘Super Mario’ live up to expectations in Madrid?
- MAN IN THE GROUND – Brentford 0 – 4 Osasuna
- Historic Basque derby welcomes S.D. Eibar to La Liga
- Munich to Madrid, via Brazil – Tony Kroos
- Rakitic in Spanish Switch
- Can Spain find redemption in Rio?
- Viva Espana! A season of redemption for Spanish football
- From the old to the new: who can fill the void in years to come for La Roja?
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY – How Barcelona missed a trick with Jordi Alba
- Updated: 2 March, 2012
Jordi Alba could turn out to be the ‘one that got away’ for Futbol Club Barcelona. Released by the Catalan giants when he was 15-years-old, the former la Masia misfit is currently one of the hottest young left-sided players in Europe.
His performances for Valencia have attracted a string of rave reviews and a there is already a line of clubs stretching around the Mestalla looking to take him off their hands. Manchester United reportedly head the queue for Alba, who is under contract at his club until the summer of 2013 but the 22-year-old has also been linked to Real Madrid, Malaga and even his former club, Barcelona.
Alba’s exit from Barça was something of a rarity these days and, with the exception of players such as Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, there have been few occasions when the club have been proved wrong. The fact that he was released due to his slight build and size is also something of a rarity for a club who have built their game on players of a more diminutive stature.
Alba was born in the town of L’Hospitalet, a newly-developed commercial area on the outskirts of Barcelona and made the short trip to la Masia when he was just nine-years-old. Despite six years at Barça, the club’s coaching staff took the decision to let him leave in 2005 and a distraught Alba was left to find a new club.
He spent one season at lower-league side UE Cornellà but soon attracted a number of potential suitors with Valencia finally taking him into their youth system in 2007. Alba has not disappointed the faith los che have shown in him.
A string of fine performance led to him becoming an integral part of the club’s B team, Valencia CF Mestalla, and he helped them gain promotion to la Segunda B in 2008. Alba was then sent to Gimnastic de Tarragona for a season-long loan and started more than 20 games for the club in a highly-productive season in the second tier of Spanish football.
His surging runs and delivery from the left flank did enough to impress Unai Emery and he was welcomed in Valencia’s first team squad for the 2009/10 season. Alba got his first taste of top flight football when he made his la liga debut against Real Vallodolid in September 2009 and went on to make 11 appearances, scoring one goal that season.
Although beginning his career in midfield, Alba adapted to operate with consitency at left-back and became a key weapon for los che with his overlapping runs from deep. He had his breakthrough season in 2010/11 when he made 30 appearances during Valencia’s march to third place in the primera division, and even managed to double his goal contribution as los che secured another year in the lucrative Champions League.
Fans and coach alike must have feared Alba was about to follow recently-departed stars, David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata through the exit door as the club looked to further balance to books after years of financial struggle, but they were able to breath a collective sigh of relief when the transfer window closed with their young starlet still at the club.
Emery has used Alba in a more forward role on occasions this season, and his interchanging partnership with French international Jeremy Mathieu, a one time rival for Valencia’s left midfielder spot, has seen the club enjoy a fantastic start to the 2011/12 season.
Alba has looked every inch the successor to Joan Capdevilla in the Spanish national side, and he made his full debut for la Roja against Scotland in Alicante last month.
Valencia are keen to extend the player’s contract at the club, especially as his buy-out clause is reportedly a modest £15 million, and recent reports suggest negotiations are nearing completion. However it is still unclear where Alba’s long-term future lies.
There are a number of clubs who would be more than willing to meet any increased buy-out clause and the direction Valencia take on the field could play a major part in any decision on the player’s future. With the club seemingly unable to mount any serious challenge to the top two in la liga, despite being the established third-best side in Spain for a number of seasons, it seems likely Alba will seek a move eventually to further his career.
However there can be no doubt Valencia’s initial decision to take a chance on the 5’7” player has paid off. Wherever he continues his career, Jordi Alba looks set to have a long and succesful future ahead of him, leaving many a puzzled fan at the Camp Nou.
The one that got away? It is certainly looking that way.