Ilaix Moriba is Barcelona’s wonderkid who they valued at £86m aged just 16 – he has the approval of Lionel Messi and models his game on icons Sergio Busquets and Yaya Toure… Now, after his first senior goal Ronald Koeman must make him the future
- At the age of just 16 Barcelona placed a £86m release clause on Ilaix Moriba
- The youngster has rocketed through the ranks and skipped the B-team
- Recently Moriba got his first senior goal on the same ground as Ansu Fati
- Lionel Messi has a connection with the youngster who has been likened to Pogba
Sixteen year-olds don’t get given 100m euros (£86m) buy-out clauses unless they’re special. Ilaix Moriba was that age back in 2019 when Barcelona decided to put the big three-figures on him to ward off possible Premier League suitors.
He was already playing regularly for the under-19s at the time and the plan was to fast-track him to the first team if his progress allowed for it.
Last weekend just two years after the club made that bold move – desperate for him not to grow impatient over a lack of chances of advancing at the Camp Nou – he scored his first goal for the club in La Liga. There was a freakish coincidence about where he scored it too.
After linking up with Lionel Messi, Ilaix Moriba was in dreamland when he scored his first goal
Of all the stadiums in all the leagues it had to be Osasuna’s El Sadar – exactly the same ground and even the same end of the pitch that Ansu Fati scored his first ever league goal for Barcelona back in 2019.
The two 18-year-olds have come up through the youth ranks together – ‘he’s like a brother to me,’ said Ilaix after the game at the weekend. Now they had scored into the back of the same net to get off the mark for their club.
Youngster has accelerated through the ranks and skipped the B team, straight to the seniors
Moriba has thrown himself into Barca life and the Catalan giants see him as a leading light
Back in 2019 Ansu’s goal made him the youngest player in Barcelona’s history aged just 16 years and 304 days. Ilaix is a little older as he gets off the mark but both players have been nurtured in La Masia.
To say they have ‘come through’ the youth ranks suggests a steady development when in truth their progress has been far more dramatic.
Ansu never played for the B-team jumping straight from the under-19s to the first team and Ilaix has had a similar path.
In part that’s down to the B-team playing in the third tier. Were the second string in the second division in Spain it would make more sense for the teenagers to be cutting their teeth there but instead they outgrow the regional third divisions and are thrown in to top flight football where they sink or swim.
Moriba has been likened to Paul Pogba for his grace on the ball and strength in possession
Ilaix did play a part in Barça B’s failed attempt to get out via the play-offs last summer.
He was called up from the under-19s to help them through the three-game mini-tournament and it was where he first caught the eye of many of the club’s supporters not accustomed to watching the B-team.
In the first round against Valladolid’s B-team he set-up two goals in the 3-2 win and almost never gave the ball away.
The Paul Pogba similarities have been leveled at him and he certainly has that long stride to take him from box to box but his references are former Barcelona players, three in particular.
‘I watch videos of Sergio Busquets, Yaya Toure and Roman Riquelme, they all play in midfield and they all played here at Barcelona,’ he told DUGOUT earlier this year.
It would be wrong to attribute how impressive he is just down to his physical attributes though. He’s two-footed. Saturday’s goal was scored with his left despite him favouring his right.
The youngster admits he models his game on Barca legend Sergio Buquets in midfield
Moriba also watches re-runs of the iconic Yaya Toure to master his all-round midfield game
He’s clever in possession – there is an immediate connection with Lionel Messi and that doesn’t come without being a smart player. And despite his imposing athleticism he’s intelligent enough to win more fouls than he gives away.
‘He tells me to shoot when I get the chance,’ he says of the advice he has received from Messi. At this stage of his career it’s that arriving into the area and letting fly that looks to be his greatest asset.
But if he can master those defensive arts so innate in Busquets and Toure, who also played holding midfield as well as centre-back while at Barcelona, he will become even more valuable to the club.
They already know his worth. That’s why they slapped that 100m euros buy-out clause on him. ‘I want to be here at the club for as long as possible,’ he told DUGOUT.
That will be good news for new President Joan Laporta who has a high pile of ‘urgents’ in his in-tray but who knows that when he sorts out Barcelona’s short-term debt problem, Messi’s contract, and new stadium plans, he will have to get around to securing the future of the young talents.
After his first goal at just 18, Ronald Koeman has admitted Moriba deserves his minutes
Ilaix is represented by Jonathan Barnett’s Stellar Group. Barnett has a long-standing relationship with Laporta who will not need to be told how important it is to keep hold of the young midfielder.
He needs to build the future of the club around the young players coming through, especially the ones who have been given the stamp of approval by Messi and by coach Koeman.
‘Ilaix scored a fantastic goal,’ said Koeman at the weekend. ‘He is making great progress. When he comes on in games he gives the team something different. Despite his youth he deserves the minutes he is getting.’
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