For a long time, El Clasico was European football’s must-watch fixture. Of course, fixtures between Barcelona and Real Madrid are still notable, but not so much for the quality on the pitch. Indeed, both clubs are in the midst of a generational transition, something that will be clear when the pair face each other on Sunday.
Barca and Real Madrid have recently focused on signing and bringing through players to give them a stake in the future, but which club currently boasts the best youngsters? Let’s compare five young players for each team…
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Ronald Araujo v Eder Militao
On stature alone, Gerard Pique is the main man at the back for Barcelona. However, the veteran has been out-performed by Ronald Araujo so far this season. Indeed, the Uruguayan has the look of Barca’s next great centre back, with Araujo’s aerial presence in both boxes a key part of his game.
Eder Militao has been thrust into the Real Madrid first team after the departure of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in the summer and has produced a series of mixed performances. The Brazilian has the physical attributes to be an elite level defender, but currently suffers from lapses in concentration that can prove costly.
Sergino Dest v Miguel Gutierrez
Ronald Koeman demanded the signing of Sergino Dest upon taking over at Barcelona two summers ago and the American international is the closest thing to Dani Alves seen at the Camp Nou since the legendary Brazilian full-back left five years ago. Dest can play on either side and has even been used as a right winger recently.
Real Madrid are well-stocked for options at left-back (see Ferland Mendy, Marcelo and David Alaba), but Miguel Gutierrez has still managed to make a good impression in the first team. Nicknamed ‘The Eagle’ due to his eye for a pass, the 20-year-old brings a different dimension to Real Madrid’s play with his range on the ball.
Gavi v Eduardo Camavinga
Gavi’s emergence this season has electrified Spanish football with the 17-year-old already a key figure for club and country. However, there is still a sense that Koeman has yet to devise a system that gets the best out of the young midfielder, something that was exposed by how well Gavi played for Luis Enrique’s Spain over the international break.
Eduardo Camavinga made the switch to the Santiago Bernabeu from Rennes on transfer deadline and has immediately demonstrated his potential. The French international is the complete modern midfielder in the way he provides protection, can dictate the tempo through his use of the ball and also offers an attacking threat.
Pedri v Fede Valverde
While Koeman has faced a lot of criticism over the course of his time as Barcelona boss, his fast-tracking of Pedri into the first team has been one of his better decisions. Already a Ballon d’Or nominee at the age of 18, Pedri is a once-in-a-generation talent for the Catalan club. Barcelona must build around him.
Fede Valverde is a different sort of midfielder to Pedri in that he offers energy and drive over guile, but the Uruguayan is growing in stature for Real Madrid as they look to rejuvenate their ageing core. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are still Carlo Ancelotti’s first-choice midfield trio, but Valverde is already proven at the top level.
Ansu Fati v Vinicius Junior
By almost every measure, Ansu Fati is the most exciting teenage talent in the sport right now. The 18-year-old is already one of the most important players at the Camp Nou, as demonstrated by the profound impact he has made since returning from an injury that kept him on the sidelines for 11 months.
Ansu has registered 15 goals and six assists in just 48 senior appearances for Barcelona. However, Real Madrid also have their own mercurial wide forward in the shape of Vinicius Junior who has taken his game to another level this season with seven goals and three assists in 11 games.
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