When FC Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde met to discuss the terms of his new contract - extended by a year with an option of a further season beyond that - a key part of the conversations was the role of the academy. The club wanted assurances that those coming through La Masia would be handed a chance in the first team should they reach the required level to do so. Valverde thought the same and, with his own future now tied up, he can begin planting the seeds for the next generation of young talent to come through.
The coach is constantly kept up to date with Barça B via Joan Barbara. Going forward, it's Valverde who will decide who gets a chance in the first team.
The five chosen ones
At the moment, the coach has five names who he feels could play a part in the senior squad in the foreseeable future: Wague, Miranda, Oriol Busquets, Riqui Puig and Abel Ruiz.
When Moussa Wague was signed, the idea was to fast track him into the first team sqaud. The 20-year-old right back is currently serving a four-match ban for an incident involving a rival supporter in a Barça B match, but he's already shown why so many expect him to be part of the senior squad soon. He's got pace to burn and offers a crucial outlet in attack. There's still question marks over his temperament, which he'll need to control, but the early signs are positive.
Juan Miranda has already made his debut for the senior side but is currently caught in a limbo of sorts. He recently signed a new contract which shows there is faith in his ability to make the step up. How long it takes for him to do that is in his hands. If he finishes the season strongly with Barça B he might secure the role of alternative to Jordi Alba at left back.
Oriol Busquets has also recently secured his long term future at the club. Since recovering from a knee injury, he's been one of the B side's best performers. Valverde is aware of his progress but doesn't want to rush him into the senior squad this season because the player had an eight-month injury lay off. Oriol could be the long-term replacement to the man he shares the same last name with: Sergio Busquets.
Another player who appears certain to get a chance with the first team sooner or later is Riqui Puig. The youngster is adored by the Camp Nou and Valverde wants to give him another preseason to see whether he's ready to make the step up. Riqui also penned a new deal at the club which only goes to show the belief they have in the promising teenager.
The long-term option in attack is Abel Ruiz. Like the previous four, Ruiz has a deal which reflects the expectation on his shoulders and has only seen his progress halted due to injuries. He started the B side's last match and provided an assist. The coaching staff hope he continues along his road to a full recovery and if he does that, an opportunity with the first team might present itself before the end of the season.
Source: Sport / Jordi Gil