Iker Bravo: Barcelona’s future No.9 that they let slip away

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La Masia doesn’t produce many out-and-out strikers; quantity nines who common round a objective each recreation at youth stage. Diminutive midfielders and playmaking forwards, sure – they’ve them popping out of their ears on the Barcelona academy. However elite-level strikers are fairly uncommon at Catalunya’s most well-known footballing faculty.

And so when the Blaugrana sat down with Iker Bravo and his brokers to debate tying the then-16-year-old all the way down to a contract in the summertime of 2021, they knew they needed to preserve him within the constructing.

Like a lot that has occurred at Barcelona in recent times, nevertheless, they failed to stay to the touchdown.

A yr on, Bravo can look again on a debut season at Bayer Leverkusen throughout which he made his skilled debut within the Bundesliga, and impressed sufficient to warrant spending pre-season with the primary workforce.

Regardless of Barca’s elevated dependence on youth merchandise over the previous couple of seasons, that very same path to the senior ranks was seemingly not there for Bravo, therefore his determination to depart.

He and his household went into the talks anticipating to remain on the membership he had been a part of because the age of 5, however whereas Barca went in with a concentrate on the economics of the deal, they had been unable to promote Bravo on the challenge they’d laid out for him.

Like so many children within the fashionable recreation, Bravo realized that German soccer may provide him the pathway he so desired, and he has made a right away influence.

His two first-team appearances – one within the league and one within the DFB-Pokal – had been rewarded for a marketing campaign that noticed him rating 10 targets in 17 official youth-team video games.

“It wasn’t the plan for him to make his debut this season,” Alberto Encinas, Leverkusen’s assistant coach who beforehand labored inside La Masia, tells GOAL of Bravo’s debut marketing campaign. “Now he’ll begin pre-season with us and enter into the dressing room formally. Will probably be excellent for him to be near the primary workforce.

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“He has a reasonably full participant profile,” Encinas continues, “as a result of he isn’t solely a goalscorer. He, in fact, has nice ending potential and motion within the penalty space, however due to his profession at Barca, he can even drop deeper to recycle possession as an additional midfielder.

“He has that double profile – he isn’t just a striker within the space, however he combines that with different expertise too.”

Regardless of Bravo’s sturdy begin to life on the BayArena, his uncooked statistics inform the story of a participant whose objective numbers have dropped barely, although that’s of no shock to Encinas.

“I’ve the reminiscence of him being a number one participant at Barca,” he recollects. “When issues went incorrect, he at all times requested for the ball, and was in a position to pull the automobile alongside by himself.

“This yr, he has had extra psychological ups and downs, however it is rather regular. He’s 17 and has had an essential change in his life; leaving dwelling to a brand new nation, to a brand new language, to a special tradition, to It is regular his recreation may endure.

At Barca, he was extra dominant as a result of the workforce had extra of the ball, however the total evolution in his recreation right here has been optimistic. Being at Leverkusen has made him a greater participant, as a result of the coaches have put him into a special context, and made him slightly uncomfortable at occasions, however that has allowed him to study from being in new recreation conditions. “

Bravo was definitely in a position to exhibit a few of these new-found expertise for Spain within the current Below-17s European Championship, as he led from the entrance for his nationwide aspect.

Bravo scored two targets in three video games in the course of the event in Israel, together with a beautiful first-time volley from 20 yards towards Turkey in his aspect’s opening recreation.

“He is a participant who provides you, along with ending, continuity to the sport,” Spain U17s boss, Julen Guerrero, tells GOAL. “He will get between the traces effectively, he is sturdy, he holds the ball up, he performs rapidly – he is a participant who can provide us numerous issues. We all know it and the workforce is aware of it.”

Barcelona knew it too, however they could not persuade certainly one of their rarer diamonds to stay round. A participant like Iker Bravo may not come alongside in Catalonia for a while.

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