Barcelona will keep recruiting from England after Marcus McGuane debut – chief
Barcelona academy director Jose Mari Bakero said the club will continue to tap into the English market after former Arsenal midfielder Marcus McGuane made his first-team debut this week.
McGuane, a January signing for Barca B, came on as a substitute in the second half of Wednesday’s Catalan Super Cup win against Espanyol.
English football has bloomed at youth level in recent years, with the under-17s and under-20s both winning their respective World Cups in 2017 and the under-19s winning the European Championship.
McGuane, 19, is not the only English youngster currently trying his luck abroad, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, Benfica’s Chris Willock and RB Leipzig’s Ademola Lookman, on loan from Everton, also pursuing careers outside of the country.
Bakero, who said McGuane was signed “with the idea of making the first team,” believes more players will follow a similar path.
“You may see more young English players leaving the country,” Bakero told the Daily Mail. “There is so much talent there, some are seeing that there is little prospect of a big future in a first team.
“For Barcelona, it was not a big surprise England won the U17 World Cup. It is a reflection of the improvement in youth coaching. We have scouts working in England. Now we have a bank of information about kids that are 14, 15, 16 years old.
“We are interested in late-teen English players running out of contract. We will not compete with the big money for younger teenagers. We cannot and will not match the huge salaries paid by English clubs.”
Bakero said that Barca can’t promise first-team football but they can “promise a progression in [a player’s] performance” — something McGuane felt was no longer happening at Arsenal.
“I was getting frustrated by a lack of opportunities,” McGuane told the Daily Mail. “It is good to train but I did not want my performance to plateau and stay at the same level.
“This step made sense. I didn’t have any conversations with [Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger]. I thought if I kept working hard, I would get opportunities. It didn’t come.”
McGuane has made four appearances for Barca’s B team since signing and had already trained with the first team before replacing Aleix Vidal against Espanyol on Wednesday.
“That first walk into first-team training was so exciting,” he said. “The first person I saw was Sergio Busquets. As a central midfielder, seeing him in the flesh, one of the best in the world on the ball, his grace, technical ability … then I saw [Philippe] Coutinho … then [Lionel] Messi!
“You don’t want to act too star-struck, but I grew up watching these guys on television. The first-teamers came up and said hi as they got their kits together. Coutinho heard my English accent, made me feel welcome, and said he was there if I need anything.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.