FC Barcelona, one of the most successful clubs in European football, is known for its domestic as well as international success, all around the world. One more specific thing for which the current Spanish champions are famous for is the never-ending amount of talented footballers who come through their fabled football academy, La Masia. Many football stars, such as Messi, Busquets, Pique, Alba, and Roberto, currently playing for the first team of Barcelona, are graduates of La Masia and Joel Lopez, a young left back from the same famed academy is officially signed by the Gunners.
But breaking into the first team of a club like Barcelona, directly from Masia, is not really an easy task. Many talented players are lost in this transition to the first team, while only some extraordinary players make it to the senior team. Bojan Krkic and Tello are some examples of players who could not prove their worth in the FC Barcelona first team and Joel Lopez, would definitely try to follow the footsteps of these players.
Official: 16-year-old left-back Joel Lopez has joined Arsenal’s Academy from Barcelona’s La Masia. #afc pic.twitter.com/vOpCMwWUiO
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) August 23, 2018
However, the recent trend has been quite alarming for the club. The young and talented players of La Masia know very clearly that all of them would not be able to break into the first team of Barca. So young players like Lopez have started leaving La Masia for opportunities in other clubs, and some of them traveling to other countries.
This has been the trend for quite some time now, with the Catalan club continuously losing some very talented young players to English,Italian,German as well as French clubs.In recent times, Jordi Mboula left for Monaco,Sergio Gomez left for Borussia Dortmund, and Pablo Moreno left for Juventus.
Good Morning Gooners!
16 year old defender, Joel Lopez, is the latest teenager to join Arsenal from the Camp Nou, following in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas, Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin. [https://t.co/Mx32nS7nLv]
Welcome, Joel! pic.twitter.com/1yfLsI04sw
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) July 19, 2018
Arsenal is one such club where several La Masia kids have come to realise their ultimate dream: play for a renowned club at the top-most level. Cesc Fabregas, who arrived at Arsenal in 2003,and became their captain soon,and Hector Bellerin, who came here in 2012, are the most high profile names to arrive from La Masia, but there has also been Jon Toral, who arrived from the Catalan club at the same time as Bellerin, and Fran Merida, who completed the switch to Arsenal in 2005. And now, another name joins the list in the form of Lopez.
Joel Lopez,who plays for the Cadeta A (U16s), has made the switch from Camp Nou to Arsenal earlier in the summer, and the North London club confirmed in August that Lopez had signed a scholarship contract with the club, along with youngsters Sam Greenwood and Karl Hein.The 16-year-old left back has now joined up with the Arsenal academy which is now run by the recently retired Arsenal old guard,Per Mertesacker.
The Catalan club, however, did try until the very end to convince Lopez to stay.Positive conversations even took place between a high-ranking member of staff at Barcelona and the player’s representatives. However, Lopez did not stay and has moved to Arsenal,who have offered him an attractive sporting project and the possibility to progress as a player.
The English side,along with Liverpool, had been chasing Lopez for months. The appointment of Raúl Sanllehí at Arsenal,however, increased their interest, and the player chose the London club. Barcelona will only receive development rights for the player as Lopez was out of contract this summer.
Charting Hector Bellerin's rise from La Masia to @Arsenal's starting XI | @nicholaspwright http://t.co/HRB9ratDoU pic.twitter.com/ON9F0Lrh8U
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 14, 2015
La Masia expert and Diario SPORT reporter Albert Rogé told football.london more about Lopez and why he chose to leave Barca for Arsenal.
“Joel is a left back with a lot of future. He loves to get forward and attack the penalty area. He combines very well with those inside him and has a good touch of the ball.”
“In defence he is intense and his speed helps him to correct his position when he makes a few mistakes. “
But why did Lopez decide to swap the Camp Nou for the Emirates?
“He leaves Barca because in his position he has Juan Miranda, who is two years older than him and he is the club’s bet on the left side.”
“They tried to keep him because they do not want any player to leave. However, they were aware that they had opted for Miranda so it was difficult to retain Joel for sporting reasons.”
ESPN’s Barcelona correspondent Samuel Marsden told football.london more on the topic.
“The things with Bellerin and Fabregas is that they left so young. I don’t know the exact details of those cases but Barca can’t be held to ransom by all these 16-year-olds.”
“Barca tried to keep them but didn’t break the budgets they have in place. A lot of it is to do with agents at that age now.”
Arsenal have confirmed the arrival of 16-year-old Joel Lopez (pictured far left) from Barcelona's La Masia academy. He joins Sam Greenwood and Karl Hein in signing as first year scholars. pic.twitter.com/P0hmIYkzDF
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) August 23, 2018
Since arriving at Arsenal, Lopez has had to wait, since there was a delay over receiving his international clearance and he has yet to appear in a match for the Gunners at any level. But Arsenal has now received all the necessary paperwork, and Lopez begins the journey of attempting to become the latest Spanish teenager to make his mark in Arsenal.
Whether Lopez goes on to make the grade like Fabregas and Bellerin remains to be seen, but the Gunners are confident that they have landed a major talent in the teenage Spanish left-back.