One of Pep Guardiola’s bigger achievements during his time as Barcelona manager—obviously aside from the trophies—was the consistent and successful promotion of La Masia players.
During his four seasons as manager, Guardiola brought through Sergio Busquets and provided the necessary guidance for him to become an integral part of both Barcelona and Spain’s success. Pedro Rodriguez’s first full season in the first team saw the winger tally 22 goals in all competitions, while the following season saw him equal that and provide the opening goal in the Champions League final against Manchester United.
The more recent graduates included Isaac Cuenca, Martin Montoya and Cristian Tello, with Tello and Montoya the only players of the most recent wave to become mainstays in the first team.
For the moment, Tello is stuck in limbo with regards to his immediate future. Barcelona clearly have a desire to keep him on the books, but a contractual disagreement over the amount of his release clause has forced negotiations to stall. The player is in the last year of his current contract, which means that the club will have no option but to sell him in January if a resolution isn’t met.
It’s got to be admired for the way Barcelona can place so much value in their young stars. Not only that, but a player who has less than 18 months of top-flight experience is already on the end of admiring glances from the Premier League.
In recent years, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina have made the switch from Spanish football to the Premier League, each achieving relative or great success in their development to becoming one of the best in their position. At this stage, is it likely we may see another La Masia product arrive in the Premier League in the near future?
Cristian Tello has come a long way since he made his debut last season, with the greatest reward being a place among the current stars at the Camp Nou. He was once a player whose decisions gave the greatest indicator to his age and lack of experience. If it wasn’t the frustration on the face of Lionel Messi waiting in the centre of the box for that perfect cross, it was Guardiola on the touchline who knew that his latest young star had wasted an opportunity.
One of Tello’s finest moments of last season came in the Champions League where he scored twice to help Barcelona to victory over Bayer Leverkusen. It just so happens that the same fixture completely eclipsed his achievement with a five goal performance from Lionel Messi.
Tello’s pace has made him a formidable attacker at times, with commentators often attempting to unearth a handful of new superlatives to describe his blistering pace. And that is where he has found his most joy, stretching the play in Barcelona’s favour and catching opposition defenders off-guard. But Tello isn’t just a sprinter in football boots, he’s capable of shooting with both feet, while the option has always been there to use him from both flanks and with varying purposes.
Tello’s first of two league goals so far this season showed a great deal of confidence on his part. He drove into the Deportivo box, faking to shoot from one side, ignoring the calls from Messi and co in the middle, before striking the ball through the legs of the keeper.
His size and lack of obvious strength means he’s unlikely to be a striker in the Premier League, but he certainly offers the finishing ability of a forward along with the natural service of wide player.
The link to Liverpool does not seem to add up, however. He’s a similar player to Raheem Sterling and would not address their need for a striker. At the same time, it shouldn’t be a total given that Barcelona will let him move on. At the moment, he’s arguably one of their best attackers, with Pedro still struggling to regain the form of two seasons ago and Alexis Sanchez unable to make a lasting impact.
As mentioned, his lack of strength and the huge change of setting could heavily effect his game if he were to come to England (so far Tello has only played in Catalonia, performing for both Barcelona and Espanyol). But the need for pace in English football is something that could make him incredibly desirable for some of the top teams. He’s a player who needs further guidance if he’s to fulfil his potential, and up until this point we’ve seen a lot to suggest he’s rightly considered one of Spain’s top prospects.
Even with Tello’s current release clause reportedly at 10 million euros, it may still be thought of as something of a gamble to go after him. Yes, he’s a good player, but he’s developing and doing well in the familiar surroundings of Barcelona. Would he be an immediate success if he were to move to England in the next few months? Certainly not. The comforts would be gone, a new style of play will need to be picked up and the rush to see him succeed might become overwhelming.
An exciting prospect certainly, but maybe the call from the Premier League will come too soon.