Following in the footsteps of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Giovani Dos Satos, Pique, Pedro and Bojan to name a few; a young Israeli named Gai Assulin is the next highly regarded player from Barcelona’s famed academy system, la Masia. Now plying his trade for Manchester City, who managed to secure his signature ahead of Arsenal, after he was released by Barcelona in the summer. His release was due to him being unable to secure a Spanish passport preventing him being able to move up to the Barcelona first team from Barcelona B due to regulation on non-EU players for Spanish clubs. His frustration at the pace of his progression with Barcelona and reluctance to stay with the Barcelona B side for a while longer suggests a potential arrogance that would probably not be best suited to the environment of lavishly paid players at Manchester City.
An attacking midfielder he has been likened to Lionel Messi for more than just his hair. His running style and dribbling ability is extremely similar to the Argentine’s. He possesses the same great close control even whilst moving at speed, his running also has the directness of Messi’s. And has a fantastic change of pace. But before I jump on the bandwagon of parading some youngster as the next world beater, he has not yet truly terrorised defences or encountered many top defenders for that matter. Also his finishing appears to be some way behind his former Barcelona colleague. He also tends to pick the ball up a lot deeper than Messi but is more than prepared to bring it forward some distance, passing people with an apparent ease.
His international career has started well, being capped for the first time by Israel in September 2008 as a 78th minute substitute in a friendly against Chile. By doing this he overtook Chelsea’s Ben Sahar by 195 days as the youngest player to play for Israel.
That Barcelona wrote in a €20 million buy out clause to his previous contract in an effort to dissuade prospective suitors, demonstrates the high regard they clearly held him in. Yet how he walked away at such a young age when this contract ran out shows a determination for personal glory and could be detrimental. It is difficult to say whether h will follow his illustrious predecessors who have gone on to such great things after graduating la Masia. One thing is for sure though Manchester City have do have a talented player on their books.