We may be asking ‘Who Are Ya?’ now but I guarantee that in a few years we won’t be when the name Gai Yigaal Assulin is mentioned.
Barcelona seem to have a never ending supply of talent in their youth ranks with Messi, Fabregas, Pique, Bojan, Merida, Giovani Dos Santos, Busquets and Pedro all learning their trade at the club and Assulin is set to carry on this tradition.
At just 12 his coach at Beitar Tubruk was so impressed with him that he told Gai’s parents to consider letting their son try out for Barcelona’s youth ranks. They did and Gai was accepted and he quickly left an impression on his new coach Fran Sanchez.
By 16, the young Israeli was already playing in Barcelona’s B team (under Barca current head coach Pep Guardiola) against players twice his age and took to it naturally. He did not look out of his depth and played like these older men were his age mates. Around this time Chelsea attempted to sign the young attacker but he rejected as he wanted to stay with Barcelona who quickly offered him a 3 year contract with a 20m euro buyout clause.
In the 2007-2008 season he scored 9 goals in 24 appearances for the B team so when Guardiola moved up to coach Barca’s full team it was thought that Assulin would move up with him. Yet a meniscus injury prevented that and instead it was Pedro cemented his place in the first team, grabbing the headlines with his performances.
He is now injury free and was invited to play in the Wembley cup during pre season where he appeared against Tottenham and managed to score against Al Ahly. His steady progress into the first team continued when he made his first competitive start against Cultural in an October Copa Del Rey tie.
Assulin can play in a multitude of attacking positions with his footballing brain especially evident when operating as a playmaker. His idol was Ronaldinho and he would watch the Brazilian during his time at the Nou Camp and try to learn his best tricks. It clearly worked as his play on the left wing is magical but it is his slaloms with the ball that remind anyone who has the pleasure of seeing him of Lionel Messi as he leaves the opposition behind with his electric pace and deft skills.
There are conflicting reports about his future at Barcelona. Some claiming that as he will soon become a Spanish national he will be able to alternate between the Barca first and B team as Guardiola hopes to continue his steady progress whilst others claim Assulin feels his time in the reserves is up and has thus stalled on signing a new contract until his immediate future is more certain.
If this is true then it will be music to the ears of Europe’s elite especially Arsenal who have acquired both Fran Merida and Cesc Fabregas from the Catalan club and are the latest team to be linked with the starlet. Regardless of where his future lies, it is almost certain that Gai Assulin will blaze a trail there.
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