At Barcelona, Timing Is Everything

As he rose through the ranks at Barcelona, Gerard Deulofeu seemed to have everything. Above all, he was fast, possessed of that urgent, quicksilver sort of speed that carries with it an air of permanent menace. But he had composure, too, a coolness on the ball, that stood out even at La Masia, Barcelona’s revered academy.

His coaches knew, of course, that no player is a sure thing, but as far as they could tell, Deulofeu stood as good a chance as anyone. He scored buckets of goals for Barcelona’s reserve team, competing in the second tier of Spanish soccer. Luis Enrique, his manager, regarded him as his “standout.” He was fast-tracked into the senior side at the age of just 17.

Deulofeu, though, never quite made it at Barcelona, not really. He spent a year on loan at Everton, to toughen him up, and then another season at Sevilla. He felt Luis Enrique, previously such an ardent advocate, did not “trust” him now that he was in charge of the senior team. There was scrutiny of Deulofeu’s industry, his attentiveness, his work ethic.

Those criticisms were doubtless legitimate, but the real issue Deulofeu faced was less what he was, and more who he was not. In front of Deulofeu in Barcelona’s attacking queue, over the course of those years, were (in no particular order): Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Cesc Fàbregas, Alexis Sánchez and Pedro. Andrés Iniesta could always fill a gap, too. Deulofeu played six times for Barcelona, and was sold.

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