Pep Guardiola is one of the most tactically aware and progressive coaches of modern times with a plethora of accolades. During his illustrious managerial career, he has had a hand in developing or taking some stellar young players to the next level. Top class players like Busquets, Pedro, Thiago Alcantara, Kimmich, Coman, Sterling, Sane, Jesus, Delph, Stones, etc, pay testament to the fact. But there are some others like Badstuber, the talented left footed ball playing CB from Bayern, whose progression was hampered due to injuries. Whilst Badstuber is a well-known example, today we will talk about someone, who is not known much, who was progressing and aiming for the stars under Pep and whose career nose-dived partly due to Pep’s departure and partly due to injuries; who was a victim of grave circumstantial misfortune and never recovered from it.
Isaac Cuenca was then the latest name coming out from La Masia. Nobody knew about him much and at one time it was said that he wouldn’t make the cut, but then Pep handpicked him in 2011-12 season out of nowhere, just like he did earlier with Pedro and Busquets. He was a winger and hence was primarily compared with Pedro. But Cuenca was much different. Though a winger, Pep started instilling in him, the nuances of positional play, honed his abilities on the ball and intelligence, and started developing him in that right side role, the right flanker, who can play on right wing as well as right midfield. Cuenca was listed as winger, but he was providing width in attack when required, shuttled in midfield to provide numerical advantage, provided cover for the runs of alves and montoya, and had a keen eye for the killer pass from either wide midfield, central midfield or wings, not much dissimilar to the role Kevin De Bruyne plays currently for City, albeit with certain positional and characteristic difference . He was also deployed occasionally on both wings to drift infield as a pseudo winger where he used his trickery and dribbling to good effect. Pep was very impressed with the kid and everyone was sure that La Masia had churned out a future first team player with tremendous ceiling. Then suddenly, disaster struck.
Pep Guardiola left the following season and the downfall of La Masia, as well as the downfall of its promising graduate, followed. First, he was sidelined for half a season with a knee injury. When he returned, he was sent to Ajax on loan. Pep leaving, a serious injury and lack of faith in him from Pep’s successors meant that the youngster never found his footing again. He lost his confidence and began the bohemian footballing life, shuttling from here to there. Without a proper mentor and negligence from Barca, this talented player’s career never took off. Today, when we see the likes of Koke or Kevin de Bruyne roaming in midfield, wowing football purists with their clever movements, and churning out magical passes and through balls from central or wide midfield, a sigh comes out and a sad thought occurs; What could have been.
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