Footballing world has recently seen an influx of young talents sone of whom promises to be generational talents.. Whilst young players like Mbappe, Asensio, Dembele etc are already established or are in way of becoming crucial cogs in footballing behemoths, there are waves of other young talents who are highly coveted by big clubs of tip leagues, Frankie De Jong and De Ligt are prime examples. In upcoming articles, we shall discuss about three new talents coming outside of La Masia, who are doing the right things and are receiving high praises. We shall analyse their strengths and weaknesses and shall evaluate whether they have the correct traits to make it in the long run. We shall start with the most underrated among them, Oriol Buesqets, ironically the name sake of Sergio Buesqets, who despite being one of the greatest pivots to grace the football field, has been criminally underrated for a long time.
Oriol Buesqets, the namesake of Sergio, is not blood related to him, but still has a lot of similarities to the great man. Both their fathers were goalkeepers. Both of them are uncannily lanky, tall, lacks much strength and speed, and play as the pivot, one of the most tactical positions in world football. The undersigned is of the belief that the pivot and the false 9 are the two most tactically difficult positions in football world. As such successful pivots need more cerebral and technical qualities than physical abilities. This rings true starting from Pep Guardiola, the first modern pivot, to Alonso, Carrick, Sergio Buesqets and now Oriol too. However being merely cerebral and technical does not guarantee success, we have seen Bojan Krkic washed away due to being weak mentally, we are seeing Sergi Samper and Rafinha Alcantara getting destroyed by recurring injuries, we have seen Isaac Cuenca getting derailed due to sudden injury and lack of proper guidance, we have tons of such examples where despite showing initial promise, the player latter not fulfilling his potential. Oriol Buesqets is a tactically intelligent player with technical abilities and so far has a steady rise, though he missed half of last season due to injury. Hence, it is too early to deduce that he will remain injury free like Buesqets has been throughout his career.
Let us make one thing straight, Oriol is no where near Sergio was at this age period. At 19 years of age, Sergio Buesqets straight walked into the Barcelona side which would go on to win the sextuple and is considered one of, if not the, greatest club football side ever. Sergio directly replaced Yaya Toure who went on to become one of the greatest midfielders in modern epl era. At national team, he directly replaced Marcos Senna, another behemoth who was the base of Spanish Midfield in 2008 Euro triumph. For the next 10 years, Sergio Buesqets has remained among the first names in team sheets if both barca and Spain for multitude of Managers, all of whom deemed him irreplaceable. Oriol is reaching the same age when Sergio straight forward broke into first team, and he is yet playing in Barca B and no where near breaking into the first team on a regular basis. But pivots and holding mids mature with age and perhaps in their early or mid twenties, start proving their worth, as has been the case with even the best among them. Sergio Buesqets is an anamoly, a metronome, a generational talent, and its not fair to compare a 19 year old Oriol to a 19 year old Sergio.
Now let us take a look at Oriol to assess his strengths and weaknesses. His strength lies in playing the quintessential pivot role where he has played 62% this season , but he also has also been deployed at right side of midfield and also as a CB too. After his debut for Barca in Copa Del Rey last season, Valverde said “Oriol Buesqets proved today that he is a Barca player, however he has to improve his defensive game”. It’s true too, Oriol has clever and intelligent positioning. Just like Sergio, he positions himself in pockets of spaces and always makes himself available as a passing option. He drops between two CBs to form as an essential outlet or a third CB, acts as a shielding for the defence. He is also extremely press resistant. In his last match against Cultural in Copa Del Rey, he was pressed multiple times but came out unscathed with the ball. He has a dribbling rate of 1.6 per game which is astounding for a defensive midfielder. He wins more than 50% of his aerial duels despite his lanky frame. He is an excellent short passer and rotator of possession with a pass percentage of almost 90%. He is also great at pressing and not afraid to go into tackles when in spots of bother. However, it should be noted that all these stats are from his Barca B exploits and naturally there is a tremendous gulf in level between where he plays and where the first team plays. However his strengths and style can definitely be ascertained from his stats.
Now let’s take a look at aspects where improvements are needed. Definitely his defensive game needs improvement since he still hasn’t developed the fantastic nose of Sergio. Messi once said, “If there is trouble, Buesqets will be there.” Oriol has to develop the understanding and the reading of the game since its integral for him to succeed as a pivot at the top level. His long passing also needs development since he needs to switch play by spraying passes to both wings from time to time. And he has to develop his tackling prowess, the most underrated prowess of Sergio Buesqets. Sergio uses tackles as last measure, but when he does, he is so elegant. His sliding tackles and winning the ball back and then passing it in a single motion is so similar to Maldini. Oriol also goes into tackles, but it is far away from the fantastic tackling ability of Sergio Buesqets. All these aspects will develop will time, if he keeps on working hard, is properly nurtured and guided, and remains free from injuries. Sergio Buesqets is 30 now and sooner or later Barca will need to start looking for his replacement, a feat easier said than done, simply because Sergio Buesqets is one of a kind. Oriol Buesqets remains the best bet to get into the himalayan sized shoes of Sergio. He doesn’t needs to replicate Sergio’s feats and prowess, perhaps nobody can. But if he can achieve his potential and fulfill his role, the cules will be more than satisfied.
By Arindam Chakraborty