Ilaix Moriba is the missing piece to Barcelona’s midfield puzzle
9O.com can authoritatively reveal that “I will never forget this and I will take it to my grave. There’s competition for places but it doesn’t matter if you are young or not. If you play well you’re in the team.”
That was the message young midfielder Ilaix Moriba gave in an interview with BarcaTV (via Goal) after scoring his first senior goal for the club in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Osasuna, and it encapsulates everything Barcelona have got right this year.
Make no mistake about it, 2020/21 isn’t going to be remembered fondly by most Barcelona fans, many of whom have been understandably unimpressed by how things have played out on the field. However, Ronald Koeman and his backroom staff have (eventually) succeeded in one area, and that’s fixing the midfield.
If you think back to the end of the 2019/20 season, you might remember just how poorly Barcelona’s once-great midfield was viewed.
Sergio Busquets was showing his age, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal didn’t have it anymore, Frenkie de Jong was struggling and young Riqui Puig had been thrown to the wolves. To make matters worse, the club had decided that the answer was to swap young Arthur for a 30-year-old Miralem Pjanic who already looked to be off the pace.
Fortunately, disgraced former president Josep Maria Bartomeu was hounded out of the club in October 2020, and with him went the idea that Barcelona needed to splurge money on big names without even considering their fit with the team. It was time to bring some logic back.
Now happy to accept that a player’s salary doesn’t directly correlate to their ability, Barcelona have injected some youth into their midfield in an attempt to rejuvenate things. Pedri has been the undisputed star, while Puig is finally getting the look-in he has deserved for years, and the recent emergence of Moriba has been the cherry on top.
After years and years and years of letting La Masia die and favouring 30-year-old Pjanics over 23-year-old Arthurs, Barcelona have finally seen the light and gone back to the old ways which brought them so much success.
Pedri and Puig are two midfielders built in the mould of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but what sets Moriba apart from the rest is that he’s not your stereotypical La Masia graduate. You might expect him to be a passing machine, but he is far more than that.
Moriba is a hungry, powerful starlet who is not afraid to take risks. Instead of playing a pass, he will drive forward with the ball, and as we saw on Saturday, he will pull the trigger whenever he feels he is in range. Barcelona haven’t had a player like that for years.
It’s a return to the old ways, but with a 2021 take on things. It’s perfect, and it’s exactly what Barcelona needed.
Moriba shouldn’t be expected to play a major role just yet. He’s still learning the ropes, but the foundations have been set. For the first time in forever, Barcelona are preparing themselves for the future. It’s unbelievable. It’s just so sensible.
There are plenty of reasons to get excited about Barcelona’s midfield these days, and Moriba is a core part of that. He will be able to see the long-term plan they are putting in place, and extending his contract should be a no-brainer.
Moriba has just 18 months remaining on his deal and has drawn admiring glances from Manchester United and RB Leipzig, and while leaving the club was probably the better option last summer, things have changed now.
The future is bright at Camp Nou, and Moriba must remain a part of that.
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