La Masia doesn’t produce many out-and-out strikers; quantity nines who common round a objective each recreation at youth stage. Diminutive midfielders and playmaking forwards, sure – they’ve them popping out of their ears on the Barcelona academy. However elite-level strikers are fairly uncommon at Catalunya’s most well-known footballing college.
And so when the Blaugrana sat down with Iker Bravo and his brokers to debate tying the then-16-year-old all the way down to a contract in the summertime of 2021, they knew they needed to maintain him within the constructing.
Like a lot that has occurred at Barcelona in recent times, nevertheless, they failed to stay to the touchdown.
A yr on, Bravo can look again on a debut season at Bayer Leverkusen throughout which he made his skilled debut within the Bundesliga, and impressed sufficient to warrant spending pre-season with the primary crew.
Regardless of Barca’s elevated dependence on youth merchandise over the previous couple of seasons, that very same path to the senior ranks was seemingly not there for Bravo, therefore his resolution to depart.
He and his household went into the talks anticipating to remain on the membership he had been a part of because the age of 5, however whereas Barca went in with a deal with the economics of the deal, they have been unable to promote Bravo on the challenge that they had laid out for him.
Like so many kids within the trendy recreation, Bravo realized that German soccer may provide him the pathway he so desired, and he has made a right away affect.
His two first-team appearances – one within the league and one within the DFB-Pokal – have been rewarded for a marketing campaign that noticed him rating 10 objectives in 17 official youth-team video games.
“It wasn’t the plan for him to make his debut this season,” Alberto Encinas, Leverkusen’s assistant coach who beforehand labored inside La Masia, tells GOAL of Bravo’s debut marketing campaign. “Now he’ll begin pre-season with us and enter into the dressing room formally. Will probably be superb for him to be near the primary crew.
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“He has a reasonably full participant profile,” Encinas continues, “as a result of he isn’t solely a goalscorer. He, after all, has nice ending means and motion within the penalty space, however due to his profession at Barca, he may also drop deeper to recycle possession as an additional midfielder.
“He has that double profile – he is not only a striker within the space, however he combines that with different abilities too.”
Regardless of Bravo’s sturdy begin to life on the BayArena, his uncooked statistics inform the story of a participant whose objective numbers have dropped barely, although that’s of no shock to Encinas.
“I’ve the reminiscence of him being a number one participant at Barca,” he recollects. “When issues went flawed, he at all times requested for the ball, and was in a position to pull the automotive alongside by himself.
“This yr, he has had extra psychological ups and downs, however it is extremely regular. He’s 17 and has had an vital change in his life; leaving dwelling to a brand new nation, to a brand new language, to a special tradition, to It is regular his recreation would possibly undergo.
At Barca, he was extra dominant as a result of the crew had extra of the ball, however the total evolution in his recreation right here has been optimistic. Being at Leverkusen has made him a greater participant, as a result of the coaches have put him into a special context, and made him slightly uncomfortable at instances, however that has allowed him to study from being in new recreation conditions. “
Bravo was actually in a position to exhibit a few of these new-found abilities for Spain within the latest Beneath-17s European Championship, as he led from the entrance for his nationwide aspect.
Bravo scored two objectives in three video games through the event in Israel, together with a gorgeous first-time volley from 20 yards in opposition to Turkey in his aspect’s opening recreation.
“He is a participant who offers you, along with ending, continuity to the sport,” Spain U17s boss, Julen Guerrero, tells GOAL. “He will get between the strains effectively, he is sturdy, he holds the ball up, he performs rapidly – he is a participant who can provide us loads of issues. We all know it and the crew is aware of it.”
Barcelona knew it too, however they could not persuade one in every of their rarer diamonds to stay round. A participant like Iker Bravo may not come alongside in Catalonia for a while.