Barcelona's financial woes are well known (a gross debt of over 1.4 billion) and they had to let star player Lionel Messi go on a free transfer with Paris Saint-Germain because they couldn't afford to sign him to a new contract.
The pitch is not much better at the moment, with coach Ronald Koeman under increasing pressure after two consecutive defeats. Their Champions League Group E campaign was disastrous with two defeats against Benfica and Bayern Munich. However, the LaLiga campaign sees them in ninth place after three wins and three draws.
There is hope. Gerard Pique, a Barcelona veteran, said to CBS after the 3-0 loss to Bayern: "It's what it is right now. We are who we are." ... We played with between four and five 18-year-olds at the end of each day. They are the future of the club and they compete well.
Barcelona is a club that loves to bring young players through the famed La Masia academy. Although Ilaix Moriba was forced to leave for RB Leipzig this summer, the talented player has been replaced by 11 players under 22 years old. You may be familiar with Sergino Dest, an American international full-back, and Eric Garcia (a summer signing form Manchester City), defender from Spain. But what about the rest?
The resident Scout looks at the children tasked to get Barcelona back on track.
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The shining stars
Pedri, 18, central midfielder
Pedri is already a top player in the world. Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Barcelona needs the 18-year old -- who was a 7m arrival from Las Palmas, Spain in July 2020 and became a star within 10 months -- more than any time. Pedri played an incredible 74 games in his debut season. He also competed in the Olympics for Spain and Euro 2020.
Pedri is the player most likely to miss Messi at Barcelona, but he has the ability and the industry to make the Barcelona midfield shine for many years.
The 5-foot-9 phenom is a technically skilled, creative passer and skilled ball dribbler. He has been compared to Andres Iniesta and has the potential to be one of the top central midfielders in all of football.
Ansu Fati, 18, forward
Ansu Fati is just returning from a long-term injury. David Ramos/Getty Images
Nearly one year after injuring the meniscus, Ansu made a remarkable individual goal in the first team's 3-0 win against Levante. Many consider Ansu a great talent and a true generational talent. He was a right-footed forward/winger who has had many complicated surgeries. It is a shame that he is not back to his best.
The teenager was already proving to be worthy of the hype, it's safe to say. He is difficult to get rid of because of his high-speed running speed and ambidexterity. This is backed up with a low centre gravity. He's also a fast thinker and has a knack for turning, acceleration, dribbling, and combination play in tight spaces. Ansu's off-the-ball running skills make him dangerous when he darts into spaces behind defenders. Given his lightning pace, this movement often places him in advantageous positions in large areas or clear of goal.
Ansu has a wealth of technical and skilled-based skills, but he is also willing to take on the urgent duties that are necessary to defend his country. Although he is only 19 at the end of the month he seems mature, well-informed, and smart enough for the enormous expectations placed on him. These expectations have increased since he was entrusted with Messi's No. 10 shirt.
The new boys
Gavi, 17, attacking midfielder
Gavi was given plenty of time in the first XI this year. David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Gavi already draws comparisons to Barcelona's legendary midfield duo Iniesta/Xavi. Although such comparisons are premature, Gavi, 17, who moved to Barcelona from Real Betis five years ago, has the same natural understanding of football. His ability to predict the game's dynamics is exceptional. He knows every move before he gets the ball, and when he does get the ball, he can keep it moving with delicate, perfectly weighted touches.
Gavi has so far been used in many positions. He started against Atletico Madrid as a left-winger, but has felt more at home when he was allowed to play in central midfield. This allows him to pick up more of the ball and participate in the build-ups. He only started three LaLiga matches (he has yet to play in any competition), but he was called up to Spain's senior team against Italy last week.
Alex Balde, 17, left-back
Alex Balde worked at Espanyol from 2011 until he joined the club. Joan Valls/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Balde played almost an entire hour of first-team football, before he was forced to retire with a back injury against Granada. Balde demonstrated why he is so highly rated in La Masia's set-up in that brief time. He showed his incredible pace and acceleration as well as being a determined, tenacious defender with fine balance, and quite a few body feints.
Although there are still areas to improve on his timing and positioning, Balde's speed and determination offer him an opportunity to stay out of trouble defensively. Balde's promising debut suggests that he will be more involved in senior roles this season, once he is healthy and back from injury. Barcelona can also rely on him to provide long-term support for Jordi Alba, 32.
Yusuf Demir, 18, forward
Barcelona had been following Yusuf Demir since a while. David Ramos/Getty Images
The Austrian international was already in the limelight for his Messi-esque style of play when he signed a loan deal with Rapid Vienna. Demir made his Rapid debut as a 16 year-old and has continued to shine in the Austrian Bundesliga. Now, he gets the opportunity to show his talents at the club that is arguably the most traditional.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen Tor-Kristian Karlsen, a Norwegian football scout/executive, is the former chief executive officer and sporting director of AS Monaco. He will be writing regularly for ESPN about the business of soccer as well as the process of scouting.
Demir has been playing a lot this season. He started as an inverted right-winger to help make things happen in the centre. He is left-footed and has a low centre. His first touch and ball control are excellent. He is able to change direction quickly and deceptively with his body thanks to his incredible balance.
Demir is a skilled playmaker who can pick up the ball between two lines and pass it to the defense. Demir was initially signed to the reserve team, but he has made the most of every opportunity this season.
Nicolas Gonzalez, 19, defensive midfielder
Sergio Busquets can teach Nico a lot by playing with him. Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
"Nico," the son of Francisco "Fran” Gonzalez (deportivo La Coruna legend) and Spain's international Francisco "Fran", has had a difficult few months. After being first introduced to the team by Koeman at start of season, he was a star performer in the 3-0 victory against Levante. However, his manager chose to make him the focus because he failed to follow Joao Felix's run against Atletico Madrid one week later.
As a "double No. Gonzalez is a "double No. 6" (a two man midfield axis with Sergio Busquets), and shares some similarities with his legendary teammate. He's 6-foot-2, has the same fluid, yet gangly movement, and has a calm, decisive passing style.
Gonzalez was a youth champion for his fluid ball progression. He often got rid of his marker quickly and with a deft touch. This skill is difficult to replicate against star athletes, but Barcelona has found a defensive midfielder that could be a leader.
Play 1:21 Moreno declares it's time to sack Koeman Ale Moreno did not see anything from Barcelona that would suggest that the players believed they could beat Atletico Madrid.
The new old boys
Ricard Puig, 22, central midfielder
Ricard Puig was expected make the move up, but he has not been able to do so. LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images
Puig was the most likely La Masia player to make it in the first team two years ago. The supremely talented attacking midfielder has had many ups and downs since then. There have been many changes in head coaches, but Puig has never had a consistent role. When opportunities presented themselves, however, the final product has often left much to be desired.
Puig is a Barcelona youth product. There has never been any doubt about that. He is an absolute joy to watch when he is in form. He is adept at finding space between lines and tidy in possession, with the awareness to execute a flick or a progressive pass. Although he was a great youth player and for Barcelona B, he struggled to make an impact on the game when he was selected for the senior team. With the emergence Gavi and Pedri, Pedri is now the face of a crucial season in Barcelona.
Ronald Araujo, 22, central defender
Ronald Araujo was signed in 2018 from the Uruguayan side Boston River for less than 2m. Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Although the Uruguayan international isn't the type of defender Barcelona are known for, he has found a way to adapt his aggressive style at Camp Nou. Araujo, unlike Eric Garcia and Pique, isn't very comfortable with possession. He prefers to find an unmarked fullback or his central defensive partner rather than working the ball into tight areas. This is especially evident when Barcelona plays out from the back.
Araujo is more at home when he can defend. He enjoys the physical aspect of the game, particularly a good fight with an opposing forward. Araujo is also a threat to attacking set pieces and comes out on top in aerial duels (more than 75%). He can be too attached to the forward he is marking, which can lead him to lose focus on the team's defensive structure.
He is a solid backup player at the moment, so it remains to see if he can rise to the top to become an indispensable member of the first-team. However, he has gained respect for his strong personality and uncompromising approach on the pitch.
Oscar Mingueza, 22, right-back/central defender
Oscar Mingueza waited patiently to get his chance. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Mingueza, who was never an undisputed regular at Barcelona B, has taken advantage of his first-team opportunities well and has steadily improved his performance since his senior debut last year. Although Mingueza lacks the agility and attacking edge of a modern fullback, he is still a quiet admirer for his calm and measured approach to defense.
Mingueza's best Barcelona games have been as right-centreback in a back three. His abilities are at the forefront while he has the support of a defender. Mingueza, a young defender who is aware of his limitations and adjusts his game accordingly, also showed professionalism in his recovery from being substituted in half-time in the loss against Paris Saint-Germain. Although the jury isn't yet out on whether the 22-year old is a regular at Barcelona, he certainly deserves his chance and could be a valuable utility player for the club.