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Nico González and Pablo Páez Gaviria. Or as they are better known, Nico and Gavi. Two young midfielders who are destined to make big names for themselves at Camp Nou are the latest La Masía products to have impressed Ronald Koeman enough to play for the first team.
After featuring in preseason friendlies, they have also now made their competitive debuts for FC Barcelona. 19-year-old Nico did so in the first league fixture of the season, at home to Real Sociedad, symbolically coming on as a replacement for another player who originated in the Barça youth system, none other than Sergio Busquets.
Meanwhile, Gavi also got his first minutes at the Camp Nou, in his case against Getafe. He too replaced a former youth player, Sergi Roberto, and at age of 17 years and 24 days became the fourth youngest Barça player ever to appear in a Liga game.
Ronald Koeman has now given debuts to five Masia graduates, the previous examples being Konrad, Ilaix and Òscar Mingueza, the latter also appearing against Getafe after recovering from an injury sustained at the Olympic Games, and who has recently been assigned a permanent place in the senior team, wearing the number 22 on his back.
No fewer than 12 players aged 23 or under have played under Koeman. Pedri and Dest could now be considered fully established stars, while new signings Demir and Eric Garcia (the latter having spent time as a youth in La Masía) are oozing promise. In addition to the aforesaid Mingueza, Nico, Konrad, Ilaix and Gavi, we could also cite Royal, Trincao and Matheus Fernandes.
Both Nico and Gavi were already making huge impressions as youth players. Nico arrived from Montañeros when he was just 11 and has made spectacular progress through the ranks, eventually making his Barça B debut at the age of 17 in the final game of the 2018/19 season. It was in the 2020/21 season when he truly made his breakthrough, being one of the key reasons for the reserves’ promotion to Primera RFEF.
Meanwhile, Gavi arrived in 2015/16 from Betis, winning the league and Copa Catalunya with the U12A team. He rose up through the youth ranks, and joined the U19A team last summer, and despite his young age was called up to play for Barça B. It only took two games with the reserves to convince Koeman, who had no qualms at all about including the youngster in his first team plans.
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