Álex Collado and Abel Ruiz are just the latest La Masia products to make their first team debuts. In fact, with them, there have now been seven Barça B players to have gained their first senior experiences under Ernesto Valverde this 2018/19 season.
Juan Miranda, Chumi, Jorge Cuenca, Riqui Puig and Moussa Wague all got their first starts this term, following on from Cucurella, Oriol Busquets, Arnaiz and Costas the previous campaign.
“Making my first team debut in La Liga was a dream come true for me” says Collado, who was just 11 when he joined the Barça youth setup. “I was most nervous when I went out for the warm-up. A thousand images came into my head of all the years I have spent at La Masia. Then, once the game started, it just made me so happy to feel my dream coming true after battling so hard for so long.”
A UEFA Youth League winner last season, Collado came on early in the game at Celta following an injury to Dembélé. “The pace in the first division is spectacular. The level is so high” he adds. “It’s so demanding. You have to make decisions in a split second.”
Abel Ruiz, who joined the club from Valencia as an U16 player and came on for Coutinho in the game against Getafe, spoke in similar terms. “I was nervous on the day of the match” he admits. “When you are on the bench and the boss tells you to start warming up you really get the nerves. You know this is your chance, your moment, and when he said I was going on I was a bag of nerves. But once you touch the ball, you calm down. Ultimately, you are just doing the same thing that you’ve been doing all time at La Masia.”
“I’m so grateful to the club for letting me play on the greatest stage in the world, the Camp Nou, with the best team-mates, because this Barça team has the best players in the world. It’s a privilege.”