Cristian Tello 22 Midfielder Barcelona Spain
2013 has been…
Probably as good as it will ever be. If you’re trying to keep a football team at the very, very top for a sustained period then you’re going to need to maintain some kind of consistency. The one thing that Barcelona have done better than anyone over the last decade or so is to stick with a system and, as we know, it has reaped awards.
The foundation of everything that FC Barcelona have achieved over the last ten years has been built on the much-heralded La Masia de Can Planes and the players that have graduated from it. You don’t know the exact circumstances of every footballing school at every club, but just about everyone is well aware of what Barcelona’s academy stands for, even if there are plenty of other academies around the globe which are just as prolific at shaping future stars.
One of many players groomed for first team duties at La Masia, Cristian Tello picked up where he left off as a teenager at Barcelona in 2011 after a brief stint with Espanyol. Returning to play in the Segundo division for Barca B, by November that year he’d made the step up to the first team, debuting against CE L'Hospitalet in the Copa Del Rey.
If 2012 was all about consolidating progress, 2013 would need to be about kicking on and maintaining a place in the first eleven at Barcelona and getting close to a senior international call.
Not selected for any games in January, Tello was recalled to Tito Vilanova’s squad in February and scored in a 6-1 rout at Granada after coming on as a sub for Alexis Sanchez. Tello would continue in much the same vain for the rest of the season as his team coasted to the title. Starting some games and replacing Pedro or Sanchez in others, Tello performed reasonably well without over looking likely to eclipse the Camp Nou’s brighter stars.
August saw a call up, and a full ninety-minute debut, in a friendly for an experimental Spain team against Ecuador in which Tello laid the winning goal on for Álvaro Negredo. This season has, so far, run a similar course to last and that looks likely to remain the state of play from this point forth. Currently out of the picture at Barca due to injury, Tello is expected to return to the first team squad soon.
Squad, or more appropriately, Equipo. Doesn’t sound like a negative word, but you can bet it’s one that once made Cristian Tello’s heart sing, but now feels like nails down a blackboard.
We made the reference to La Masia at the start of this article because it’s where everything began for Tello. It’s where the Sabadell born winger learned the game and it’s where Barcelona work hard to ensure that they secure and educate the very best young players in the world. Tello certainly falls into that category, but his problem is that just being one of the best young players in the world, whilst magnificent, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in that very select group where one of those words is dropped: The best players in the world.
There have already been articles in the press across a number of European countries relating to Tello’s alleged ‘frustration’ at not starting more games. A cynic might conclude that the clichéd ‘come and get me plea’s had been planted by scrupulous agents in England, Germany and France in an attempt to alert clubs to Tello’s situation, but we would never be quite that cynical *rolls eyes*.
Tello is an excellent player. He can beat a man with a combination of skill and pace, he can pass, cross, finds positions well, scores and works hard for his team. In addition, he can do all this at the highest level. However, in the seismic aftermath of Barcelona’s demolition by Bayern Munich in last season’s European Cup, those traits may still not be enough to maintain a long-term starting berth at one of Europe’s most decorated clubs.
Cristian Tello may well be happy to continue as he is at Barcelona. He has a long term contract there, but that contract was hard won with some observers suggesting that previous coach Tito Villanova was not entirely convinced he was a long term player for Barca. With Neymar, Pedro and Sanchez all ahead of the young winger for selection in the big matches, and with the club continuing to seek out brighter talent to ensure they are never again eclipsed as emphatically as they were by Bayern, Tello may need to do some serious soul searching over the next twelve months. Staying is the easy option, but none of the players ahead of him are over 26, and are unlikely to be dipping from a peak anytime soon, quite the opposite in fact.
Thiago Alcântara made a judgement call in the summer to leave Barca, and that particular decision may have a significant bearing on Tello’s next move. The Bayern Munich man has been on record affirming the sensibility of his choice; the "best decision" he’s ever made.
If the coming months go well, Tello will likely find there is no decision to make, Barcelona is home, why go elsewhere? A place is Vincente Del Bosque’s World Cup squad will also be a likely bonus. If not, the opportunity to light up the Bundesliga or Premier league may be an option worth considering. Over to you.
"With Barcelona seeking out stars like Neymar and Alexis Sánchez, life was always going to be tough for Cristian Tello. He makes for a solid backup player and until or the club decides differently, will remain exactly that. Speed, trickery and ability to twist a defence, Tello is still a decent weapon to have." - David Cartlidge, Spanish football expert
"Seven of Cristian Tello's ten career league goals have been scored away from the Nou Camp." - Opta
C- A very good player, but not a great player. That could be significantly impact what happens next