Isaac Cuenca 21 Midfielder Barcelona
In Pep Guardiola’s final season with Barcelona, he used 29 different players during the ultimately fruitless league campaign. He built his Barcelona team on a system that required understanding, consistency and rhythm. There was no room for constant changes to the starting personal as the style of Barcelona’s football required the players to be on the same wavelength as each other.
They needed to be trusted to retain possession as they did, as well as battle to get it back quickly when it was lost to the opposition. As such, it took a lot for players to work their way in Guardiola’s favour. He was a man that saw fit to sell and get rid some of European football’s most dangerous front men. They didn’t suit his ideas on football or perhaps didn’t work hard enough and they were disposed of. Samuel Eto'o and Zlatan Ibrahimović could walk into almost any side in Europe and yet they weren’t to be relied upon by Guardiola as he tried to build the best club side.
Isaac Cuenca was.
Not to do a job similar to either Eto’o or Zlatan and not for one second can Cuenca can be compared to either man as players. However, Isaac was trusted by Pep and soon enough started to show signs that he was becoming one of Guardiola’s favoured players. A hard-working, capable, always-willing midfielder that he could count on to stick exactly to the game plan, it’s easy to forget he only made his first team debut at the Nou Camp in October 2011.
Cuenca is a lovely player. He’s quick, got superb technical skills, delivers a pretty decent cross and isn’t afraid of committing to a run to score a goal. Isaac already possesses an excellent knowledge of the game, making intelligent runs for his team-mates but can also lift his head and thread a killer ball through a defensive line.
He is a player with a big football future ahead of him; as long as he can get back to where he was towards the end of last season. With Guardiola gone, it won’t be that easy for him to stroll into the Barcelona set-up once again.
He’s been out since the end of May when he suffered a nasty injury and was forced to have therapeutic arthroscopy surgery. The procedure was called for so as to correct the exterior meniscus of his right knee. Early reports were very good but he was supposed to be back in action by October. Cuenca is yet to make his comeback and it’s already the back end of November. His delayed return will concern some.
Time on the side-lines is not good for any young player; never mind one who will be desperate to nail down a regular place in the Barcelona team. Cristian Tello and Pedro have both been in excellent form so far this season. They are doing themselves all kinds of favours with Tito Vilanova while Cuenca battles back from surgery.
Importantly, he is missing out on time that he could be busy working on his game while people are still allowing him to. Though he does work hard, Cuenca’s defensive positioning was one of his major flaws last season. All too often, he’d be slack in retreating and force his team under unneeded pressure. If Barcelona are to continue playing the way that they do, and one figures that they just might, then it is something he’ll need to ensure he is better at.
There is a lot to like about Cuenca. It’s not exactly easy to get yourself in amongst the current Barcelona side and he did that very well. After debuting in the Champions League group stages, he grew as a player and his playing time in the Barcelona first team increased.
As long as his current problems don’t keep him sidelined for too long, he has enough aptitude and desire to get back into that role. Should he be out for much longer then the ship may pass him by. We can only imagine there are two or three more hungry wingers working their way through the Barcelona ranks and if it comes down to a decision between a hungry, eager 17 year-old or the battered and struggling Cuenca; Isaac may have to move on.
For his sake, we really hope that isn’t the case.
“One of Pep Guardiola's final contributions to Barcelona was to guide Cuenca. He came from nowhere to be a someone, and with his technique and reading of the game fitted in well. Where exactly he fits in Tito's era is unsure, right now it's the treatment table.” - David Cartlidge (Spanish Football Correspondent)
"The one player at Barcelona who could walk along the Las Rambla and not get noticed. The big worry is the injury he sustained to his right knee at the the end of May, keeping him out of action so far this season. He's due to make a comeback in December, the sooner he's back the better for everyone who enjoys a good footballer." - Gary Linton (Inside La Liga)
C Shake off the injury and get your place back in the best team in Europe