Ex-Barcelona prospect 'got the ability' to make Nottingham Forest first-team, says coach

Jimmy Gilligan believes former Barcelona youth captain Roger Riera has all the ability needed to break into the Nottingham Forest first-team.

19-year-old Riera enjoyed a remarkable season last year, leading his Catalan teammates to the UEFA Youth League, lifting the trophy as captain after a 3-0 victory over Benfica in the final.

Whilst the likes of Adama Traore and Munir El Haddadi have since made the step up into the Barca first-team, Riera was shown the other side of professional football, having been released from his contract just weeks after lifting the trophy. The young central defender, who has nine trophies in nine years at Camp Nou, was a keen target for fellow Catalan club Espanyol following his release, but he opted to move abroad - signing for Championship side Nottingham Forest.

Riera has yet to make his first-team debut for Forest, but he has been a frequent fixture in their Under-21 side, and, after captaining the side in their 3-3 draw with Leeds United on Monday, Under-21 coach Jimmy Gilligan had nothing but praise for Rieria - claiming that he had all the ability to make the first-team at the City Ground in the future.

Speaking to the Nottingham Post, Gilligan said: "Barcelona don't release people easily. They would have had a long think about it.

"We weren't the only club interested. Espanyol would have snapped their hands off to take him.

"He decided for his development to come here. Credit to him.

"We've got to develop him now. We are working on some of his deficiencies. He's not blessed with pace but if we can get him to get tight and stop people playing that will help.

"I'm not going to say he's going to make it into the first team or not going to make it.

"He's got the ability to do it. As long as he wants to learn he's got a chance. Roger will do everything he can and we'll do everything we can to help him at this football club.

"Hopefully he can progress and we might see an ex-Barcelona player in Nottingham Forest's first team."

Forest won their first game in 10 on Saturday, and, if the Reds’ run of poor form continues, Riera could be looking to make an impact in the first-team in the coming weeks - with Forest’s defence looking increasingly weak as the season progresses.

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