Barcelona's Sergi Samper shoots
Prodigious Barcelona midfielder Sergi Samper is set to join Valencia on loan, according to Superdeporte.
The 21-year-old was tipped to be the next top-class talent to emerge from the Catalan’s fabled La Masia academy but now appears certain to follow fellow graduates Marc Bartra, Sandro Ramirez and Martin Montoya out of the exit door this summer.
Samper, a deep lying playmaker in the Xabi Alonso mould, has played just 29 minutes of La Liga action for the club he joined at the age of six, all coming in the 6-0 battering of Getafe in March.
He is now likely to join Montoya at the Mestalla next season, potentially as a replacement for Dani Parejo who is reportedly desperate to seal a move to Europa League champions Sevilla in the final month of the transfer window, an action the club’s director of football Suso Garcia Pitarch described in Superdeporte as ‘disrespectful to the fans and the club’.
Barcelona's Carles Alena and Sergi Samper celebrate at the end of the match
Samper signed a new contract at the Camp Nou until 2019 last month and played 45 minutes of Barca’s 3-1 pre-season win against Celtic on Saturday, producing an exquisite chip pass which Luis Suarez volleyed wide early in the second half.
However, Luis Enrique will be hopeful a temporary stint on the Castellon coast will provide Samper with the experience needed to challenge Barcelona’s plethora of top-class playmakers for a starting role in the blue and red in the coming years.
Samper’s departure, albeit temporary, will cause further concern among fans worried about the club’s increasing indifference towards their renowned academy, especially following the big-money arrivals of Arda Turan and Andre Gomes.
Since Pedro and Sergio Busquetts broke into the first-team at the height of Pep Guardiola’s trophy-laden reign in 2009-10, only Thiago Alcantara (2011-12) and Sergi Roberto (2015-16, below) have featured in more than 19 La Liga in a single season.
This is despite Luis Enrique making his name as the club’s B-team coach, winning promotion to the second tier for the first time in eleven years in 2010.
However, Enrique is yet to embrace the club’s homegrown foundation to the same extent as his predecessors Guardiola and Tito Villanova.
Only Sergi Roberto has progressed smoothly from the reserves to the first-team in the last two seasons, with Bartra frozen out and Munir and Sandro only featuring when injuries forced Enrique’s hand.
Samper may not be the only departure from the Camp Nou in the coming days either.
Cristian Tello is also set to return to Fiorentina on a permanent deal having spent last season on loan at the Italian side.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vermaelen, who has made just seven league starts in two years due to a succession of injuries, is reportedly keen on a return to the Premier League with West Ham or former club Arsenal according to Sport English.