Not for the first time, Arsenal have exploited the loophole that enables them to sign Spanish youngsters before they are eligible for a professional contract in their home country by securing the services of promising defender Julio Pleguezuelo Selva from Barcelona.
The acquisition of 16-year-old Pleguezuelo, who can operate at right-back or centre-back, follows those of Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral in recent years, whilst Fran Merida and most notably Cesc Fabregas, also made the switch from La Masia to London Colney in the past.
Barcelona are furious that many of their best prospects are allowed to slip out of their grasp in this manner, but Arsenal are certainly making the most of the situation and may swoop for further talents in the future. But just who could be the next Barcelona youngsters targeted by the North London club?
1) LEE SEUNG WOO (15) Striker
Widely regarded as the most promising striker currently coming through the La Masia ranks, the South Korean was blocked from playing by FIFA in February after he was deemed ineligible. It is unclear what the future will hold for the youngster as a result, but, when on the pitch, he is usually unstoppable. Extremely quick, skilful and clinical, he will undoubtedly be a transfer target for Europe’s top clubs if and when the issue concerning his eligibility is resolved.
2) FRAN ALVAREZ (16) Left-back
Born in Tarragona, Alvarez is a versatile youngster who can operate at either left-back or on the left-wing. Quick and capable of delivering precise, dangerous crosses, Alvarez currently plays for Barcelona’s Juvenil B side, for whom he has been a regular starter.
3) AYOUB ABOU (15) Central-midfielder
Born in Morocco, Abou was a team-mate of Pleguezuelo’s in the Cadete A side last season. An extremely versatile midfielder renowned for his strong physical presence allied with impressive dribbling, Abou, who has just turned 15, has not received quite as much attention as some of his colleagues, but is nonetheless a huge prospect for the future.
4) THEO CHENDRI (16) Striker
A tall and physically imposing French striker who shone for the Cadete A side last season, Chendri’s aerial ability is his key strength, but the youngster is also comfortable in possession and is adept at linking up play. He will hope to be promoted to the elder age groups this campaign.
5) GIORGIO SPANOUDAKIS (14) Central-midfielder
One of the most well-known youngsters further down in the system, thanks largely to a series of YouTube compilations, Spanoudakis, a midfielder of Greek origin, is a craftsman in the typical Barcelona mould who is capable of playing delightful lofted balls to find his team-mates as well as dribbling past opponents with ease. He is also good friends with Pleguezuelo, which would be of great benefit should a potential move materialise.