The heir to Messi? Why Deulofeu is capable of wowing Everton & the Premier League

Videos of the attacker as a 12-year-old bring a young Lionel Messi to mind, but he must overcome some problems with his attitude if he is to realise his incredible potential
By Pilar Suarez

What is the link between Lionel Messi and Everton? The answer is Gerard Deulofeu.

The Toffees completed the loan signing of the exciting 19-year-old forward on Wednesday, a player who has been tipped to reach the very top by many in Spain. A player, dare they say, capable of reaching the meteoric levels of Barcelona's Argentine maestro.

But the arrival of Neymar at Camp Nou seems to have cut off the youngster's direct route to the first team for the time being. For a while, some observers even questioned how wise it was for Barca to go for the Brazilian when they already had Deulofeu in their ranks.


Such is the 19-year-old's ability, many have been campaigning for the ludicrously talented forward to make the step up to the full squad for some time. And he has certainly been knocking at the door.

Despite all the comparisons with Messi, however, Deulofeu's style is, ironically, more aligned with that of the 26-year-old's biggest rival - a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yes, he boasts fantastic dribbling ability and electric pace and is not afraid to throw the odd lollipop or six but, just like Ronaldo in the early days, there are occasions when he infuriatingly tries to do too much.

But for all the raw pace, fleetness of foot, and devastating finishing, there have been attitude problems that have hampered his development and suitability to play alongside Messi et al.

Deulofou is the only Barca B player to be signed up to Nike, having reached the agreement when he was just 12. He penned a contract worth over £120,000 per year with the company when he was 14! That reflects his status as the best young player on the books, but it seems to have gone to his head. That is understandable; he has been under the spotlight for the best part of a decade, and he's still a teenager.

He is also inconsistent. While he is capable of truly breathtaking moments, he can go missing from time to time, even in a second division of varying quality. He also had a tough time as Spain went out to Uruguay in the quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup on Saturday.

Barca Juvenil A coach Oscar Garcia Junyent once had to ask the striker to apologise after he told several rival players to "stop by the locker room and I'll sign an autograph for you".

It's clear that there are some rough edges that need to be smoothed before he can be considered a reliable option for the first team, and that is probably why he is being sent to Everton.

His lack of maturity, perceived or otherwise, may explain why he has not been given more first-team opportunities despite having made his senior debut in 2011. Oddly, his bow was a 5-0 win against Mallorca. His latest appearance, in April of this year, was also a 5-0 win over Mallorca. There has been little in between, though, despite incredible form for the B team; he scored 18 goals and created a further six in 33 matches this season.

Many of those goals have been YouTube hits; a hat-trick against Almeria included a long-range free kick into the top corner and a goal direct from a corner, while he has proved adept at skipping between defenders and rounding the goalkeeper. He's been doing the same for seven years; the videos of him as a 12-year-old resemble those of Messi when he was growing up at la Masia.

But when the coaches at Camp Nou warn that he has a long way to go, which is of course true of any young player at any club in the world, you always get the sense that they are really trying to appeal to Deulofeu's common sense. 'You've got it, kid, don't throw it away.'

"Deulofeu has great potential, but he's only 17 and still needs to learn a lot. He doesn't yet deserve front pages," Pep Guardiola warned two years ago.

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Not much has changed since then.

"Gerard Deulofeu is a player with a lot to offer, but he still needs to improve a lot before he can form part of the first team. We have to see how he adapts to games. He is still very, very young," Tito Vilanova followed up this season.

"He has to improve to play in the first team. He's spectacular, but football is much more than having two great moments in a match," Tito added at a separate date.

Of course, Barcelona have no intention of letting his vast talent go to waste. With many fans worried he would leave for nothing when his contract expired in June, the club tied him to a new four-year deal a matter of weeks ago.

But with the likes of Messi, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello and Neymar all currently ahead of Deulofeu in the pecking order, it is not surprising that he has made the decision to move out on loan - and Everton, under the careful guidance of fellow Spaniard Roberto Martinez, could be the perfect fit.

In any case, it is rare for a player to force their way straight from the Barca youth and B set-ups into the first-team - just ask Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas - and the Premier League, should Deulofeu be afforded plenty of minutes during the 2013-14 campaign, will provide the perfect test of his abilities.

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