Carles Alena: The Barcelona teenage star who is nicknamed Maradona & idolises Iniesta

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The young Barcelona midfielder told Goal in an interview in March that he hopes to move up to the first team and spend "many years" at Camp Nou


EXCLUSIVE

Carles Alena is the next in line. The Barcelona B midfielder is looking to move up to the senior squad this summer after signing a new contract with the Catalan club on Wednesday - and he hopes to stick around for a long time to come.

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The 19-year-old featured for Luis Enrique's side in pre-season, but made his full debut for Barca in the Copa del Rey earlier in 2016-17 when he scored the team's only goal in a 1-1 draw away to Hercules. However, he is not letting that memorable moment go to his head.

"I'm doing well and I try to handle the situation with normality," he told Goal earlier this year after being named in the NxGn as one of the world's 50 best teenagers born in 1998 or after. "I assume that my job is to play for the youth team, even though there may be times when I am with the first team. I'm delighted with the situation, working very hard and without thinking about that goal I scored.

"I prefer to go game by game, without reading the press or taking much notice of what people say. I just want to go day by day, helping my team-mates and receiving their support. I think that is the right path to ensure that things work out well."

Diego Maradona - Barcelona

Alena is left-footed, but is currently playing on the right side of the midfield for Barca B and said: "That's where I like playing best - as an 'interior'  a pierna cambiada (on the other foot), so that I can cut inside."

And he added: "I try to feel good wherever I play, but if you ask me, that's the position I like the best."

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When he was younger, Alena was nicknamed "Maradona" by his team-mates, but he laughed and said: "They don't say that so much now. It's something that started in the cadete team because I was left-footed and I had the same hairstyle, but I don't identify myself with him when I'm playing.

"I don't have the same profile as him, but I always took it as a compliment. In any case, I don't think we can be compared!"

Carles Alena

In fact, Alena's idol as a youngster was another left-footed former Barca icon: Rivaldo. These days, however, he looks up to another La Masia graduate and current member of the first team at the Catalan club: Andres Iniesta.

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"Rivaldo was my idol when I was little," he said. "Then there was Deco, who played in my position. Now I look a lot at Andres Iniesta, just like I did with Xavi before. That's the type of profile that interests me, in order to learn and translate that on the field of play."

As well as his goal in the Copa del Rey, Alena has two for Barca B this term and seven assists - and it is that form that should see him move up to the senior squad at the end of this season.

"I want to stay here and reach the first team - that's clear," he said. "But in football you never know. It's a world in which a lot of things change and I know I could end up somewhere else. But my objective is to be here for many more years."

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