Marc Cucurella falls into the category of the newest batches of young Spanish young talent coming up through the ranks in Catalonia, Spain. At just 19 years of age, the left back has already represented the Spanish youth sides 33 times for the Spanish U16 sides up until Spain U20’s, whilst also scoring twice for the U17 side. Cucurella, will be hoping his fine early career promise and potential will eventually help earn him a call up to the Spanish senior team.
Cucurella, who is currently playing his trade for Barcelona’s “B” team, which can be seen as a club which provides a stepping stone for some players who have the potential to one day play in the first team set up at Barcelona providing they are good enough. If not successful, then players in the team who are highly regarded often get sent out on loan or sold at clubs with more competition, and also in the meantime playing first team football at a higher level in a higher quality league.
Who is Marc Cucurella?
Marc Cucurella was born in Alella on 22 July 1998, a Spanish town practically next to the major city of Barcelona, Catalonia. Cucurella took his first steps in football in very different circumstances. Cucurella at first started playing futsal for his hometown club FS Alella before joining Espanyol’s youth sides between 2006 to 2012. In 2012, he then moved to Barcelona’s youth side where he then went on to make his debut for the side against fellow Spanish Segunda Division B side CE L’ Hospitalet. Cucurella played 19 times for the youth side in a season where he helped contribute to his sides promotion to the Segunda Division via the play offs. Cucurella made his professional debut on the 1st September against Grenada CF. Cucurella made his first team debut for Barcelona on the 24 October 2017, coming on as a substitute for Lucas Digne in the Copa Del Rey – the Spanish Equivalent of the English Emirates Cup which was formaely known as the FA Cup. Many people in the game already think that Cucurella is already a better equipped full back than the Frenchman Lucas Digne and is tipped for major things in the game.
Understandably, due to his high promise and potential, Barcelona had to fight off competition for his signature from a whole host of top European sides such as Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Manchester City in the summer of 2017. Cucurella eventually signed a new two year deal, with an option of a further year and this would have come as a relief to Barcelona who had already lost promising academy prospects Jordi Mboula and Eric Garcia to Monaco and Manchester City respectively in the same summer. Cucurella is a left back who possess endless energy coupled with his impressive great physical strength and powerful running which make him an incredibly useful asset as he brings an effective defensive and attacking value to the team, with a great deal of positive activity on the left hand side of the pitch.
After being promoted to Barcelona’s first team in 2017, gaining a morale and time boosting opportunity so early on his career playing in a Copa Del Rey match against Real Murcia, Cucurella will be hoping more opportunities arise and be given to him by Valverde to play for the first team. Despite seeing their bitter rivals Real Madrid sweep near enough all the trophies and honours in their path last season (2016/17) Barcelona may need to revamp the current squad that manager Valverde has at his current disposal and may give more chances to the youth players, something that Cucurella will grasp with both hands. Real Madrid have gone about their business in a very different manner, the recruitment model now at Real Madrid is certainly a whole lot different to the recruitment blueprint that was present at the club prior to Zidane taking charge where near enough, if not every summer millions of pounds were being thrown in order to find the next Galactico. Youth is certainly being given a chance, and Barcelona may have to go back to basics in order to find themselves again and to compete with Real Madrid again, and not to miss out on La Liga, and the UEFA Champions League trophy.
After joining Barcelona’s famous “La Masia” academy in 2012, Cucurella has regularly been compared to legendary Spanish and former Barcelona centre back Carles Puyol. Some say this because of his hairstyle, but mostly it is not that particular reason. His work rate and charisma play a vital role for his team on the pitch. Cucurella is one of the biggest talents to come out of Barcelona’s 1998 generation, next to Carles Alena, Lee Seung – Woo and Rafa Mujica – just a few names of the talented current crop. He is also a regular Spanish international. In 2015, he played at the European Under-17 Championship and currently is a member of the La Roja U19 side. Cucurella was also a key member in a Barcelona side that played a major role and made it to the semi finals of the UEFA Youth League semi finals last season. Valverde will be hoping his young starlet will push on and offer fierce competition for the full back positions, and provide competition for first team regulars Lucas Digne and Spanish full back Jordi Alba.
What is his Style of Play?
Marc Cucurella has been often compared to Spanish legend Carles Puyol, who arguably was the best Spanish defender to come out of Spain. Cucurella’s style of play can be based on various effective and precise intelligent attacking and defensive characteristics. Cucurella is also a defender who has consistency in his game, which is so often a dying trade in the game, especially in young players. He is a no nonsense hard tackling full back, added to that, his impressive work ethic which he brings to the team, makes him a very attractive option for any manager who is managing him. His natural reading of the game is very good, which makes him intelligent in picking up free space to run into and create attacks on the left hand flank, whilst also trying to defend for his team not letting the opposition gain any momentum in an counter attacking situation. He stands out for his reliability and his competitiveness. He knows when to get forward without forgetting about his defensive duties and is known for his pace and commitment to the cause.
Cucurella also likes to get ahead and overlap his winger in an attacking situation in order to provide in a good cross from a wide position into the box. Cucurella is also a defender that does not stand for any nonsense when coming up against an attacker of the opposition. He is very tenacious in his defending and is a true old school orthodox left sided defender, he is fearless when going in for a challenge and often keeps his discipline intact. As previously stated, Cucurella often makes off-the-ball runs and tries to find spaces to cause great damaging effect. Aerially he is very effective also, and despite his height, his is often able to win headed duals due to his efficient jumping technique. Cucurella’s overall style of play can be said that his endless energy coupled with his physical strength and powerful running make him an incredibly useful asset as he brings an offensive value to the team, with a lot of activity during 90 minutes on the left sided flank of the pitch.
What are his Strengths?
Cucurella has various strengths in his game despite his young age, and will only improve with age and overall experience by playing regular football and accumulating domestic minutes, which will help aid and act as a crucial component in his overall stages of his early development. Cucurella’s strengths are well rounded as he often specialises in many attacking and defensive departments. One of the various quality credentials that he brings are his pace and acceleration. He often utilises these traits well which naturally allow him to go past his opponents with ease, so as he is blessed with pace, it helps the full back bomb forward and create an attacking situation with his fellow team mates who are offering him support.
He also shows a great deal of determination in his game and this often shows when carrying out his defensive duties as his tacking and intercepting of the ball is often timed precisely and accurately, he is very reliable and very rarely lunges into a tackle knowing he will not gain any success out of it.
Other quality credentials that Cucurella possess is his agility and co-ordination, being in the right place at the right time. So often in young full backs – even experienced for that matter, they are so often caught out on the counter attack. For all their great attacking prowesses going forward – when intercepted, they are often caught out which could lead to the opposition scoring a goal and them being at fault for the mistake. This is why it can be stated that his co-ordination on the pitch is spot on as he is intelligent and knows when to go forward and when to stay back and carry out his defensive duties and being aware that it is not the right time to go forward, and instead to just allow the left winger in front do the job on that occasion whilst staying in his position.
A few final credentials that Cucurella has in his game is that he is an effective dribbler with the ball, a trait that is an necessity especially playing in the wide areas on the pitch. Being a great dribbler allows him to run down the wing whilst keeping the ball intelligently looking to find his team mates with a cross into the box, or to play a simple or a cross field pass. As well as his great effective understandable Barcelona style ball playing on the ground, Cucurella is also very effective in the air, and despite his average height of 5ft 9″ he is good option to have at your disposal whether in an attacking or defensive situation, he can be a good target to find when delivering a ball into the box, from a set-piece etc. Defensively too, for when needing to clear the ball away from an opposition set-piece or in an attack in general.
What are his Weaknessess?
For all the strengths that a modern-day full back possesses and are being taught, of course weaknesses are present in their game. Cucurella is a quality young full back; however, it can be said that sometimes he can be a little too predictable and one dimensional. Instead of looking to go about it differently he may go forward too many times, leaving his space behind in exposed. Cucurella’s weaknesses could also be to look to release the ball quicker, instead of holding onto it for too long, and become unpredictable, but this will come with age and experience, and it will be a learning curve for him as he continues to learn his trade.
If Cucurella wants to improve his game greater at Barcelona whilst still young and get into good footballing habits, then he will need to create a balance in his play and develop plays in his game where it is hard for the opposition to figure him out. This will help him, and stop causing a hindrance in particularly his attacking play, but being at Barcelona, and all the effective footballing technicians left, right and centre, he will soon learn that and add it to his game.
To adapt to a new league is always very difficult, being in the Segunda Division is certainly a whole new different cattle of fish compared to the youth league sides he was playing against not so long ago. Complete adaptation takes many months to adapt to certain situations. Playing in a step higher competitive league can take months to get used to, there will be certain departments in his game where he will need to develop to make his adaptation to the this division a little easier. This could mean not to expect to start week in week out, and instead being patient for the chance to come his way, and just work hard in training and adapt to the methods of the coach in training in Barcelona’s “B” team, whilst recognising that even players that cost many millions of pound find it difficult to play in the first team, let alone youth players coming up the developmental ladder.
It is only natural that a new player in a league takes a while to settle to the mental and physical demands of a new environment. On the 24th October, Cucurella made his debut for Barcelona in a cup match against fellow Spanish side Real Murcia, coming on as a late substitute. Achieving such a feat at a young age is every young person dream growing up and therefore despite this remarkable achievement, has the potential to achieve bigger and better things for his new club. Barcelona, are a club that as previously stated celebrate young talent especially in their famed La Masia, so being promoted to a club of the stature of Barcelona in time will eventually be the perfect opportunity for Cucurella to show the footballing world, he is the real deal to become a global star of the game.