Manchester City sign the 'new Lionel Messi' Brahim Abdelkader, and in doing so put one over Barcelona

City beat the La Liga side to the signing of the 14-year-old from Malaga on Tuesday

Manchester City pulled off quite a coup on Tuesday when they signed 14-year-old Brahim Abdelkader from Malaga because he has been talked about in Spain as the new Lionel Messi. And much of that talk has come from people at Barcelona who remember the Argentine arriving in Catalonia at a similar age.

Barcelona scouts, who have watched Abdelkader’s progress over the last two years and tried and failed to bring him to Barça, believe he has the same quick feet, speed of movement and close control as Messi at that age but displays more leadership and personality.

He takes corners from the right with his left foot and corners from the left with his right foot. He can play as a striker, off the striker, either side of the striker or in midfield. And he has been playing with players three years older than himself in the youth categories at Malaga.

If Barcelona’s attempts to sign him are a reliable gauge, this is not a shot in the dark by City but a coup. They were not the only Premier League club who wanted the teenager but perhaps most significantly they beat Barça to the punch.

The boy had been taken on a trip to the Nou Camp and introduced to Messi and the rest of the players. But Malaga were unhappy with the manner in which Barça tried to sign him. In May 2011 a lunch between directors of Malaga and Barcelona ahead of an end-of-season La Liga meeting between the two clubs was cancelled because of ill-feeling over Barça’s pursuit.

Enter Manchester City, a club now run by former Barcelona executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain. Brahim’s family were convinced by the plans for City’s new training complex and that magic, and still occasionally derided, word “project”. City will pay no more than the €300,000 compensation stipulated by Fifa to Malaga when the player turns 16.

Abdelkader wanted to stay at Malaga but the move abroad will be made easier by having mum, dad and his three brothers with him. They are all due to arrive in England next week. The prodigy already speaks English after attending an English school in Malaga. He will train with City and be schooled by the club – just as Messi was at Barcelona when he joined as a 13-year-old from Rosario. It is a victory for the Premier League over La Liga, but what does it do for English football?

Youth academies flooded by foreign youngsters remain an obstacle in the Football Association’s attempts to give the England team a greater pool of talent to pick from.

Brahim’s father is of Moroccan descent and his mother is Spanish. As things stand he wants to play for Spain. But if he spends five years in Manchester and becomes the 19-year-old sensation City believe he will, he will qualify for England under residency rules and it will be down to him to choose.

 

Barça look to be living on borrowed time after the saga of Song’s boots

Barcelona’s Champions League defeat to Ajax in Amsterdam last week was one of the club’s worst performances in Europe in recent memory but a story published by the paper closest to the club, Diario Sport, also spoke about the state of the Spanish champions off the pitch as well.

Sport reported that Alex Song had worn a pair of boots during the match that were a size too big and borrowed from Sergi Busquets because Song had given his boots away to celebrating supporters in Cameroon after he helped the country beat Tunisia in the World Cup play-offs to reach next summer’s finals in Brazil.

His new boots had not arrived in time for the Ajax game and he ended up wearing Busquet’s second pair.

With the margins ever smaller in terms of who wins and who loses and with something to gain from every match – Uefa prize money was at stake for Barça, even though they had already qualified for the knockout stage – it seems difficult to fathom how such a Sunday League scenario might have taken place in the Champions League and from a club that have won the competition three times in the last 10 years.

Barcelona have dominated possession less this season than in recent campaigns. Statistics published this week suggest they average 66 per cent as opposed to 72 per cent in Pep Guardiola’s last campaign. But somehow Song’s boots story says as much about how things have changed than any passing statistics.

The midfielder is not the reason why they were beaten by Ajax, but the fading of that ultra-professionalism and attention to detail under Guardiola may have a lot to do with the sense that this Barcelona team is not what it once was.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert