PROFILE: Training with ‘unpredictable’ Messi has given City newboy tools for success in England
- Credit: Norwich City FC
Xavi Quintilla’s graduation from Barcelona’s academy may have given him an insight into life under Daniel Farke at Norwich City.
The Spaniard joined the Canaries on a season-long loan yesterday – ending a long pursuit by City.
With Farke’s philosophy being reliant upon technically proficient footballers capable and comfortable in possession, there seems no better place for the Canaries to source their talent than from a place where Johan Cryuff’s legacy remains.
Quintilla was a prominent member of the Barcelona under-19 side which won the Uefa Youth League in 2014, alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Adama Traore and Sevilla forward Munir.
Quintilla developed through the Barcelona academy alongside his brother Jordi, an attacking midfielder who is currently on the books of Swiss side St Gallen.
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The 23-year-old spent nine years at the Camp Nou, and cherishes the experience of developing at one of the world’s most established clubs.
Speaking to Mundo Deportivo last year, Quintilla said: “It’s been a long time since I arrived at La Masia, at the age of 13, when Barcelona signed me. It is the first thing you dream of. Watching your idols play and train every day is what you aspire to do.
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“I have many very good memories. It’s a dream for everyone (to play for Barcelona).”
Playing at left-back for Villarreal saw the Spanish youth international compete against Lionel Messi, someone he describes as ‘unpredictable’.
“He is the best in the world,” he said.
“Facing Messi is totally unpredictable. I had the privilege of training with him once, but in every game he surprises you and does new things to you. You have to be at the maximum level of concentration and the whole team has to help and play a very complete game.”
Jamie Kemble, senior football writer at the Leicester Mercury and Villarreal fan, believes Quintilla’s technical capabilities learnt in Barcelona’s academy are his strongest assets.
“As you might expect with La Masia pedigree, Xavi is technically gifted,” he said.
“He has a sweet left foot and he’s a good passer of the ball. Whether it’s long or short, he’s an assured passer, and he loves playing balls down the line to put wingers in promising positions.
“He is pretty limited with his right foot, but that can be the case with left-footed players.
“Xavi isn’t particularly pacey, but he can hold his own. He has a good cross and creativity is where his strengths lie. He is an okay defender from what we have seen, and he may improve given his age and that fact he has been thrust in at the highest level, but protection in behind wouldn’t go amiss, particularly in the Championship.
“There are few leagues where it’s more difficult to play full-back. You get far more space in that position in the Premier League and La Liga.”
Quintilla was linked with a move to England aged 15, with Arsenal reportedly interested in bringing him to their academy in the same way they did with Cesc Fabregas.
But the left-back elected to remain in Spain with Villarreal - and has fallen victim to Unai Emery’s squad overhaul, despite signing a new contract extension until 2023 in February.
“Quintilla found himself rotated as part of that attempt to fix the back-line and the more experienced Alberto Moreno came in,” Kemble explains.
“Emery’s appointment seems to have been the decisive factor in Quintilla’s exit. From what I’ve heard, the former Arsenal boss just wants to strengthen that position, and even Moreno is likely to find himself number two.
“I like Xavi, but I can’t blame Emery for that. Villarreal do have to get better defensively still, and at the top of La Liga and back in the Europa League, they need stronger options at left-back.”
The Canaries were linked with a move for the 23-year-old in January when he had six months remaining on his contract - but a change in situation has enacted a deal sooner than initially expected.
But, Kemble believes Quintilla’s game does need refinement, something that Farke has gained a reputation for doing.
“I think defensively he still has lots to learn, though that will come with experience.
“The Championship will be a huge test for him, having an opposing player straight on every touch. But it might be a blessing for him, too.
“He might need to be thrown into the deep end a little to learn how to become a physical defender. Though, the technical side of his game will always be what stands out, so it depends what Farke asks of him.”