Who is the talented young Pau Cubarsi?

By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter

“When Pau Cubarsi has the ball at his feet, my heart rate doesn’t go up,” – Xavi

Not many defenders can stop Victor Osimhen from threatening. The Nigerian striker is deadly and was thirsty for goals when he arrived with Napoli at the Nou Camp for the Champions League Round of 16 second leg. Enter Pau Cubarsi. The 17-year-old Spanish, Barcelona centre-back deputised for injured, more experienced players and kept Osimhen entirely at bay to pick up the Man of the Match Award. At the full-time whistle, Cubarsi was mobbed by several Barca players who went running straight towards him to celebrate. But who is this mystery, magical centre-back?

Cubarsi grew up in a small town, 100 kilometres north of Barcelona, and joined La Maria as a young boy. Throughout all the age groups, he often played alongside budding superstar Lamine Yamal. Cubarsi started to get noticed when he featured in the UEFA Youth League in 2022. He became the third-youngest Barcelona player to make an appearance when he played against Viktoria Plzen in 2022. Catching the eye of manager Xavi, Cubarsi was introduced into first-team training at the beginning of the season.

On 18 January 2024, aged 16, Cubarsí made his first team debut against Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey, being subbed on in the 46th minute. He started to make more appearances in the first team and when Marcos Alonso and Alejandro Balde both got injured, Barcelona had to employ a makeshift defence which saw Cubarsi partner with Ronald Araujo at centre-back. They could have never imagined that it would go so well.

Barcelona have now kept four consecutive clean sheets in La Liga, many thanks to Cubarsi’s rock-solid partnership with Araujo. Facing Getafe, Bilbao and Mallorca, Cubarsi kept all their attackers at bay. The next test came at Atletico Madrid, a cauldron with a bubbling hot atmosphere, and elite, experienced attackers like Memphis Depay, Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann to keep quiet. He did so with aplomb as Barcelona sauntered to a 3-0 win in the Spanish capital.

Cubarsi’s impressive performance vs. Atletico Madrid (365Scores)

He keeps going from strength to strength. He has a 90.9% success rate in tackling opposition attackers (99th percentile), is an excellent ball carrier and most impressively for his ripe age, has an exceptional passing ability. After the Napoli game, Xavi said of him: “I’m calm when he has the ball. It’s priceless. Napoli pressed and he always found the best option. When he plays direct he plays with sense. He’s getting better every day. We are in front of a wonderful breakthrough.”

High praise indeed! He’s not all perfect yet. He is still too rash in some of his tackling, and his aerial duel win percentage leaves something to be desired. He only wins 55.3% of his aerial duels, ranking in the 30th percentile in comparison to other European league centre-backs (via FBref). He’ll inevitably make some mistakes in his development; no player progresses in a linear pattern.

Regardless, his top performance for Barcelona saw him called up to Spain’s squad in the recent international break. He made substitute appearances against Colombia and Brazil, but he could well be in the squad for Euro 2024 and who knows, potentially even be in line for a starting spot…

Cubarsi is young, but he is wise beyond his years (Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images)

Before that, he’s got the Champions League with Barcelona to focus on, where he can look forward to his biggest challenge yet. Keeping Osimhen quiet is one thing, keeping Mbappé quiet would be another. He’s the best, most explosive player in the world. Locking the French wizard up would signify the arrival of a future defensive great. All eyes will be on Cubarsi and it’s going to be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it just so happens that Barcelona’s desperate need for fresh young talents has led to Lamal and Cubarsi breaking through, two top players who will be key for them for years to come. Say it quietly, but Gerard Pique’s replacement might already have arrived…

Keep up with all the latest Pau Cubarsi and Barcelona scores and news on the 365Scores website and app!


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