Arsenal's swoop for Cesc Fabregas when he was still a youngster is well known, and in recent years the Gunners have executed similar moves in signing two of the most promising Barca youngsters, Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral. It looks like Arsene Wenger's men have been given a taste of their own medicine from the Catalans however, after Barca snapped up young Columbian winger Giancarlo Poveda from the London side. talkSPORT has more on the Columbian and other controversial Gunners/Barca youth transfers...
Barcelona have a habit of finding future talent at an early stage, but Arsenal have proved a thorn in their side on occasion, landing three of the most promising kids from the Barca academy. In Giancarlo Poveda, Barcelona may one day have their revenge. The left-winger, who is still only 12 years old, started his career at Puerto Malagueno in Malaga and was playing with Arsenal's academy when Barcelona came calling in recent weeks. Barca's move for the winger has been given the all clear, as it falls in line with Fifa regulations that state players younger than 16 (within the EU) cannot play in a different country from that in which their parents reside. With his family now living in Malaga, Poveda has recently taken up residence in Barca's New Masia academy, and the attacker has been training as part of Barca's Infantil B youth team in recent weeks, impressing coach Marcel Sans enough to take part in a friendly tie last Wednesday against Jabac. The Colombian performed well in the 1-0 win, so it looks like he's at Barcelona to stay, and if he one day develops into the finished article as a senior player, Arsenal could rue the day that they let him go. Barcelona, meanwhile, could taste sweet revenge for three previous occasions the Gunners have lured promising talent from Catalonia…
Name: Hector Bellerin
Barca graduate Hector Bellerin is a right wing-back with all the hallmarks you would expect from a La Masia graduate, but Arsenal managed to snatch him out of Catalan hands to sign his first professional contract in 2011. Bellerin reasoned that the path to the first team at Arsenal was clearer than at the Nou Camp, where Dani Alves and Martin Montoya have the position well covered. Bellerin came to Barcelona's academy as an eight-year old, playing almost always as a winger, though occasionally filling in further back, but at Arsenal he was soon converted to his current position on the right side of the defence. Known for his speed, crossing ability and work rate both on and off the ball, Bellerin arrived at Arsenal already a well-rounded player from his Barca days. His rapid progress at the Emirates even saw him named as part of the squad for Arsenal's Capital One Cup win against Reading, and though he never entered the field of play, it's surely only a matter of time before he makes his debut.
Name: Jon Toral
Signed in the same summer as Bellerin, Jon Toral isn't the first talented young midfielder Arsenal have lured from La Masia. Toral is capable of playing across multiple positions in midfield and, along with his technical competence, has the physical presence necessary for English football. The midfielder arrived at Barcelona in 2004, but when he turned 16 in 2011 he signed a professional deal with Arsenal, where he has impressed both with his goal scoring and vision, causing inevitable comparisons to a certain former Arsenal and current Barcelona star. Toral has even admitted that he and Bellerin have used moves they learned at Barca's academy to score goals for Arsenal's reserves. Toral's mother is English, so he has dual nationality and could play for England, meaning Arsenal may not be the only side to benefit from his move to London.
Name: Cesc Fabregas
The most famous case of all, Fabregas was part of a golden generation of Barca players including Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, and Victor Vazquez, the latter being a striker who would likely have hit similar heights had injury not curtailed his progression. Yet despite Cesc's brilliance at the Barcelona academy, Arsenal pounced with perfect timing in 2003, bringing him into their academy before signing his first professional deal the following season. Fabregas would go on to become an idol at the Emirates, but the lengthy debacle over his eventual return to the Nou Camp left something of a bitter taste. Perhaps the more indignant Arsenal supporters should reconsider any ill-feeling towards Barcelona, in light of the two examples above, and it might even be worth preparing themselves for more Barca homecomings in the future, as the likes of Jordi Alba, Fabregas and Pique have shown that it's difficult to turn down a return to the three time European champions.
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