Quique Setien has called four La Masia players into first team training, including 18-year-old Miami-born winger Konrad de la Fuente.
February 17, 2020 —
New Barcelona boss Quique Setién has called four La Masia players into first team training, including 18-year-old Miami-born winger Konrad de la Fuente.
De La Fuente finds himself in uncharted territory. He is the only American player at FC Barcelona’s prestigious academy, known as La Masia, and the second American ever at La Masia after Ben Lederman (who was there from 2011 to 2014.) Some of the most famous names in Barcelona and Spanish history have passed through La Masía since its founding. The list includes the likes of Mikel Arteta, Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquetes, Carles Puyol, Pep Guardiola, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and a certain player named Lionel Messi.
De La Fuente has scored once in three appearances for Barcelona B this season; his goal came on Feb. 2. The young forward, whose preferred position is on the left side, has four goals and two assists in 14 career UEFA Youth League matches this season, including three goals in five matches this season. His goals have come against Inter Milan, Chelsea, Slavia Prague, and PSV Eindhoven. Transfermarkt lists his current market value as being $550,000.
Other European teams have noticed De La Fuente, most notably Hertha Berlin from the Bundesliga, a league that has been open to American players. Barcelona seems intent on keeping him however, and currently are working on a new contract that will permanently promote De La Fuente to the Barcelona B squad.
It’s been a most unusual path for a young American soccer player. De La Fuente is 18 now, and has lived in Spain with his family for eight years. Konrad moved with his parents, Conrad and Jennifer, and his younger brother, Richard, to Madrid in 2011 so that his father could take a job as a commercial attaché in the Haitian embassy. Soon after arriving, Konrad tried out for CF Damm Youth, a youth club in Barcelona that competes in the División de Honor Juvenil, the top level of the Spanish football league system for youth players 18 years old and under in Spain. He moved there with his mother and brother. Two years later, Barça scouted him and asked him to join the youth academy, La Masia, two weeks before his 13th birthday.
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Patrick Kluivert, the former Barcelona striker who became the Director of Youth Football at La Masia in July 2019, told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl in November, 2019, this about the young American:
“I’ve spoken quite a few times with Konrad,” Kluivert told SI.com. “I think Konrad is a very bright player. He has a very good one-on-one action. He needs to score more, but as I say that in the last three games he has scored four goals, so that’s a good thing. I think when he continues like this next year, he will be for sure in the Barça B team.” Kluivert was right. As mentioned above, De La Fuente has three appearances for Barcelona B this season. “His individual skills are very good. He’s got a great future in front of him.”
De La Fuente’s parents are Haitian and he has dual citizenship with Spain and the United States. On an international level, he’s played 19 times for the U.S. national teams between the U-16 and U-20 age levels, and is considered a future prospect for the US senior team.
De La Fuente obviously has pace, which is needed for a winger, but what sets him apart from other speedy wingers is that he has a tendency to play laterally. He isn’t afraid to cut inside and beat wingers with side-to-side moves, similar to a young Andrés Iniesta when he was utilized on the wing. Due to that tendency to cut inside and take advantage of space, he is also very comfortable using his opposite left foot. This makes Konrad tough to defend against, since he can initiate his move to the left or right, often forcing defenders to play off-balance. His unpredictability allows him to be creative and it’s very evident on the pitch.
As for his day-to-day world, De La Fuente trains each morning before focusing on his schoolwork in the afternoon; he is currently taking business classes. Knowing not every youth athlete will turn professional, Barça introduced Masia 360 to guide its more than 600 athletes across five sports toward a brighter future whether it’s on the field or off it.
“You never know what can happen—an injury or anything in the game or training—and your career is over so you have to be prepared for anything, and Masia 360 really helps with that,” de la Fuente said. Unlike some La Masia pleyers who board at the academy, Konrad lives with his family in an apartment in Barcelona.
As for Konrad’s immediate ambitions, he is very clear: “I’m really thankful,” he said, “and just trying to work hard every day to get to the first team.” Indeed, the future appears very bright for this young player.