It took him 33 seconds to make an impact, and he isn't even one of Barcelona's top prospects. Forced into playing a key role because of a number of injuries, 17-year old Marc Guiu, fresh off of a scoring appearance with Barcelona's U-19 team in the UEFA Youth League, subbed into the senior team against Athletic Club last weekend and almost immediately scored the game winner in a 1-0 victory. The win kept Barcelona within one point of the LaLiga lead, and it served as a hell of a reminder of the upside the club boasts at the youth level.
Guiu probably isn't going to become an overnight star -- once attackers like Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha return from injury, his minutes will probably again become minimal -- but Barca might already have the world's best compilation of bright, young talent on its senior roster. And if they don't, Real Madrid might.
The best rivalries are, all at once, about the past, the present and the future. You always recall huge past meetings -- and typically, past stars still linger in and around the stadium, especially on derby days -- you always compare your spot at the table to that of your biggest rivals, and you're always keeping an eye on your -- and their -- future direction as well. And these three things take on more focus in El Clasico than in perhaps any derby in the sport.
This year's first Barcelona-Real Madrid meeting (Stream LIVE, Saturday, 10:15 a.m. ET, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes) might be particularly geared toward the future.
Jude Bellingham, by far Real Madrid's best player so far, is still just 20 years old, as is another key player, midfielder and occasional fill-in fullback Eduardo Camavinga. Barcelona, meanwhile, is teeming with current and future stars: Among their 10 leading minutes earners in 2023-24 are 19-year old midfielder Gavi, 20-year old fullback Alejandro Balde and 16-year old winger Lamine Yamal. When healthy, 20-year old midfielder Pedri might be their best player, and 20-year old midfielder Fermin is playing a role, too. Ansu Fati, still only 20 and currently loaned to Brighton, has already scored 29 goals with six assists in all competitions for Barcelona over parts of four seasons. And now Guiu has made a mark, too.
To emphasize how well-stocked these clubs are in the youth department, allow me to don my college football cap for a second.
The football and futbol worlds are far more similar than fans of either sport generally want to admit. Most of the time when I say that, I am talking about the territorial nature of the sports, or teams' extensive histories and regional ties, or, often, the rampant and frustrating inequality baked into both sports. But it also applies to an obsession about the future.
In both sports, we treat the acquisition of prospects almost as a sport in itself. College football fans demand that their coaches not only beat their rivals on the field, but in the recruiting rankings as well. In both sports, we obsess over YouTube (or Hudl) highlight packages with outlandishly optimistic titles. And in both, a coach can often buy himself time by playing the youngsters and hinting at a bright future that might trump a dim present.
Granted, soccer doesn't have recruiting class rankings ... or does it? What are the Transfermarkt player values if not recruiting rankings of sorts? And where would Barcelona and Real Madrid fit on that ranking?