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There were few surprises when Spain retained the European Championship this summer but one player, not as well known, really stood out. Jordi Alba, who had signed for Barcelona prior to the tournament, put in some stunning displays during the early rounds and confirmed his growing reputation by scoring one and assisting another in the final.
Whilst many of the watching masses were not overly familiar with the marauding left back many Spanish football fans were only too well aware of his potential. Having begun his career as a left midfielder at the now infamous La Masia youth set up at Barcelona he was released and was picked up by Valencia.
It was only during his second full season that the then manager Unai Emery deployed him at left back. Neither the player nor the club looked back after that decision and his form there last season caught the eye of his boyhood club.
Having had such a successful Euro 2012 it was thought that Alba’s transition into the Barcelona side would be relatively straight forward but nobody quite predicted the almost seamless impact he has made.
The understanding that he has displayed with his team mates is quite stunning at times and like most high level sport when done to the highest level it looks effortless. His link up play with Andres Iniesta verges on the telepathic at some stages and considering they have only played together for six or seven months it is staggering.
Making that change from left midfield to left back has without a doubt enhanced his career. As a left midfielder he was a promising player who with sound technique and pace to burn would have been a very good Spanish league player. However, with those attributes allied with a good football brain and someone who is naturally a good defender the outcome has been wonderful.
Whilst the Barcelona side have been lauded by everyone over the last few years one aspect of their side has remained an issue; their defence. With Eric Abidal sidelined because of injury it was essential that the club secured a very good replacement. When you also consider that Daniel Alves’ form has been variable it became even more important.
What is so impressive about Alba is that his defensive abilities are naturally very good. Many full-backs in the modern game rely on pace alone to enable them to nullify their opponents but the Barcelona left back has great positional sense. In a role that requires him to spend most of his time attacking the balance he has managed to achieve this season deserves a lot of credit.
There are very few players in Alba’s position that can currently rival his form and long term potential. It certainly appears that Barcelona have pulled off another wonderful deal in bringing back ‘one of their own’.
With major trophies up for grabs again it could round off a wonderful year for Jordi Alba and few would argue against him deserving the accolades.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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