Sergi Samper should be pulling the strings in Barcelona’s midfield.
The Spaniard joined the club’s La Masia academy at the age of six and was touted as one of the brightest prospects around.
Sadly for Samper, injuries would taint his journey from academy alumni to Barca regular.
The Spaniard’s cultured style should have secured him a place in Barca’s midfield for years.
A pivot metronome built in a similar mould to the effortless Sergio Busquets, Samper was the subject of interest from clubs across Europe during his Barca infancy.
Arsene Wenger was an admirer of the midfielder and offered him the chance to accelerate his development in north London.
Samper’s affection for Barca would be the deciding factor as he rejected Arsenal in favour of waiting for his chance to come at the Nou Camp.
“I did not want to listen to Wenger,” Samper said in 2011.
“I told him clearly that I wanted to stay, I wanted to succeed at Barcelona, and what would make me happy was succeeding at Barcelona in the future.”
Hindsight would expose Samper’s blind loyalty as misplaced.
The Spaniard was forced to wait three years after rejecting the Gunners before he made his first team debut in September 2014.
After failing to nail down a regular spot under Luis Enrique, Samper was loaned out to Granada in 2016/17 where he made a respectable 23 appearances.
A further season away from the Nou Camp with Las Palmas then followed in 2017/18.
Injuries and poor form resigned the midfielder to just five appearances for the Canary club and failed to convince Ernesto Valverde of his first team credentials.
The Spaniard has seven major honours to his name including Champions League and La Liga medals but was merely a ghost in both campaigns.
Now 24 years old and just 13 Barca appearances later Samper’s first team dream is over before it ever really began.
The Spaniard is set to sign a four-year deal with Vissel Kobe in a move that will reunite him with former team-mate Andres Iniesta.
Instead of starring alongside each other at the heart of Barca’s midfield the pair will link up in Japan’s J1 League.
His curveball transfer comes at an age unusual for such a move and highlights the Spaniard’s startlingly fall from grace.
From rejecting Wenger and having the hopes of a fan base on his shoulders, Samper’s career now looks resigned to the footballing graveyard.
If not for injuries he could have been a superstar of Barca’s midfield.
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