It was made official the other day that FC Barcelona had signed Valencia left-back Jordi Alba. In other words, the time has come for this Catalan boy to return home.
Jordi Alba was born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat in 1989. From there he started out playing pre-benjamín football with local team Hospitalense before joining FC Barcelona at the age of 10 in 1999. It was at Barça that Jordi spent the longest spell of his youth football, playing for the club for 6 years. However, after having played two seasons for the Cadet B team, he was released by the Club as he was too little, too small, too short. Jordi then went to Cornella for two seasons before being signed by Valencia B in 2007. A spent a year on loan to Gimnàstic before making his first team debut for Valencia in 2009. From there, Alba’s career has blossomed.
The new Barcelona left back was once the ‘Romario of Hospitalense’. While Johan Cruyff’s dream team was ruling the world with the magic of their football, the boys at Hospitalense in Barcelona dreamed of playing like the Barcelona players. Most had Stoickhov as their hero, but in this pre-benjamin squad there was one boy, one year younger than the rest, with the captain’s armband on his arm and an eye for goal, whose hero was not Stoickkov but rather Romario and Laudrup. Jordi was not blond like the Danish midfielder Laudrup, he had dark hair and scored goals like Romario. This is why his teammates started to identify him with Barça’s Brazilian scorer.
At this young age, team captains were usually the most respected players on the pitch. And Jordi was the perfect captain as he had the right character. But, it must be said, he was a bit of a rat: mischievous and cunning, but with a logic that made a difference as a player. Even though he was one year younger than the rest, one of his old teammates, Javier de San Nicolás, remembers that “the truth is Jordi was a role model for me. And he still is, both professionally and personally.”
As he turned 10 years old, it was time for Hospitalense’s Romario to join his dream club, FC Barcelona. Even playing for a big club like Barça, Jordi would not change, neither as a person nor as a player. “Jordi’s football has always been the same, joining Barça would not change that,” remembers Javier de San Nicolás. At Barça, the diminutive Jordi would show his qualities as he progressed through the youth teams, once again wearing the captain’s armband. His first manager at the blaugrana club would be Félix Sánchez, followed by Sergio Lobera, Xavi Llorens, Rodolf Borrell and Joan Salvans. Alba was part of various squads that included Bojan Krkic, Fran Mérida and the Dos Santos brothers, among others.
Even though Jordi always was the smallest in the team, his qualities on the football field would overshadow the problem. That was until he turned 15, at which point his physical handicap became too big of an issue. Jordi, being almost two heads shorter than his peers, was seen as too small by the Barcelona club. So instead of being promoted to Cadet A, Jordi was left for a second year playing with the Cadet B team, as the Club believed he would not be able to compete against much bigger boys. The coming season, it was decided that Jordi would be released from the club, although the boy had support from Albert Benaiges. This mistake of letting Jordi go was make by the Club in 2005.
Having to leave the blaugrana club was a big blow for the young Jordi Alba. Always the consummate competitor, he would give his all, and quickly adapted to his new club. After showing great progress at Cornellá, Jordi was picked up by Valencia B in 2007, where he made his professional debut in the Spanish fourth division. After one season, he was loaned to Gimnàstic for a season in the second division. Being a vital player there and showing his qualities, the next season for the young Jordi would be spent with Valencia’s first team, where he grew to become one of the first division’s most important players.
Before the Euro 2012 Championship started, Jordi had played a total of three games with Del Bosque’s national team. The boy from Catalunya has played every single minute for Spain in this tournament, making one assist and being by far one of the team’s most important players. On Sunday he may also win his first real silverware, hopefully as the newly crowned champion of Europe.
No matter what happens on Sunday, Jordi Alba will be happy because he is about to return to the Club that h always been closest to his heart. Jordi is about to come home, the place where he spent six years as a kid and where he says he “learned the philosophy of football: quick play, think before you receive the ball, the technical concepts… I learned everything.” The return of Jordi Alba is also, as Martí Peranau writes in Sport, “a recognition of an error [by Barcelona]: the departure. And it is, but the important thing is that the club is now correcting that error by bringing Alba back.”
So the ‘Romario’ of Hospitalense has found his way home. But now he is the Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona, a fantastic left back.
Sources: Sport.es, Elmundodeportivo.es and FCBarcelona.cat