Joan Laporta Leads Barcelona’s Pursuit of Young Talent from Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal

Ibrahim Diarra (left) & David Oduro (right) / SPORT
Ibrahim Diarra (left) & David Oduro (right) / SPORT

Barcelona has redirected its market strategy to focus on scouting young talent from Africa.

With the inability to compete with established European footballers with high profiles, FC Barcelona has shifted its market strategy towards alternative avenues and different regions. For several years now, ever since Joan Laporta’s return in 2021 (and even before), the football management has begun to focus on identifying young talent before they become too expensive. Barcelona’s financial situation limits them from making big-money signings, leading them to concentrate their efforts on developing a network capable of discovering young players from less exploited areas who could become significant in the future. This shift has led them to explore African football.

According to Sergi Capdevila of SPORT, the club has executed a structural plan to exert influence and identify emerging talents from strategically important countries like Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal. This strategy is spearheaded by Joan Laporta himself, who has championed this network, with Sergi Barjuan playing a pivotal and visible role. Working in coordination with the scouting department led by Paulo Araujo, which tirelessly conducts fieldwork, particularly focused on the African continent. Sergi Barjuan, a former Barcelona player and coach of the club’s reserve team (briefly taking charge of the first team after Ronald Koeman’s dismissal), has already made several trips to Africa as part of the club’s commitment to discovering “diamonds” on the continent.

As part of this comprehensive plan, two young talents, one from Mali and another from Ghana, have undergone trials this season. The first, Ibrahim Diarra, a Malian forward, impressed during his trial period earlier this year, and efforts are underway to secure his signing when he turns 18 in December (as he cannot be signed earlier due to being a non-EU player). By the way, he has just been called up to the senior national team. The other trialist is David Oduro, a Ghanaian left-back who has been playing in his country’s Premier League for Accra Lions for several months. He has trained with Barcelona’s Juvenil B team under Pol Planas and has left a significant impression. Efforts are also being made to incorporate him when he turns 18, which would be in June. The logical idea behind this strategy is to capture talent before anyone else and to anticipate future demands.

However, Barcelona’s global reputation sometimes leads player agencies to contact them directly, offering young talents to demonstrate their potential through trial periods. In such cases, it is the analysts and coordinators from La Masia who evaluate the players’ levels through videos and decide whether or not to give them an opportunity.