Fabio Blanco: The New Wonderkid Barcelona beat Real Madrid To Sign
The 17-year-old winger arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt in January, with many in Spain regarding him as one of the country’s top young talents
With the arrivals of Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Barcelona completed what manager Xavi set out to do in the January transfer window: improve the team’s forward line.
The early evidence is encouraging too, after the Blaugrana put four past Atletico Madrid on Sunday, with Traore in particular playing a starring role at Camp Nou.
Yet while Barca hope that 21-year-old Torres will continue to improve and eventually become a leader of their attack for another decade at least, there is no doubt Traore and particularly Aubameyang are more short-term fixes.
With that in mind, then perhaps a more important January addition for the future of Barcelona’s forward line is teenager Fabio Blanco.
The 17-year-old arrived in Catalunya early in the January window, and was immediately handed a two-and-a-half year contract that includes a €100 million (£84m/$114m) release clause.
His arrival is seen as a coup, particularly since only months ago Barcelona were left disappointed at having missed out on signing one of the top young Spanish talents.
Barca, along with Real Madrid, were locked in a battle to sign Blanco in the summer of 2021 as his contract at Valencia entered its final weeks.
Manchester City were also reported to be keen, but it was Eintracht Frankfurt who surprisingly won the race for Blanco’s signature, with the success of other teenage imports to the Bundesliga likely a deciding factor as the winger sought a path towards first-team football.
Barca, in particular, were disappointed having closely tracked Blanco for over a year, and sources within the club have told GOAL that they felt they were in the driving seat to sign the youngster before their contract offer was surprisingly rejected.
Blanco’s time in Germany, however, did not go as planned. Soon after he arrived, Eintracht had a mass changeover of staff, hiring a new chairman, sporting director and manager, none of who were involved in the decision to sign Blanco.
He never looked close to making the first team, and instead played just eight matches for Eintracht’s Under-19s side, scoring two goals.
By the time the winter window rolled around, he was ready to leave Deutsche Bank Park.
Although Madrid again showed an interest, this time Barcelona seemed the ideal destination, particularly since Xavi has shown a willingness to give youth a chance during his first months in charge.
Barca also had the advantage of having staff at the club who knew Blanco from his time at Valencia. Jose Ramon Alexanko, who is now the head of La Masia, brought Blanco to Mestalla from Almeria back in 2016, while Barcelona’s much-heralded new sporting director, Mateu Alemany, was the man who oversaw Blanco’s final contract renewal during his time at Los Che.
So what makes Blanco so special that clubs such as Barca and Real Madrid were so keen to get their hands on him?
Described to GOAL by a youth coach who has followed Blanco’s career as a “very interesting winger, with a lot of intelligence and physical strength”, Blanco plays predominantly off the right-hand side.
Unlike many modern wingers, he favours going down the outside of the opposition full-back to provide crosses for his team-mates, with his fearless attitude and acceleration also key parts of his game.
The Spain youth international also possesses a decent eye for goal having started out his footballing education as a central striker, and Barca fans are hoping to see him showcase that in the coming months and years.
He has begun life at his new club in the Barcelona ‘B’ squad, allowing him to play men’s football in the third division of the Spanish game.
Blanco made his debut in the ‘Mini Clasico’ against Real Madrid Castilla in late January, coming off the bench to help the Catalan outfit come from 2-0 down to grab a point, before being named in the starting line-up the following week against Algeciras.
Given the new arrivals in Xavi’s squad, Blanco will likely remain with the ‘B’ team until further notice, with Xavi now having a wealth of more experienced options to choose from in attack.
However, when fans look back on the January transfer window of 2022 in the coming years, there is real hope that they will do so not only because it singled a rebirth of the club’s ambition, but also brought a star in the making to Camp Nou in the shape of Fabio Blanco.