But as that Arthur deal was happening, FC Barcelona was doing another piece of business – a much more positive deal for the future at least.
Miami-born Konrad de la Fuente has signed a new contract at the club until 2022 with an option for two additional years. The other notable number is 50 million euros, his release clause that will rise to 100 million euros if the winger gets promoted to the first team at any time.
While the United States missed out on the 2018 World Cup, there is a new generation coming through the ranks. 21-year-old Christian Pulisic at Chelsea is the biggest name on the wings, but the next generation of attackers also includes 17-year-old Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, 20-year-old Timothy Weah at Lille, and 19-year-old Ulysses Llanez, who is pushing towards the Wolfsburg first team but already has a U.S. cap and goal to his name.
This many attackers means competition for De la Fuente, but it also means that the 18-year-old (turning 19 in July) isn’t labeled as some kind of teenage savior who plays for FC Barcelona. That is the kind of flawed thinking you might have heard a few years ago, but young American talent is slowly starting to break in across Europe.
Unlike in Germany and the small contingent in the United Kingdom, there is barely any American player presence in Spain, and none in the top division. Konrad de la Fuente making an appearance for Barcelona would be a first for any American, that’s obvious, but he would also be just the fifth American to be in a La Liga squad. The others were Jozy Altidore (Villarreal 08-09, 10-11), Kasey Keller (Rayo Vallecano 99-01), Shaq Moore (Levante 17-18), and Oguchi Onyewu (Málaga 12-13).
There is a bit of a formula for La Masia wingers that aren’t Ansu Fati or other prodigies and that is to spend one season in Juvenil A then spend the next season starting in Juvenil A and slowly breaking into Barcelona B after the UEFA Youth League group stage is finished. This is the exact path that De la Fuente was following this season, having made four appearance for Barcelona B from December to February and scoring one goal.
While the winger favors his right foot, his ability to play on either flank aids his ability to get opportunities. Last fall it seemed that contract negotiations were breaking down and the player would be moving to Germany. Reports out of the club were that they were not that impressed with the player. However, after lengthy negotiations and more opportunities, everyone has seemingly changed their tune on him and he is now expected to be a regular fixture for the second team next year, regardless of what division they are playing in.
This new contract and release clause are telling as to what kind of faith they have in the player. Clearly he is a skilled talent with the potential to improve and there is no reason to rush him. With some good showings next season, he could find himself on the bench for a Copa del Rey match as the first team looks like it will be full of wingers to take all the other minutes in La Liga and the Champions League.
For American fans, it doesn’t matter that other teenagers are breaking into their clubs and De la Fuente still may have a ways to go. The fact is – there is STILL an American at FC Barcelona and the club has shown faith in his future.