Back in December of 2019, 15-year-old Ángel Alarcón had 14 goals for Cadet A (U-16s), playing as a centre-forward and usually being on the receiving end of sparkling assists from Ilias Akhomach and some kid nicknamed ‘Gavi’.

By December of 2020, as youth football was just picking up again after being shut down by the pandemic, the now 16-year-old had already scored seven goals and added four assists in just 15 matches for Juvenil A, shifting over to a spot on the left wing.

By March he was making his Barcelona B debut, going on to make four appearances in the 2020-21 season. At that point he was shaping up to be one of the more promising forwards in the academy. That sentiment remained, at least until June of 2021, when Alarcón suffered an ACL injury and proceeded to miss the next 14 months.

Angel Alarcon in action with Juvenil A

Now it’s January of 2023 and Alarcón is still playing for Juvenil A (U-19s), where he has eight goals and two assists. So why is he seemingly closer to the first team than ever?

According to Relevo, a bit of luck may have actually been involved. While playing for the U-19s and in the UEFA Youth League, the now 18-year-old Alarcón is slowly but surely regaining some of what he may have lost in that long layoff. Due to his return in August and not training with Rafa Márquez, the forward has only featured for Barça Atlétic on one occasion this season, with the Mexican coach opting for fellow U-19 Victor Barberá instead. Plus, the 18-year-old Barberá has made the most of those chances, leading the B team in scoring with five goals.

So with Barberá doing his thing in all of Juvenil A, the UEFA Youth League, and Barça Atlétic, Alarcón was instead one of a select group of U-19s to spend a few training sessions with Xavi during the World Cup break. Alongside Lamine Yamal, Dani Rodriguez, and Hector Fort, Alarcón got first team training reps with a group of some of the brightest that La Masia has to offer.

Fortunately for Alarcón, Xavi seems to have taken notice, and apparently a move back to the center was suggested by the first team manager himself. With the youngster out of contract at the end of the season, a reasonable pathway to the first team and direct feedback from the man in charge are both good signs for Alarcón.

There was a brief rumble that he would be called up to the Spanish Super Cup squad for Saudi Arabia, but much like Yamal and Chadi Riad and Copa del Rey rumors, Xavi is sticking with his veterans.

In the meantime, Alarcón will be joining the Spain U-19s next week alongside Barberá, Akhomach, Alex Valle, and Arnau Casas, to take on the U-19s.

Injuries can often delay or derail young careers. ACL injuries from 17 to 21 can be a death sentence for some football careers, and can severely change the expectations for others (don’t you make me cry Ansu). But whether he gets into the first team squad at any point this season or not, clearly Xavi sees something in that crop of youngsters that trained with him during the break. In the meantime, Culers can be reminded that in a matter of two years Alarcón has gone from top academy prospect to injury afterthought and back to top prospect. That resilience bodes well for a potential first team player down the line.

In case you want to hear more about those other top prospects, check out this video about the players that got Xavi’s attention a few weeks ago.

Hector Fort, Victor Barbera, Lamine Yamal