Marcus McGuane’s journey from Arsenal to Barcelona

James Benge
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Marcus McGuane’s journey from Arsenal to Barcelona

Marcus McGuane has become the first Englishman to play in the Barcelona first team since Gary Lineker left the club in 1989 as the former Arsenal youngster continues his impressive start to life in Spain.

The 19-year-old midfielder replaced Aleix Vidal in the 77th minute of Wednesday's Catalan Super Cup clash with Espanyol, which Barca won 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw.

Only two other English players had ever donned a Blaugrana shirt and McGuane now finds himself placed alongside Lineker and England Women’s international Toni Duggan. Cast the net wider to British ex-Barcelona players and only Steve Archibald and Mark Hughes are added to the list. The youngster from Greenwich finds himself in exalted company.

McGuane’s move from Arsenal to Barcelona on January 30 was greeted with some surprise in England, though at the same time there was similar incredulity in the the Camp Nou B team that the youngster had not been given more opportunities to shine under Arsene Wenger.

Instead it was Joe Willock who Wenger viewed as the bright young star he wanted to test in central midfield, handing him three starts in the Europa League and a further two in the FA and EFL Cup. Meanwhile McGuane was limited to 12 minutes across two games.

A five-year contract for Willock in November only emphasised who was at the top of the pecking order in the internal battle between the youngsters, with McGuane then targeted by the likes of Aston Villa and Millwall.

Arsenal may have been reluctant to lose him but the lure of a Camp Nou switch that came like a bolt from the blue was strong for a youngster who was viewed as just what Barcelona B needed, a blend of the technical quality honed at Hale End with a physicality that would aid them as they battled to move away from the Segunda Division relegation zone.

Meanwhile McGuane is benefiting from a footballing education beyond anything he received at Arsenal, where the youth team system at times does not extend much beyond letting youngsters express themselves. In a competitive environment he is learning the intricate demands of life in the Barcelona midfield, where every pass by a team-mate demands a reaction from every player.

He is still some way from the finished article Barcelona want but the move has already paid dividends, McGuane starting two of Barca B’s last three matches and playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 win at CD Lugo.

“McGuane's adapted well. He's doing well,” Gerard Lopez, head coach of the Barca B team, told ESPN. “He's a complete player. Perhaps he just lacks that calmness on the ball, that pause in terms or our positional play, but he has everything else we need in the middle of the pitch.

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