Barcelona: Ilaix comes of age
He turned 18 at the start of the year. Koeman has faith in him and the Conakry-born midfielder is responding with character, intelligence and goals.
First there was Pedri, now it looks like Barça have unearthed another pearl from their youth academy, the Prince of Conakry. Ilaix Moriba is the new sensation in Koeman's team.He grabbed his first goal for the club in Saturday's 0-2 win at Osasuna.
Ilaix opens account with fine strike
"I'll take that goal with me to my grave," an emotional Ilaix said after the game at El Sadar. After impressing during a 27-minute run-out at the Sánchez Pizjuán, a make-or-break game for Barça in terms of their title aspirations in LaLiga. He responded just as you would expect of a fully-fledged player. A performance he repeated again come on in extra-time for the Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla. And the crowning moment came last night when he had Sergio Herrera's net billowing with a wonderful, left-footed finish which put the game to bed in Pamplona.
Ilaix is already on one goal in two assists in just three LaLiga appearances. From that we can tell that he is a powerful, dynamic player, with excellent technique but obviously lacks some maturity and his decision-making needs more development. But he has looked confident and convinced about what he will do next whenever he receives the ball. "He always tries to give something extra, to play with personality," Koeman explained.
The Dutch coach must have had something in mind when Carles Aleñá was loaned out to Getafe. Pjanic had been under-performing and Riqui Puig not gelling with the team and all of that together, opened the door for Illaix, a player who Koeman clearly saw something in. The teenager also had a connection which the coach and understood what was expected from him in his role within the side. He explained in Pamplona. "Ronald has told me that, whenever I am close to the area, to shoot. I've loved football since I was a boy. And I have always wanted to play here. Thankfully, my father brought me to Barcelona".
Ilaix joined Barça in 2010. It has been a slow process of development, but despite obstacles such as suffering a knee injury on his debut with the Under-17s against Greece, the Prince of Conakry is now carving out a place for himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world.