Ballou Tabla: Who is Barcelona's latest young recruit?
FC Barcelona has grabbed the headlines when it comes to transfers over the past 12 months. Los Blaugranas sold Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain last summer for a world-record fee. They replaced the Brazilian maestro with French wonderkid Ousmane Dembele. Paulinho also arrived at the Nou Camp before the window closed. Barca then acquired Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina during January.
Barcelona's business this month wasn't over. The Catalan giants have added one of the hottest prospects in North America. After taking a long, hard look towards Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, the 18-year-old Canadian winger signed from Montreal Impact on Thursday.
A talented player known to possess pace and an eye for goal, Tabla is coming off a decent season in the MLS. A move to Barca is rather unexpected, however. Having only established his presence on Montreal's first team last season, it is a steep step. Tabla will go from playing in his native country with local teammates to representing one of the biggest clubs in the world. Sharing a dressing room with stars such as Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique may prove a daunting prospect for the youngster.
What are Tabla's strengths? What's his preferred position? And most importantly - what is so special about him? After all, Barcelona rarely chase young players in less prestigious leagues, preferring to snap up already proven talent in recent times.
At first glance, Tabla's pace definitely stands out. His speed is a major weapon for any team. He is also agile and quick both on and off the ball. The winger's potential is immense. At only 18 years old, he could be among the world's best in three or four years. Training at Barcelona, a club renowned for improving talent, will accelerate his development.
Tabla doesn't just rely on pace. He combines it with an excellent first touch, vision, quick feet, and great awareness. He always knows where to be positioned. It is quite a trait for a teenager whose only experience is in the MLS.
Tabla must improve his finishing, though. He registered only two goals, along with two assists, in 21 MLS appearances last time out. His accuracy in the final third needs addressing. Considering his age, those problems will be solved with hard work and experience. He is unlikely to become a 20 or 30-goal a season winger, but his potential means scoring 10 and recording 15-20 assists is a possibility.
Barcelona were determined to complete the move for Tabla, a player who is undoubtedly one of the most promising young footballers in world football. He should be watched closely in the coming years.
All signs indicate the sky is the limit for Barca new boy Ballou Tabla.