EXCLUSIVE: Patience will pay off for forgotten Barcelona wonderkid Ilaix Moriba

Tom Weber
Tom Weber
  • Updated: 15 May 2024 16:40 CDT
  • 5 min read
Ilaix Moriba

From playing with Lionel Messi to warming benches in Germany, Ilaix Moriba's career has gone downhill since 2021, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to Bundesliga and Guinea legend Pablo Thiam.

The midfielder burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old at Barcelona in early 2021. Moriba made his LaLiga debut against Alaves in February and immediately notched an assist. After four more games, two more assists and a goal, the youngster's status as one of Spanish football's most exciting talents was firmly cemented.

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However, the hype was perhaps premature. The Guinean regressed to the mean over the following nine games, not contributing to a goal, and by the end of the summer, he was on the books at RB Leipzig.

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The prolific German talent producers thought they had managed to pull off a major transfer coup. Having parted with a sizeable €16 million to sign the wonderkid from Barcelona, expectations of Moriba were naturally high.

But after just six short cameo appearances for the Red Bulls during the first half of the 2021/22 season, an 18-month loan with Valencia was arranged.

Ilaix Moriba and Lionel Messi at Barcelona
© IMAGO - Ilaix Moriba and Lionel Messi at Barcelona

Patience a virtue for Moriba

Despite returning to Leipzig having featured regularly back in Spain, Moriba was again overlooked during the first half of the current campaign by coach Marco Rose. In January, Getafe signed the now-21-year-old and he has to date played 12 times for them, recording two assists in the process.

To say that Moriba's career has stagnated since leaving Barcelona would be an understatement. His move to Germany was clearly a mistake and, at this point, it appears unlikely that the midfielder will break into the Bundesliga side's squad.

Last spring, club director Max Eberl, now at Bayern, came out with this illuminating quote when questioned about Moriba: "I don't want a player who doesn't want to play for Leipzig."

Despite this, the La Masia product remains highly rated. The former Spanish youth international featured prominently for Guinea at AFCON earlier this year before an adductor issue ruled him out of the knockouts.

Last week, Moriba fired his country to the Paris Olympics, converting the all-important penalty in a 1-0 play-off win over Indonesia. Only 21 and with bags of potential still, it will be interesting to see what the summer transfer window has in store for him.

FootballTransfers spoke to former Guinea and Bundesliga midfielder Pablo Thiam to get his thoughts on what could be next for the youngster seeing as though it evidently hasn't worked out for him in Germany.

Thiam, who also talked to us about Naby Keita and Serhou Guirassy, drew a parallel to the latter, who has become a late bloomer par excellence at VfB Stuttgart. Thiam was most recently in charge of Hertha BSC's impressive academy and insists that patience must be a virtue for up-and-coming talents.

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"Having huge potential as a young player, being a great player, doesn't mean that you always make the leap straight away," Thiam said. "I sometimes wish young players had a little more patience, a little more ability to suffer and simply the desire to assert themselves over time."

"Of course, it always looks bad because you want to play, you want to progress, you go out on loan, you move from club to club, but the processes are not the same everywhere. When the time is right, when you're able to play consistently at a high level, you'll come through and that's what young players have to learn these days."

"But he has huge potential, he's already shown it in the past at a lower level. It just takes a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time, which is probably not the case for him at the moment. But like Serhou Guirassy, it's possible that in a year or two, he will hit his stride and be the talk of the town again."

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