The football marvel nicknamed Geri by the Everton faithful was first introduced to many of us as “the next big thing out of La Masia”, when he inked a personal endorsement deal with Nike at the tender age of 14, Gerard Deulofeu seems to have been a promising talent on the peripheral of a breakthrough campaign forever and a day; many purists begun to wonder if he could indeed overcome the pitfalls that befell the last 14 year old football prodigy to have a Nike contract. Much like Freddy Adu before him, Geri went on to make his professional debut as a teenager, after showing great promise and technical dexterity in the youth ranks; Barcelona’s success-rate at nurturing young talent and the institutions holistic approach to youth development may have given Geri an advantage over many of his peers, yet his talent alone stood him head and shoulders above his age mates from day one.
A Catalonia born and bred wunderkind, Geri joined the Barcelona youth team structures in 2003 as a nine year old prodigy who had spent hours breaking vases in his mothers living room when he wasn’t on the village football pitch honing his ball skills; the progression of a player that stood out amongst fellow young starlets at La Masia was swift and remarkable, as scouts and journalists begun to rave about his outstanding potential and remarkable ability with the ball at his feet. Geri’s early gradation from youth cadet to professional came as little surprise to those who had been monitoring his impressive progress, making his Barcelona B debut as a 75th minute substitute on March 2nd, 2011; the then 16 year old protégé seemed destined for a great future in the Blaugrana colours. Promotion into Pep Guardiola’s star studded 1st team came later on in 2011 as he featured on the bench while continuing his acclimatisation into the first team setup; Geri continued to play regularly for the B side in the Segunda Division as he steadily added more dimension to his attacking game and regularly became a scorer or provider of goals and jaw-dropping YouTube videos.
Gerard excelled for the Barça B side and the Spanish youth teams during 2011 and 2012, when he cemented his undeniable status as one of the most gifted footballers in his blessed generation by being crowned as the Golden Player, an award handed to the player of the tournament, at the 2012 UEFA European u-19 Championship; Deulofeu’s great form and steady development was rewarded when he seemed to have his long-term Barcelona future cemented with a 5 year contract inked on May 15th, 2013. Barça seemed intent to fast track the development of a very precious talent when they agreed to loan him to Everton for the 2013/14 season on July 10th; the loan was seen as the perfect opportunity for the lad to play more competitive football in a team that shares a similar playing ideology to that taught to youngsters at La Masia. Showing glimpses of his great potential during his 25 games in the Everton blue, Geri seemed to thrive under the tutelage of a fellow Catalonian, Roberto Martinez, and his performances alerted all and sundry to the fact that he had more than enough ability to play at the elite level and develop into a genuine superstar, in time.
The loan spell appeared to have served its purpose for the player, and many expected him to return to Barça and play a significant role in the new Luis Enrique project. Included in the 1st team squad in May 2014, Gerard found himself packing his bags for another season-long loan spell on August 14th as Barça reached an agreement with Sevilla. The decision to loan out a talented young player to a league rival baffled many onlookers, and the player himself; the deal proved to be an unsuccessful one for all parties and it came as no surprise when Spanish newspaper Marca named him in their “Worst Team of the Season” during his stay with the Andalusians, Geri played 17 times and got a return of just one goal for his inconsistent form and irregular appearances, his only goal in the Spanish top flight thus far.
It was baffling to see how the stock of such a talented young footballer could fall in less than 12 months; Barcelona, under Enrique, seemed to have other players in mind to provide cover for their star studded attacking unit and Gerard now seemed surplus to requirements at a club he captained at youth level, a club he seemed destined to play for since his birth in the little village of Riudarenes. Deulofeu had his misery ended by a manager who still believed that he was indeed one of the most gifted young footballers on the planet, signing a 3 year deal with the Toffees for a relatively bargain fee of £4.2m in May of 2015. The deal itself remains a complex one, Barcelona hold buy-back clauses for the first two years of his contract, meaning that they can buy him back for an agreed £6.3m after the culmination of the current campaign or pay £8.3m to lure him back at the end of next season. Everton will also enjoy a significant share of any profit Barcelona would garner from buying him back with the intention of using their powerhouse status to sell him on for a larger asking price in the near future, the Toffees would also have first option on the player if Barcelona were to buy him back and look to sell him on as well. Such terms would have been deemed unfeasible by many ambitious clubs looking to add to their side, but all parties needed the deal to go through; Barça needed their protégé to move to a club where he could develop further, while Everton knew that they would be signing a young player who could add immense value to their galaxy of young stars, Geri needed to be at a club where he felt wanted and appreciated for his great gifts.
If one did not know any better, you would think that Gerard Deulofeu was a seasoned campaigner in danger of wasting his best years as a pro; although he seems to have been on the scene since before many had heard of a Neymar Jr., the 21 year old technician has only just entered the final phase of his developmental process and his overall game could reach FIFA Ballon d’Or contender level once he reaches his apex. Modern football and its advancements have combined to make it even harder for the truly special young talents to fully develop before being judged alongside finished articles; Geri may have been fortunate to get his permanent move to Everton after a failed loan stint with Sevilla, yet the lad deserves all the good favour and grace coming his way for the manner in which he departed from his childhood club.
The 2015-16 season has been a notable one for revivals and rebuilding for many clubs, players, managers and fans alike, the resurgence of one of the premier young talents in Europe has coincided with the return to form of many Everton starlets; the Fantastic Four young stars have been to credit for much of Everton’s resurgence, John Stones seems to grow in stature with every solid performance, while the attacking trio of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu has combined to amaze and enthral many onlookers with their determined and driven displays further up field. Geri has already gone about proving his worth to the club with 7 of Romelu Lukaku’s 13 strikes thus far coming from the man “The Animal” has amply nicknamed “The Supplier”. Flair players with great ability often need to feel loved and appreciated by those around them, it is that confidence which fuels their creativity & desire to perform at a high level consistently; Gerard has felt loved at Everton since his 1st stint at the club & his swift acclimatisation was aided by his desire to pay back the faith Everton have invested in him, twice. So far, so good for a lad that is fast becoming a terrace favourite with his electrifying runs and telling contribution on both ends of the field; 3 goals and 10 assists in all competitions already this season should have Barcelona faxing over an offer to Goodison Park sooner rather than later.
Full Name: Gerard Deulofeu Lázaro
DoB: March 13th, 1994 (21)
PoB: Riudarenes, Girona; Catalonia, Spain
Other Nationality: Catalonian
Height: 1, 77m
Position: Winger, Advanced Playmaker, Inside Forward, Advanced Forward, Trequartista (Left/Right/Centre)
Preferred Foot: Right
Current Club: Everton FC
Club Jersey No: #19
Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018
Youth Development Nests: Penya Esportiva Bons Aires, FC Barcelona
Former Clubs: FC Barcelona B (2011-2013), FC Barcelona (2011-2015), Everton (2013-2014; Loan), Sevilla (2014-2015; Loan)
Market Value: £4.3m
Career Club Record: 147 Games; 37 Goals; 30 Assists
Caps & Goals: Spain (1 Cap); Catalonia (1 Cap); Spain u/16 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/17 (21 Caps, 6 Goals); u/19 (19 Caps, 5 Goals); u20 (7 Caps, 3 Goals); u/21 (24 Caps, 13 Goals)
Honours: La Liga Winner (2012-13, Barcelona); UEFA Europa League Winner (2014-15, Sevilla); UEFA European u-19 Championship Winner (2011, 2012); UEFA European u-17 Championship Runner-Up (2010) & UEFA European u-19 Championship Golden Player (2012)