An American player is inching closer to a significant milestone.
According to Diario SPORT, Konrad de la Fuente is one of five Barcelona B players who will spend the entire preseason training with the first team. Manager Ronald Koeman reportedly “wants to see [him] in action.” Following the completion of fitness testing, the Spanish super club returns to individual training this upcoming week.
Barcelona is attempting to rebound from a disappointing season that included a second place finish in La Liga and the failure to reach any cup finals. The club fired Quique Setien following a disastrous 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich. Netherlands manager Koeman was hired on a two-year deal in an attempt to right the ship.
De la Fuente moved to Spain with his family at the age of ten. After playing with CF Damm, the Miami native joined La Masia in 2013. Considered one of the club’s most promising players, he made his Barcelona B debut in December of 2018.
Amid interest from Hertha Berlin, de la Fuente signed a contract extension through the summer of 2022. The deal reportedly includes “a €50 million release clause that will rise to €100 million if he is promoted to the first team before the expiration of the deal.” The 19-year-old winger spent most of last season with the Juvenil A side, scoring four goals en route to the league championship.
De la Fuente stepped up in the playoffs for Barcelona B, scoring a brace against Valladolid Promesas. Despite failing to secure promotion, his performance impressed management and resulted in a call-up during an injury crisis. For the second leg of the Champions League series against Napoli, he was named to the squad but did not make what would have been a historic appearance.
De la Fuente has been a regular in the U.S. youth national team setup, appearing with the U-14, U-16, and U-18 teams. He was a member of the 2019 U-20 World Cup squad that reached the quarterfinals. His lofty personal goal is winning a World Cup, one deemed achievable provided the player pool continues “to grow in our clubs in Europe.”
While de la Fuente will likely spend this upcoming season with the reserve team in the third tier, his inclusion in training sessions is a significant step forward. A new manager and a club on the precipice of a major transformation present an opportunity for young talent to make an impression. An American playing for Barcelona has taken on an almost mythical status in the discourse, with the first to finally break through considered a true trailblazer. As de la Fuente said last month, “I dream of being the first North American player who reaches the Barça first team.” With his current trajectory and the situation at the club, he could achieve his goal in the near future.