BarcelonaLast minute news on the call-up of the Spanish team for the World Cup in Qatar. The very young Alejandro Balde (19 years old) has been called up by Luis Enrique Martínez to cover the absence of José Luis Gayà, who will not recover in time from the sprained ankle he sustained a few days ago in training. With the Barcelona player among the 26 selected, a total of eight Barça players and six Catalans are going to the meeting that starts this Sunday in Qatar. He will debut as an absolute international and immediately leaves the concentration of the U-21 team.
Balde goes ahead, therefore, of fellow Blaugrana Marcos Alonso and Betician Àlex Moreno, two footballers who were also liked by the national team’s coaches. Just like at Barça, he will compete for the left-back position with Jordi Alba, who starts as a theoretical starter for next Wednesday’s opener against Costa Rica (5 p.m., La1). Its progression in recent months has been meteoric. After counting almost nothing for Xavi Hernández during the first months with Egarenc on the Blaugrana bench, this year he has not only become essential in his preferred position (12 starts in the League), but has become a very valuable alternative, thanks to his enormous speed, to cover the avalanche of casualties on the right side.
This international call makes its renewal even more necessary. Right now he has a club card and the financial conditions of a footballer who last year was in his youth. Represented by Jorge Mendes for a few months, the idea that Barça has is to extend his contract and improve his emoluments until 2027.
From the Barça coaching staff themselves, they admit to being surprised by their progression and adaptation. He was guessed to have enough skills to be able to reach the elite, but, like his football, he is burning stages very quickly. “We knew the potential he has, but we were surprised by the calmness with which he plays and how he manages the pressure,” they told ARA from Sant Joan Despí. Gifted with his left leg, physically powerful and increasingly responsible in defense, his virtues have resonated with the general public. Behind it hides a footballer with humble roots and who, for the moment, continues to touch the ground. In fact, in conversation with this newspaper, Jordi Roura remembers with sympathy that Balde was, even, “too calm”. The ex-responsible for Barça training football explains that, despite his technical potential and physical experience – which made him alternate between the position of winger and winger -, he had to insist on concepts such as “the intensity and rhythm”.
An ‘airplane’ in the district of Sant Martí
“He’s a very mature dwarf, with his head in place. How would I tell you? Those who go to a party and you don’t realize they’re there,” explains Xavi Martín, former director of La Masia. “A very clear example: he suffered a serious injury [una fractura de tíbia] when he was a cadet and he didn’t miss a single recovery session. Other dwarfs are lazier and you have to go further behind them, but with him it wasn’t necessary – adds Martín -. You only have to look at his Instagram: nothing ostentatious”. Where it was necessary to pursue him more was in the academic field. After finishing secondary school he did not want to do high school and signed up for a training cycle, in distance, to be a football coach. It is the same case with Gavi, a year younger than him and equally an absolute international.
During his time in training football at Barça, despite having his family in Barcelona, Balde made a “special exception” and lived in a kind of “half-board” at the La Masia facilities. Of humble roots, he is the son of immigrants – his father is from Guinea Bissau, where Balde has traveled, and his mother is from the Dominican Republic. The club agreed with the family that this was in the best interest of the player: to help the family with travel and other matters, and also to be able to closely monitor aspects such as the nutrition of a child who is exposed to the requirement to play in a squad like Barça’s. A case similar to that of Ilaix Moriba.
Balde’s parents ran a radio station in Plaça dels Porxos, where he started hitting the ball with his older brother Edy. Little Alejandro would soon set foot on a football field because, seeing how it stood out in the square in front of the house, he would soon accompany his brother to play at the defunct Sant Martí Condal. “At this age it is the ball that hits the players, not the players the ball, but with Alejandro that was not the case”, explains Antonio Lozano, with a smile from ear to ear, in front of the municipal field of Sant Martí, where FC Barcino currently plays. It was in these facilities that little Alejandro, aged just four, stopped playing in the street to do it for the first time on a playing field. Now he’s still a 19-year-old bearded man, but he eagerly accepts an international call-up to go to the World Cup.