Raúl Baena, Joan Verdú and Sergio García, all ex-Masía players, are three important men for Mauricio Pochettino’s Espanyol, currently sitting eighth in the Liga standings.
Despite the rivalry between Espanyol and Barça, the two team are not adverse to swapping players. In fact, up to three Perico footballers have a Clué background. Raúl Baena, Joan Verdú and Sergio García, all of whom figure in Mauricio Pochettino’s lineups on a regular basis, spent time learning their trade in Can Barça.
Baena is Espanyol’s first man in the midfield. He’s the linchpin behind the line of creative players in the middle of the pitch, his defensive work has added consistency and fluidity to Espanyol’s engine room. He has played 15 games this season –7 as a starter and 8 on the bench– and Pochettino, after taking over the blue and white bench, has consolidated the Andalusian in Espanyol’s middle line. In front of Baena, Joan Verdú acts as the Perico rudder.
Verdú is the architect of Espanyol’s play, he’s charged with designing the team’s attack both from the middle and, at times, as mediapunta. He orders and directs the players around him, and furthermore, he can score. He’s ability with free kicks and his evident skill were characteristics that set him apart during his time with Barça B. He has done well to apply these characteristics wherever he’s played; before settling at Espanyol he was polishing his skills at Deportivo until 2009. Verdú has played all 16 Liga games as a starter. He never misses a match.
Sergio García is, of the three, the player that enjoyed the most playing time in Barça’s first team. He made his debut under Frank Rijkaard on September 2nd, 2003. Now, he’s one of the Perico reference points in attack. So far this season, he’s bagged 5 goals and started 12 out of 14 games.
Bold and keen to show their worth to their ex-team, these men are worth keeping in mind during the first derby of 2012. (via FCBarcelona.cat)