From the Croatian second division straight to FC Barcelona’s first team? For most, it would be an unrealistic prospect, a pipe dream. For Mikayil Faye, it is increasingly becoming not just a realistic prospect, but a probable one.
The 19-year-old CB was signed for Barcelona’s B team only in July this year but has already made such a mark in the training sessions that Xavi is set to pair him with Ronald Araujo come competitive fixtures time.
That’s a never-before-seen degree of rapid rise. Even Lionel Messi played a few games for U18s before being given his senior debut.
Faye is set to make the jump after less than a month of training, let alone appearances.
So, who is Mikayil Faye, and what’s the fuss about? Here’s all you need to know-
Mikayil Faye profile
Mikayil Faye is a 19-year-old Senegalese defender who started his career with Diambars FC in the Gambian League.
The Gambian league is becoming a hotbed for African wonderkids after Adama Bojang also caught the eye of elite clubs in Europe.
Faye, however, has shot through the steps in his career. In February 2023, Croatian second-division club NK Kustosija Zagreb signed Mikayil Faye.
Again, he impressed immediately, making 13 appearances for them. Within five months, he was on his way to FC Barcelona.
He has also made quick steps on the international scene. With 10 appearances for Senegal U17s to his name, a senior debut is on the cards, especially if he establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with in Los Cules‘ senior set-up.
Style of play
If one is to impress Xavi and FC Barcelona as a defender, it is a well-known fact that just being good defensively won’t be enough.
A defender, especially a centre-back, needs to be able to be a part of the build-up in true Total Football fashion.
Mikayil Faye fits that prototype to a tee, with enormous room for improvement. He is already comfortable bringing the ball out from the back via carrying or passing.
In the traditional defensive sense, he is calm and composed in the tackle, preferring to win the ball back by acute positioning and timing instead of going to the ground and leaving his teammates a man down.
He is extremely quick off the boil, with his acceleration helping him to make up for the odd lapse in concentration/positioning.
Standing at 6’1″, he is not the tallest centre-back out there, but a partnership with Ronald Araujo will help cover that up. Also, he is a great header of the ball and excels at the minute details of a nudge or push of the attacker while contesting for aerial duels, a la Lisandro Martinez.
At his peak, he can be a complete modern defender who excels at both facets of the game- building up with the ball and defending his goal without it. Which brings us to his potential-
Mikayil Faye potential
With all due respect to NK Kustosija and Diambars, Faye has not exactly been exposed to elite football coaching so far in his career.
At FC Barcelona and under Xavi, the speed at which his game improves should be a sight to behold.
The fact that he has already impressed Xavi and Co. with his raw tools speaks volumes of his potential.
Faye will be the only naturally left-footed centre-back in the Barcelona squad next season, which will automatically make him the favourite to grab the spot of the left-sided centre-back.
Xavi has already shown that he is not afraid to trust the youth if they show enough ability and potential. Faye, who was playing in Croatia’s second division six months ago, is the biggest testament to that thought.
It can be expected that he will begin the competitive season as a first-team squad member despite being revealed as the signing of Barca’s B team. With that big step taken already after just a month’s training, the next stage will be to impress when he gets the chance to play.
He has all the attributes to become a leader of the backline for the next decade-and-a-half. With the trust shown in him from the off, there is also no better environment for his development right now than FC Barcelona.
Ultimately, Faye might end up being the rare breed of player who, despite not being made in La Masia, is destined to play for Barcelona.