With just one training session with the team and not having played a minute of football since July 30th, Joao Cancelo made his debut for FC Barcelona. He entered the pitch at El Sadar in the 59th minute alongside Ferran Torres.
There was more than half an hour ahead for him in the right-back position, which, barring a dramatic turn of events, will be his throughout the season.
The lack of specialists there made his arrival a necessity. As the days passed, the eagerness to have him on board grew. As has become customary at Barcelona lately, there was no absolute guarantee until the very last day.
Going back to his first game in a Barcelona shirt, Cancelo filled the void left by Sergi Roberto. Despite not having had the time to acquire Xavi’s tactical nuances or adapt to his teammates’ style and ecosystem, he was highly involved.
He was a bit more restrained in his forward runs compared to what he’s known for but constantly demanded the ball. He did something that Guardiola instilled in him repeatedly—moving inside, almost like an interior midfielder, and leaving the corridor, the space for Koundé to fill, allowing him to enter with plenty of room.
It was a happy ending with a 1-2 victory on his debut as a Barcelona player.
As soon as Ortiz Arias blew the final whistle, Joao saw a child wearing a Barcelona shirt jumping out of the stands at El Sadar and heading straight towards him.
They embraced, and in a matter of seconds, Cancelo didn’t hesitate to take off his jersey and give it to the young fan. Behind them came a security employee, to whom the Barcelona player said to let the child go in peace.
It was a touching gesture on the first official day at the office for a player who promises plenty of “rock ‘n’ roll” this season and who had spent weeks at odds with Manchester City to force his move to Barcelona. From the outset, both he and his agent Jorge Mendes were clear: only Barcelona would do.