Following in the footsteps of Lionel Messi and competing with the Argentine icon at Barcelona is never easy, with Gerard Deulofeu among those to have found out the hard way just how tough those challenges can be.
The famed La Masia academy system in Catalunya has continued to provide a steady stream of first-team stars since the days in which Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi stepped out of the youth ranks.
Deulofeu once harboured ambitions of treading a similar path, with the tricky winger held in high regard after forcing his way into contention for senior minutes. His potential was considered to be so great that he had the ‘next Messi’ tag bestowed upon him at a young age.
Such expectation weighed heavy and despite being returning to Camp Nou for a second spell, the 26-year-old former Everton star is currently back in England at Watford.
Deulofeu admits that big billings at Barca can be difficult to live with, telling beIN Sports of his experience: “When you're young a Barca there are a lot of eyes on you, many people who think you will be the next Iniesta, the next Mesi, stars of football.
"That is hard because young players have to work calmly, every day, without pressure. You should learn and work but some people talk too much and they create a dream for you that is very difficult to reach.
“I'm proud to have formed at Barcelona because I learned a lot from their academy, but all people know my time in the first team wasn't the best. That was my objective and I did not manage to reach it.”
Deulofeu saw his path to the first team blocked by a collection of superstar performers, with attacking spots in the Blaugrana starting XI filled by some of the finest talent on the planet.
He added: “It was very hard because you're playing well for Barca B and you know that you have Messi, Neymar and Pedro ahead of you, a lot of really good players and you have to decide if you want to be patient or leave and live other experiences, and play.”
Deulofeu took the decision to head elsewhere, with spells – both loan and permanent – at Everton, Sevilla, Milan and Watford.
“I'm someone who doesn't want to be on the bench,” said a man who has made 70 appearances for the Hornets since heading to Vicarage Road in January 2018.
“I want to play, and that doesn't matter if I'm at Barca, Watford or Bayern. What I want is to be on the pitch and be happy. You can be much happier at Waford playing than being a substitute at a team like Barca. If you don't play, you aren't happy, that's my mentality.”