EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Sergi Roberto, the unwanted La Masia youngster has now become Barcelona's 'Man Friday'

The 'Catalan Cafu' has become first choice at right-back but his natural position is in central midfield.

At the start of the 2015-’16 La Liga season Barcelona suffered a huge setback as their first choice right-back Dani Alves suffered an early injury in the league opener against Athletic Bilbao and had to come off with barely 20 minutes on the clock.

There weren’t many options for Luis Enrique to call upon as the FIFA-imposed two-transfer window registration ban meant that the Catalans couldn’t field their summer signing Aleix Vidal before January of the following year.

Douglas, for all intents and purposes, was deadwood at the club. Bereft of options against the
Basque outfit that had defeated Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate in the two-legged Spanish Super Cup barely a week ago, Enrique brought on Sergi Roberto to replace the injured Brazilian.

Roberto hadn’t played as a right-back at the highest level and as such there wasn’t much expected of him in the role but he put in a decent shift as the Catalans claimed the three points with a 1-0 win.

Alves was to miss two more games, meaning Barcelona had to rely on Roberto for the two fixtures. The youngster rose to the challenge and held his own against the defensively solid Malaga at home and the formidable title contenders Atletico Madrid away at the Vicente Calderon to help the club secure two precious wins early in the league campaign.

As soon as Alves walked back to fitness and into the first team, Roberto was back on the bench. But Roberto’s performances had certainly given Enrique another option on the right side of the defence – a position that his team were really short of depth at, at least until Vidal became eligible to play.

Roberto went on to make regular first team appearances at right-back as well as in his preferred central midfield position through the course of the season and ultimately made 49 appearances in all competitions, contributing a goal and seven assists to the team’s cause. His adaptability saw him play in defensive midfield, central midfield, as a left-back and also as a right winger in the first Clasico of the season that finished 4-0 for his side and in which he assisted the first goal with a beautiful move.

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The numbers at the end of the season were scarcely believable for the youngster who was
expected to leave the Camp Nou in the summer of 2015 either on loan or permanently. But he was persisted with not least because of the transfer ban that had forced Barcelona’s hands in the transfer market.

Roberto was born about a 100 kilometres away from Camp Nou in Reus and joined the famed La Masia academy in 2006. He went on to make his first team debut under Pep Guardiola in 2010 but chances in the first team were few and far in between for the young Catalan. He was never seen as an outstanding talent when compared some of his peers like the brothers Thiago and Rafinha Alcantara, Jonathan dos Santos or even his junior, Sergi Samper.

But what he had in spades was a workmanlike attitude and an understanding of his limitations which meant that he would be more open to play any position his managers demanded.

The 24-year old lacks the defensive nous of Sergio Busquets and therefore isn’t an ideal replacement for the unique role that the 28-year- old plays at the club. He doesn’t have the metronomic passing of Xavi Hernandez that would dictate the tempo of a game or the attacking range and movement of Andres Iniesta that would change the complexion of a game with a moment of genius. But he has some aspects of all those qualities and was seen as a centre-of-the-road midfielder who would be an option off the bench when the regulars needed a break.

However, even as a backup he wasn’t shown much faith in by his managers as they preferred the likes of Alex Song and Dos Santos over him. As players kept moving away from the Camp Nou: Cesc Fabregas in search of a system that suited his game; Thiago to get more playing time; Dos Santos not deemed good enough for the first team; and Song, surplus to the requirements; Roberto remained unmoved and eager to impress at every chance he got.


His story of perseverance is in stark contrast to those of Thiago and Pedro Rodriguez. The former clearly peeved at being a backup to Fabregas moved to Bayern Munich while the latter took the first chance of an exit when it became clear that he would be playing second fiddle to the forward pairing of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi from the 2015-’16 season onwards.

While Thiago has cemented his place in the Bayern Munich midfield, Pedro badly struggled in his first season in the English Premier League. Even in his second year at Chelsea, he has barely been convincing. Pedro’s move rankles the Barcelona faithful all the more as the club were short of any decent bench strength in his position when he left in the summer of 2015. At the time, he was also considered as a full-back option owing to Barcelona’s lack of depth in the wider defensive areas.

In the given circumstances, Roberto’s loyalty becomes even more praiseworthy. In the summer of 2016, Alves moved to Juventus and Barcelona preferred not to bring in a replacement, banking on Vidal and Roberto. Vidal doesn’t seem to rank too highly in the
manager’s plans as he has made just one league start amidst murmurs of his troubles with the coaching staff.

It has meant that Roberto, an unwanted midfielder to begin with, has become Barcelona’s first choice right-back. And he hasn’t just been filling a spot. In fact, he has been one of the best performers for the Catalan outfit this season so far.

It would be hard for anyone to match Alves’ foraging runs that made him indispensable to Barcelona’s game plan and that saw the Brazilian become an integral part of the team’s attack as well as defence, Roberto, to his credit, hasn’t done a bad impression of his former teammate. In fact, he has four assists in the league so far – only one behind Neymar and one more than Messi.

Barcelona have had their problems this season and most of them seem to emanate from a
dissonance in midfield with Busquets and Ivan Rakitic struggling for form and Andre Gomes still unsure of his role in the team following his transfer from Valencia in the summer.

The team that has been known to base their game on extraordinary control in midfield has
increasingly become reliant on getting the ball quickly to their forwards hoping for the trio of
Neymar, Messi and Suarez to work their magic. There is a growing sense that the presence of
someone like Roberto in midfield would help restore some of the control in the middle that is
the hallmark of Barcelona’s game.

But then a player can play only one position. Such has been the rise of Roberto that the once unwanted midfielder is now deemed good enough to play two entirely different roles in one of the best teams in the world.

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Young Indians now like their traditional food with a twist

Indian food with international influences is here to stay.

With twenty-nine states and over 50 ethnic groups, India’s diversity is mind-boggling to most foreigners. This diversity manifests itself across areas from clothing to art and especially to food. With globalisation, growth of international travel and availability of international ingredients, the culinary diversity of India has become progressively richer.

New trends in food are continuously introduced to the Indian palate and are mainly driven by the demands of generation Y. Take the example of schezwan idlis and dosas. These traditional South Indian snacks have been completely transformed by simply adding schezwan sauce to them – creating a dish that is distinctly Indian, but with an international twist. We also have the traditional thepla transformed into thepla tacos – combining the culinary flavours of India and Mexico! And cous cous and quinoa upma – where niche global ingredients are being used to recreate a beloved local dish. Millennials want a true fusion of foreign flavours and ingredients with Indian dishes to create something both Indian and international.

So, what is driving these changes? Is it just the growing need for versatility in the culinary experiences of millennials? Or is it greater exposure to varied cultures and their food habits? It’s a mix of both. Research points to the rising trend to seek out new cuisines that are not only healthy, but are also different and inspired by international flavours.

The global food trend of ‘deconstruction’ where a food item is broken down into its component flavours and then reconstructed using completely different ingredients is also catching on for Indian food. Restaurants like Masala Library (Mumbai), Farzi Café (Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru) and Pink Poppadum (Bengaluru) are pushing the boundaries of what traditional Indian food means. Things like a kulcha pizza, dal chaawal cutlet and chutney foam are no longer inconceivable. Food outlets that stock exotic ingredients and brands that sell traditional Indian packaged snacks in entirely new flavours are also becoming more common across cities.

When it comes to the flavours themselves, some have been embraced more than others. Schezwan sauce, as we’ve mentioned, is now so popular that it is sometimes even served with traditional chakna at Indian bars. Our fascination with the spicy red sauce is however slowly being challenged by other flavours. Wasabi introduced to Indian foodies in Japanese restaurants has become a hit among spice loving Indians with its unique kick. Peri Peri, known both for its heat and tanginess, on the other hand was popularised by the famous UK chain Nandos. And finally, there is the barbeque flavour – the condiment has been a big part of India’s love for American fast food.

Another Indian snack that has been infused with international flavours is the beloved aloo bhujia. While the traditional gram-flour bhujia was first produced in 1877 in the princely state of Bikaner in Rajasthan, aloo bhujia came into existence once manufacturers started experimenting with different flavours. Future Consumer Limited’s leading food brand Tasty Treat continues to experiment with the standard aloo bhujia to cater to the evolving consumer tastes. Keeping the popularity of international flavours in mind, Tasty Treat’s has come up with a range of Firangi Bhujia, an infusion of traditional aloo bhujia with four of the most craved international flavours – Wasabi, Peri Peri, Barbeque and Schezwan.

Tasty Treat’s range of Firangi Bhujia has increased the versatility of the traditional aloo bhujia. Many foodies are already trying out different ways to use it as a condiment to give their favourite dish an extra kick. Archana’s Kitchen recommends pairing the schezwan flavoured Firangi Bhujia with manchow soup to add some crunch. Kalyan Karmakar sprinkled the peri peri flavoured Firangi Bhujia over freshly made poha to give a unique taste to a regular breakfast item. Many others have picked a favourite amongst the four flavours, some admiring the smoky flavour of barbeque Firangi Bhujia and some enjoying the fiery taste of the peri peri flavour.

Be it the kick of wasabi in the crunch of bhujia, a bhujia sandwich with peri peri zing, maska pav spiced with schezwan bhujia or barbeque bhujia with a refreshing cold beverage - the new range of Firangi Bhujia manages to balance the novelty of exotic flavours with the familiarity of tradition. To try out Tasty Treat’s Firangi Bhujia, find a store near you.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Tasty Treat and not by the Scroll editorial team.