Grimaldo and Samper give Barcelona a dilemma as both consider options

As rumours start to emerge from the Camp Nou that Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has asked for at least two January signings to strengthen his tired squad, whispers from the Miniestadi suggest several of the club's brightest youth talents are on the verge of heading in the opposite direction.

At Barcelona, like anywhere else, there are only a limited number of spots available to play, and in the near future that could mean that some of the most promising graduates of their famous academy opt to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

With the season rolling on, the Barca youth departure that is beginning to look most certain is that of left-back Alex Grimaldo, someone many had earmarked as a guarantee for the first team not long ago. Though only 20, the Valencian has been in the Barca B picture for five seasons now, after becoming the youngest player ever to debut in the Spanish second division when he took to the pitch for Barcelona's second team at the age of 15 in 2011. The kind of attacking talent you would pay the price of a ticket to see, with a fine left foot and the engine necessary to cover the length of the pitch, in principle he should have been the perfect fit for the role of Jordi Alba's deputy in the seniors.

Enrique sees things differently however. The first clear sign that the coach wasn't overly enthused by the youngster came in the summer, when he decided not to bring him on the preseason tour. That was followed by ignoring him in the middle of Barca's injury crisis in August, when fitness issues coupled with a suspension for Gerard Pique left the club with only four first-team defenders to pick from. Even in an emergency, Grimaldo wasn't given a chance.

The rejection clearly left an impact on the player, as he decided to speak up last weekend, boldly and perhaps ill-advisedly using Catalan radio station RAC1 to direct a few barbed words in the direction of the Barca boss:

"Luis Enrique has never said a word to me. I've had no contact with him. Nor do I have anything to speak about with him either. I work with my coach [Gerard López]. I get on very well with him, he helps me with everything and helps me to be better. The guy higher up [Enrique] can be with his players, and I'll be with my team."

That Grimaldo chose to make his gambit during the international break is no coincidence. A time when news stories are harder to come by in Barcelona as the big stars are away with their countries, the timing will have raised the attention given to the young player's words, by extension maximising their impact. Enrique isn't known for being the kind of character who takes kindly to posturing. In all probability Grimaldo's words were designed not to draw the Barcelona manager's attention to his situation, but to grab the attention of managers elsewhere who may be interested in it. Particularly considering the defender will be a free agent next summer.

Grimaldo has unique quality but Enrique's consistent refusal to use him, despite the often poor performances of Adriano and Jeremy Mathieu on the left side of the defence, suggest the coach has seen something he thinks is problematic. Considering the player's choice of words last week, his temperament may be one such issue.

The polar opposite in terms of character is midfielder Sergi Samper, a player whose modest personality belies his exceptional gifts as a footballer. Capable of operating as an inside midfielder or deep-lying pivot, and with the combination of intelligence and passing range to influence the game from either area, he has many of the traits synonymous with Barca's former greats in those roles like Pep Guardiola or Xavi Hernandez. Yet Samper, despite making encouraging early steps under Enrique, who gave him his Champions League debut against APOEL a year ago, has gradually faded from the first team picture.

Unlike Grimaldo, Samper was a part of the preseason tour, but the Catalan has yet to make a single competitive appearance for the Blaugrana seniors in the current campaign. That, despite the team clearly lacking someone capable of slowing matches after the departure of Hernandez, as well as Javier Mascherano's laboured performances when used as a midfield pivot. Instead, Samper's Barca B teammate Gerard Gumbau has overtaken him in the pecking order, the former Girona man's combative and mobile style apparently a better fit for the direct direction Enrique wants to take his side.

With Barca B not exactly flying after winning only two of their first eight games this season, Samper is unlikely to be enticed by the prospect of an extended stay in the Spanish third division at such a crucial stage in his development. If his first team situation doesn't change dramatically, the youngster will surely be tempted to move next summer, and considering his contract only runs until 2017. Barca could decide it is best to cash in before he walks for free like Grimaldo might. Offers won't be lacking.

This time last year, Samper admitted to ESPN that he turned down offers from top sides in England. If the likes of Arsenal or Manchester City knock on his door again in 2016, the chances of the 20-year-old saying no in favour of more time in the lower leagues seem slim.

If Samper and Grimaldo do leave Catalonia they will join a long list of notable youth talents who defied expectations by failing to make it in the Barca first team. Gerard Deulofeu is the most obvious recent example, but similar stories have occurred for decades, Oscar Garcia mirroring the same trajectory in the 1990s.

Even for a club with Barcelona's record at their youth academy, promoting footballers from the academy to the seniors isn't an exact science, and there is no certainty that someone who ticks every box as a kid will go on to do so for the first team. The trick however is to make sure that the ones who are capable of stepping up don't slip through the cracks.

Will Barca be confident that hasn't happened if Grimaldo and Samper do indeed leave?