Rey Manaj: Things to know

He’s never played a competitive fixture for Barcelona, but Rey Manaj is a name on a lot of people’s lips.

In a summer where the club’s greatest ever player departed, there’s a need for the attacking contingent within the squad to step up and take collective responsibility for the goalscoring good of the team.


And one player who could be in for a breakthrough is Manaj, who was an unused substitute in La Blaugrana’s opening La Liga victory of the 2021/22 season over Real Sociedad.

Here’s what you need to know about him.

Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini was Inter boss between 2014 and 2016 / Dino Panato/Getty Images

Manaj made his name in Italy, where he started out in the youth ranks at Sampdoria before moving onto then-third tier side US Cremonese.

The Albanian would soon be snapped up by Roberto Mancini’s Inter ahead of the 2015/16 season, however, where he hugely impressed the Euro 2020-winning Italy manager.

Two consecutive braces in pre-season friendlies were followed by seven strikes in seven appearances for the Inter Primavera side. At just 18, the striker was called into the senior side, although failed to score in the 131 minutes he was given over six appearances and was sent out on loan to Pescara, Pisa and Granada before sealing a permanent switch to Albacete.

That permanent move to second tier Spanish side Albacete is where Manaj caught the eye of Catalan giants Barcelona.

Solid performances persuaded La Blaugrana’s B side to acquire the Albanian’s services as cover for their squad, only for his eight strikes and two assists in 15 league appearances throughout the 2020/21 campaign to propel him into the club’s spotlight.

He has been firmly knocking on the door of the first team since his arrival in January of 2020 and was named as a permanent first-team player ahead of the 2021/22 La Liga season – with a top flight debut in Spain still to be made.

While Ronald Koeman’s creative and direct options in forward areas are plentiful, there aren’t many in the squad capable of holding up play with their strength and relieving pressure for the whole team.

Manaj offers something different in that he has a large frame. He is known for being able to hold the ball up and link play with his back to goal, while standing at 6’0 he also represents an aerial threat for crossing situations.

Yes, you read that correctly; Manaj has notched a hat-trick for Barcelona.

A lot of the attention surrounding the Albanian was created following Barcelona’s opening pre-season friendly in preparation for the 2021/22 campaign.

Manaj was brought onto the pitch in the second half of La Blaugrana’s friendly against Gimnastic with the scores level at 0-0 and scored a 30-minute hat-trick to contribute to an eventual 4-0 victory.

Just over three weeks later, he was officially promoted to the senior squad for the upcoming season.

Barcelona have been guilty of lacking a bit of grit in their performances over the last year or two.

But with Manaj, there’s no need to worry about commitment, desire or passion.

In the 9,128 minutes of competitive action he’s played during his career, he has been booked 46 times – equating to a yellow card every 198 minutes – and been dismissed four times already.

He’s not afraid of a tackle.

While Manaj has yet to really find a home at a domestic level, there’s no doubting he is firmly a part of Albania’s senior national team set-up.

Having notched a combined seven goals in 12 appearances for the Under-19 and 21 national sides, Manaj was given his senior debut by Giovanni De Biasi at just 18 years of age.

Since then, the striker has earned 24 caps and notched five goals, scoring every 165 minutes for Albania since November of last year.

Source of the article

Author: XenBet

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