RB Leipzig new boy Ilaix Moriba enjoyed Lionel Messi's seal of approval at Barcelona. - © getty images
RB Leipzig new boy Ilaix Moriba enjoyed Lionel Messi's seal of approval at Barcelona. - © getty images

Ilaix Moriba: Who is the RB Leipzig newcomer and former teammate of Lionel Messi?

Ilaix Moriba heads to RB Leipzig, having honed his craft in the same Barcelona team as Lionel Messi. bundesliga.com profiles the highly rated teen midfielder...

Ilaix Moriba

Age: 18
Club: RB Leipzig
Position: Central midfielder
Country: Spain (Nine youth caps, two goals)

Key stats

Moriba joined the Barcelona youth academy at 14, and went on to play for the club's U16s, 19s and reserves before debuting for the first team shortly after turning 18 in January 2021, in the Copa Del Rey.

The Guinea-born Spain youth international made three appearances during Barca's triumphant cup campaign, and also got his first taste of the UEFA Champions League as a substitute against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16.

Moriba made his La Liga bow in March 2021, scoring one and making three across his first four top-flight outings. At 18 years and 25 days old, he is the youngest player since the turn of the century to provide an assist on his La Liga debut. When he penned a five-year deal with Leipzig on 31 August 2021, the 6'0" right-footer had already made 18 senior club appearances, including five starts.

Long a must-have Football Manager signing, Moriba has an overall rating of 70 on EA Sports' FIFA21 gaming series, with the potential to reach 85.

Plays a bit like: Paul Pogba

Here's why. A rangy and technical central midfielder, Moriba's in his element when striding forwards into opposition territory. Add raw power and vision to the equation, and it's really no wonder he was nicknamed 'Barca's Pogba'.

"Everyone says I'm like Pogba," Moriba told Mundo Deportivo. "I like that, of course I do, but Busquets and Iniesta were the ones who made me want to become a midfielder. Everything I have learned, I have learned from them."

Watch: Ilaix Moriba - RB Leipzig's latest talent

Did you know?

"We said 'no' to a lot of money," Mamady Moriba, Ilaix's father, told Ser Catalunya after his son signed pro terms with Barcelona. "We had offers from Chelsea, Manchester City and Juventus."

Moriba put pen to paper on a bumper deal shortly after turning 16, but not before a massive administritive error on Barca's part. The Catalan outfit reportedly sent his contract papers to former club and city rivals Espanyol.

Happily, Leipzig made no such mistake as they got a deal over the line on summer 2021 transfer deadline day.

What they're saying

"We have been able to land an exceptional talent in Ilaix Moriba. We are very proud that he has chosen RB Leipzig, despite many offers from several top clubs in Europe." - Leipzig commercial director for sport Florian Scholz

"Ilaix deserves a lot of credit, coming through in his first year. He's competitive, a winner and has Barca DNA. He has a great future ahead of him." - Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman

"He's physically very strong, but he's also a very intelligent player. He's a top player, no doubt." - former Barcelona youth coach Denis Silva Puig