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Aug 8, 2013

Frank Bagnack relishing first-team run

Barcelona youngster Frank Bagnack says he is surprised to have played such a prominent role in the club’s pre-season campaign as their search for a new centre-back drags on.

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Bagnack, 18, started Barca’s 7-1 friendly win over Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday, having previously taken part in pre-season games against Lechia Gdansk and Santos.

The Cameroonian defender has had his chance to impress as Carles Puyol has remained in Catalonia to complete his recovery from a long-term knee injury, while coach Gerardo Martino has had a lack of other options in central defence.

Reports around Europe have claimed that Barca have bid €40 million for Chelsea’s David Luiz, while others state a €20 million offer has been made for Daniel Agger of Liverpool. The Catalan club are also believed to be interested in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Eliaquim Mangala.

Barca are expected to wrap up a deal for one of these players by the end of the transfer window, but in the meantime, Bagnack is delighted to have been given an opportunity to impress.

“It is a surprise to play, but not completely, because you always work to make it this far,” Bagnack said in Marca after Wednesday’s game. “I was prepared to do the pre-season with the youth team. I am very pleased that I got to play today.”

The defender, along with centre-forward Jean Marie Dongou, arrived at Barca’s La Masia youth academy in 2008 as part of the club’s official link with the foundation run in Cameroon by former blaugrana striker Samuel Eto’o.

Martino said after Wednesday’s game that he had been impressed by Bagnack’s performance during his 45 minutes on the field, and that the youngster would learn from his error in conceding the penalty which led to Thailand’s only goal of the game.

“I am very happy with his performance, even though he made a mistake with the penalty,” he said in Mundo Deportivo. “Sometimes you need to learn that it is better to shadow the opponent so as not to touch him, but these are things you learn from.”

Martino would not comment on speculation that Chelsea had rejected an official bid from Barca for Luiz, but did say that he hoped to have Puyol back “soon”.

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