Sciaretta's Scouting Report

Towering Teen Danny Barbir Lands at West Brom

The dual-nationality defender from Atlanta left Manchester City's youth program for West Bromwich Albion over the summer, and Brian Sciaretta reports that the six-foot-four 16-year-old is settling in well.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 25, 2014
11:33 AM
WHEN A TALENTED YOUNG American player holds dual nationality and a European Union passport, he has the ability to begin his career overseas at an early age. It can be a more difficult path but it is one that also provides access to the best development academies in the world.

Some teens struggle with the move abroad but Danny Barbir viewed it as an important and necessary move to further his development.

And it's very easy to see why European clubs are interested. Barbir, 16, possesses unusual size, standing six-foot-four with a wide and strong frame. He is naturally left footed and has developed into an imposing central defender.

Last year, he drew interest from multiple European clubs but settled on Manchester City where he began playing for its youth team after his 16th birthday in January. Playing on one of the best clubs in the world offers plenty of benefits but during the offseason Barbir has a chance to join Premier League club West Bromwich Albion, and he took it.

“It was such an honor to play for Manchester City but I am looking forward to going to West Brom,” Barbir told American Soccer Now. “I think the most important thing about coming to West Brom is that that they had a pathway for me to the first team. I am playing with older players, which will make me better physically. So that is one of the main reasons why I went to West Brom.”

Born in Atlanta, Barbir was actually raised in the soccer hotbed of eastern Pennsylvania which has also produced highly touted U.S. youth internationals Christian Pulisic (now with Borussia Dortmund) and Russell Canouse (Hoffenheim).

Barbir's father, Nick, was born in Romania, and while Danny has never lived in Romania and is not completely fluent in the language he has visited the country numerous times to see his grandparents and even train with Romania’s top team, Steau Bucharest.

The Romanian federation has taken note of his progress, too. Barbir has been called into camp by Romanian youth national teams on two occasions but he declined both times. Nick Barbir understands the dilemma that faces his son and while he is loyal to his native Romania, he recognizes that Danny feels different and respects what U.S. Soccer has done for him.

“It was his choice,” Nick Barbir said. “Romania has invited him twice. I would love for Danny to put the Romanian uniform on once. That would mean the world to me. But it’s not about me. This is about Danny’s future. I cannot take that away. U.S. Soccer has been very, very good to Danny. There are a lot of talented players out there but Danny got to where he is because of his exposure from U.S Soccer.”

Danny does not hesitate to declare his allegiance to the United States, adding that it was “not a tough decision.” His big priority now internationally is the 2015 U-17 World Cup, which he hopes will quickly transition him into the U-20 team next year. “I’ve been offered to play for Romania but I’ve turned that down because the USA is where I come from,” Danny Barbir said. “It’s always the United States—no matter what. I want to represent where I am from and where I am born. It’s the best feeling to wear that crest.”

For now, Barbir is still getting settled in at West Bromwich Albion where he is the only foreign player in the club’s academy and is expected to split time with the club’s U-18 and U-21 teams. It took a long time for his paperwork to clear but he was finally authorized to play in an official competition this past weekend. On Saturday he made his West Brom debut in the U-18 Premier League, playing in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham.

Playing up an age level is nothing new for Barbir, as that is how he developed in the United States. Greg Ramos is the head coach of Lehigh Valley United, one of the elite youth teams in the country and a national title winner in 2013. Ramos spent long hours helping Barbir convert from a forward to a defender.

Ramos believes that Barbir is among the best he has ever coached and that his unique attributes could carry him a long way as a professional.

"My relationship with Danny started when he was seven," Ramos said. "We had some really nice teams forming when he was nine or 10 years old, and he always played up. He was always able to compete with state, regional, and even national-caliber players while playing up an age group. I think that’s a really key component for achieving what he has achieved.”

“The other piece was technical work: skill, control, and footwork,” he added. “We just spent hours honing that and now you have the final product— a six-foot-four left-footed center back with midfield and forward-like skill-sets.”

Even when players are eligible, moving overseas at such an early age has been a difficult step for American players to take primarily because of culture shock or homesickness. After serving as both a parent and a coach for Danny, Nick Barbir knew his son could handle the move.

“It was tough for me because I spent like five, six days a week with him on soccer for many, many years,” Nicks Barbir said. “For me personally, to let go and cut the cord was tough. At the same time, Danny was ready for this. With the level of maturity he reached, he was ready for this. If he was not ready for this, it would not have happened.”

For the younger Danny Barbir, the opportunity to move to a country where soccer is played at the highest level was simply too good to pass up.

“When I was younger, I never wanted to move out of the States,” Barbir said. “As I matured, I was thinking to myself, 'How am I going to become a professional?' I was thinking I have to move overseas. Even if I don’t want to, I have to. I have to force myself. I don’t get homesick. I miss my family but this is something I have to do for me to become a pro.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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