Ex Barca boy Barry has been compared to Grealish, Vardy and Owen
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town have signed Aston Villa forward Louie Barry on a season-long loan from Aston Villa. STUART WATSON profiles the highly-rated teenager.
Louie Barry joined West Brom at the age of six and it wasn't long before the hype surrounding him began to grow.
In 2018, he scored 10 goals in a tournament playing for England's U15s in Italy.
"He’s scored one goal against Japan, two against the UAE, four against Czech Republic, two against Austria and one against Italy," enthused Baggies youth chief Mark Harrison.
“As much as I don’t like to publicise young players too much, I think I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t.”
Barry soon claimed another Golden Boot as England's U16s won the Vale-de-Marne tournament, the youngster following in the footsteps of Harry Kane.
Goals and assists flowed in the Baggies' U18s and he was soon promoted to the U23s.
He rejected a three-year contract at The Hawthorns and it was reported that Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus were in a tug-of-war to sign him come the summer of 2019.
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Barry reportedly had a medical at PSG before changing his mind. Barcelona were the team to win the race for the forward's signature and he became the first Englishman to join the Spanish giant's famed academy.
Under set FIFA compensation rules for youngsters who move abroad, the La Liga side owed the Baggies just £235k in compensation.
Barry scored two goals in 10 competitive outings for Barca's U19s during a six-month period.
Then, in January 2020, he returned to the Midlands, joining Aston Villa on what was effectively a six-year contract. The deal reportedly has the potential to rise to £3m.
It left a very sour taste at West Brom. The Express & Star reported: "Barca have refused multiple requests from Albion for the payment they are due for Barry. The Baggies have taken their case to world governing body FIFA having grown increasingly frustrated with the situation."
FA CUP MAGIC
Barry quickly establish himself as a star for Villa's U18s and U23s.
And so when Covid hit the senior camp at the turn of the year, he was one of the many youngsters called upon for an FA Cup third round match against Liverpool .
Sadio Mane gave the visitors an early lead and the fear at that stage must have been a thrashing at the hands of the reigning European champions.
Barry didn't read the script though raised the roof at Villa Park just before half-time with a sumptuous equaliser.
The 17-year-old raced onto a deep pass from Callum Rowe, shrugged off defender Rhys Williams and opened up his body to expertly side-foot the ball into the corner of the net.
His team-mates smothered him in celebration. It was such a special moment that even referee Craig Pawson congratulated him as he ran back into position.
Liverpool went on to win 4-1 and, at the end, Barry swapped shirts with Fabinho only for the Brazilian to recognise that the youngster should probably keep hold of his own.
"It's just the proudest I have ever been," said Barry, in his post-match interview with BT Sport.
"When I celebrated everything just came out of me. It was kind of like relief because I've been working so hard.
"My family will have been screaming at the TV when that went in. I have come to a club that I've loved my whole life - my dad is crazy for Villa."
He was also dubbed Villa's 'next Jack Grealish' in the national media following the latter's recent £100m switch to Manchester City.
There are comparisons to be made there. Like Grealish, he switched international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England at youth level. Like Grealish, he has a certain swagger with his slick back hair and studded ear-rings. Like Grealish, has been raised a Villa fanatic. And now, just as Grealish did when joining Notts County at the age of 18, he is going out on loan further down the pyramid.
Barry is not short of confidence though and will be keen to make his own name over the coming months.
TIME TO SHINE
Lethal Louie ended last season scoring 13 goals in 17 appearances for Villa's U23s in the PL2.
He also helped their U18s win the FA Youth Cup, scoring an outrageous goal in a 4-1 semi-final win against West Brom (also having a hand in the three other goals) and playing a key role in the final victory against Liverpool.
Many wondered whether he would step up to Dean Smith's first team in 2021/22.
Instead, he has joined the Blues on loan for the campaign to gain his first real taste of senior football.
In May, Villa boss Smith said: "I think he's a great player. He's got a really good chance of progressing.
"He's done really well. He's been the standout player throughout the run in the FA Youth Cup. He trains with us regularly and doesn't look out of place.
"He's getting better but we have to be guarded to the fact that the Premier League is a different level."