Montreal Midfielder Ballou Tabla Signs With Barcelona, Another Young Canadian On The Rise

Ballou Tabla became the first Impact academy player to sign with a European club.

Ballou Tabla is making history as the first academy player from the Montreal Impact to make a move to Europe. The 18-year-old attacking midfielder completed a transfer to Barcelona on Thursday. He’ll join Barcelona B.

Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, or just Ballou, is an enticing prospect for Canada and Barcelona. At 5-9 he’s not big, but his ability to maneuver in tight spaces while maintaining possession calls to mind a young Lionel Messi. We’re not saying Ballou is going to be near as good as Messi — his game still needs more polish than Messi’s did at 18 — but he’s a similar type of player, though that will make it hard for him to break into the full Barcelona team given the depth of talented midfielders at the club and youth level.

Ballou Tabla broke through with the Impact first team last season, making 11 starts and 21 total appearances. He scored two goals to go with two assists. 

This is a big move for the teenager, who was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, before moving to Quebec as a child. It’s also a big day for the Montreal Impact academy. 

“This first transfer is an important moment in the history and evolution of our club,” Impact president Joey Saputo said, quoted by the club’s Twitter account. “We take a lot of pride in seeing a young player, developed in our academy, climb the ladder all the way to the first team and realize his dream to play in Europe.” 

And it’s a big day for Canada. The Canadian national team hasn’t had much to cheer about since its surprise victory at the 2000 Gold Cup, but there’s now reason for hope. 

Ballou Tabla

Ballou Tabla is the latest young Canadian to move abroad. Photo: @Sportsnet | Twitter

In addition to Ballou’s move, 22-year-old Orlando City striker Cyle Larin has been linked to Besiktas and will move overseas sooner or later. There are also a number of young Canadians already playing abroad, like Fraser Aird (Scotland), Kris Twardek (England), Juan Cordova (Chile), Caniggia Elva (Germany) and Kianz Froese (Germany). (No, we’re not going to count MLS as abroad for Canadians.) Then there’s perhaps the most exciting prospect of them all, 17-year-old Alphonso Davies, currently with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who will surely test his abilities in Europe at some stage.

Canada has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 1986 when the Canucks finished dead last. With a berth likely to come in 2026 when Canada cohosts with the U.S. and Mexico, these young players will form the backbone of a squad that could actually do Canada proud. 

Videos you might like