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Analysis – Would Barcelona benefit from replacing Raphinha with Luis Diaz?

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Lamine Yamal’s success down Barcelona’s right wing was perhaps the single biggest silver lining of the team’s 2023-24 season. Over the course of the campaign, the young phenom developed into a bonafide starter and will retain his position next season.

A relative void in attack, however, was noticeable on the team’s left flank where none of the manager’s options truly succeeded. Joao Felix and Ferran Torres could not maintain their step through the season while Raphinha impressed to some extent.

The Brazilian international, traditionally a right-winger by trade, did well to cover on the left but the board prioritise the signing of a natural left-winger this summer.

Word has it that Luis Diaz is one of the prime targets and that Raphinha could be sacrificed for the same.

What does Diaz offer?

During both his stints at Porto and Liverpool, Diaz has been known as an explosive player who operates down the left wing as his natural niche. Being a right-footed left-winger is indeed unconventional but a perk that only spices up the 27-year-old’s profile.

Deco’s ‘dream’ target. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The Liverpool star’s single-greatest prowess on the ball is his dribbling, close control on the ball and ability to provide bursts of pace on the counter-attack.

Diaz has a special ability to alter his speed on the ball at the drop of the hat, bamboozling defenders and creating spaces in defence.

More importantly, Diaz has a strong presence in the box. For starters, he makes incisive runs into the box and finds himself in good positions to score goals. His composure in front of goal only adds to his profile.

Worth the price being paid?

Roping Diaz in almost forces Barcelona to part ways with Raphinha for next season, and it thus becomes imperative to understand the sacrifice being made and how the new candidate weighs up.

The Liverpool star recorded eight goals and five assists for his side in the Premier League last season while Raphinha racked up six goals and nine assists for Barcelona in La Liga. In terms of pure output, the Brazilian star thus stands out.

Barça will have to sell Raphinha to sign Luis Diaz. (Photo by MANAURE QUINTERO/AFP via Getty Images)

In fact, it is the Barcelona player who boasts of a higher number of shots per game, a superior xG tally and more presence in the attacking penalty area.

The one conspicuous area where Diaz stands out over Raphinha is his progressive plays and carries in the final third and his ability to take on defenders better through dribbles.

While it is a vital skillset indeed, it does come as a very different profile to the Brazilian’s directness.

Conclusion

While Raphinha adds a tinge of no-nonsense directness to Barcelona’s play, Luis Diaz offers a similar profile but with more flair down the wing. If flair and dribbling prowess are what the Blaugrana are after, names like Xavi Simons would indeed stand better placed.

Having already invested a couple of years of his career into understanding the Barcelona way and adapting his game to the club’s needs, sacrificing Raphinha to switch to Diaz may prove to be a step in the wrong direction.

After all, there are better and younger options on the market if indeed a change is inevitable.

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