Gerard Piqué, Barcelona’s defensive leader, has recently been at the verge of a declining phase and will require suitable replacements to carry on his legacy.
Gerard Piqué, at 33 years of age, isn’t getting any younger. The Spaniard has enjoyed an incredibly illustrious career at Barça, but the veteran unfortunately doesn’t have much time ahead of him. Despite displaying some sturdy performances from time to time, a replacement at this point is much needed. So, who should Barça look to invest time and money in? Let’s evaluate the club’s options.
Manchester City’s Eric García has been attracting attention from all over Europe. Although Barça were once privileged to have Eric serving the club, they unsurprisingly let the gem slip through the cracks. However, fortunately, the possibility of a return could be on the cards as the 19-year-old’s former ties with the club make him a strong contender to continue succeeding with the Barcelona crest on his chest in the future.
Eric is positionally more mature than most experienced players and it all comes through his raw talent and brilliant understanding of the game. Whilst he may be a tad short for a centre-back, like various other La Masía prodigies, height doesn’t prevent him from tormenting oppositions and excelling on the field. Being the ball-playing defender he is, the Spaniard would fit Barça’s way of playing like a glove.
Former captain at La Masía, Eric García has been displaying a maturity way beyond his years | Photo by Andy Rowland via Imago
He carries the ball forward with confidence, releases it at precise moments and assesses his surroundings quickly and accurately. The youngster has the experience to defend in one-on-one situations and is a faultless distributor of the ball, rarely making errors in that facet of his gameplay.
Eric García has all the traits to flourish at the Camp Nou, where he once dreamed of succeeding. He’s admirably comfortable in possession, makes the right calls in pressure moments and most importantly, has experience playing for the club.
Jean-Clair Todibo has earned heaps of praise for his time at Schalke and seems one of the brightest centre-backs in the Bundesliga at the moment. While reports claim that the German side are unlikely to be able to afford the Frenchman, several other teams in Europe seem to be drooling all over the player. Nonetheless, the side that should be most interested in him is none other than Barcelona. Todibo has everything it takes to succeed at the club, with the only thing he lacks being fine-tuning and polish, which can easily be provided with abundant play time.
The former Toulouse man is tall, physical and an excellent ball-playing defender with dribbling being his main forte. He is remarkably solid in tight areas and known for his successful anticipation of strikers. Todibo’s most impressive performance in a blaugrana shirt came against Inter Milan, who were desperate to secure a win in order to proceed to the knockout stages of the Champions League. But, in spite of possessing the likes of Lautaro Martínez and Romelu Lukaku, Todibo stood in front of the Italians’ fiery attack like a rock. He denied Lautaro from having many looks at goal and was practically all over him.
Despite being accused of keeping the ball for unnecessarily long periods, the 20-year-old is every possession-oriented team’s prototype defender. There is no denying that filling in Piqué’s big boots would be a tough ask, but with a talented centre-back like Todibo already at Barça’s disposal, the club shouldn’t have much to worry about. The only concern regarding fans is whether he will be trusted by the board or simply used as a ploy to sign big names in the transfer window.
Uruguayan centre-back Ronald Araújo has been another name floating around with the 21-year-old being a serious contender to replace Piqué in the near future. Araújo’s development under Barça B coach García Pimienta has been worthy of endless admiration, and he has proven on countless occasions that his positional sense and defensive diligence is an underrated aspect of his gameplay. That said, to truly cement himself as Piqué’s ideal successor, Ronald must improve his ability to transfer the ball forward, an aspect which makes Gerard so distinct and well-defined.
Having arrived to the reserves in 2018, Ronald Araújo has been adapting to Barcelona’s style in the past two years | Photo by Imago
Araújo is a physically gifted defender who can supply Setién with strength and intelligence at the back. He is very competent aerially and a composed figure on the field. Despite getting sent off controversially in his debut game for the first team, the young prospect is exceedingly capable of commanding Barça’s uncoordinated backline. While Pimienta, who has been a major factor in the youngster’s growth, deserves massive credit, Ronald also exhibited that he is a quick learner and perfectly adept to one day make his breakthrough into the senior side.
Barcelona have many gleaming talents to choose from, but it is worth noticing that all the above-mentioned players are still developing and will require further attention. In order to see them recreate Piqué’s impact at the club, a lot of awareness will be required. Gerard’s role as a starter may not yet be in jeopardy, but the time to evaluate future options has arrived. What will Barça’s arbitrary board plan to do? Only time shall tell.
Three economical Memphis Depay alternatives Barcelona must chase
Memphis Depay, while still an option, might end up as nothing but another story of ‘what could have been’. Barça Universal takes a look at three options who the club can pursue instead of the Dutchman.
The 2020-21 season under Ronald Koeman is well and truly underway. Barcelona have begun their run in two competitions so far, having played four games in the League and the lone game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League. The start has been rocky, but promising.
A renewed squad has brought some much-needed revitalisation in the side. However, there is one department where the team have clearly lacked: centre-forward. The departure of Luis Suarez was undoubtedly needed, but it necessitated a backup in place. Having failed to acquire the services of Memphis Depay in the recent transfer window, the Blaugrana have struggled in the absence of a striker, often leaving a gaping hole ahead of the opposition backline.
🗣 — Koeman: “I don’t have the power to sign Depay, it depends on the club. All I can do is wait. We wanted Memphis because he is a great player and has qualities that, in my opinion, we lack like depth in our attack.” pic.twitter.com/vpshfDApFP— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 18, 2020
Culés over the last few seasons have been accustomed to the managers playing down any rumours of transfers. Any questions on potential signings brought out the cliched response: “We do not talk about players of other clubs”. Koeman’s press conferences are a sudden whiff of fresh air. He is a man who is blunt to the press and speaks without riddles. He has made it clear on multiple occasions that he desires the services of Memphis Depay to rejuvenate the #9 role.
With the club in an unpleasant position financially, here are three possible alternatives that Barcelona can eye in the upcoming window, who may fit the profile better than Depay.
Note: The criteria we are using is based on financial terms alone. All options listed could be available for less than €25 million in the next two windows – i.e. if the respective club is ready to sell.
Daka is a baller; and he proves it every match. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
The stocks of Red Bulls Salzburg have been on the constant rise. They are slowly, yet convincingly establishing themselves as a hub the nurtures some of the finest talents in Europe.
One of the clubs recent successes, Erling Haaland, has set the world ablaze at Borussia Dortmund. And since the Norweigan’s departure, a young 22-year-old has taken over the goal-scoring reigns. Presenting, Patson Daka.
In 2019-20, Daka found the back of the net 24 times in just 31 league games. His six assists further enhance the stats, considering that the Zambian started only 21 games.
His fearlessness and spatial awareness make him a massive asset. While his finishing prowess is conspicuous, he also possesses great skill with off the ball moments. The youngster has taken 48% of his shots with his right boot, and close to 40% with the left. This ambidexterity is a rare and valued skill that very few strikers possess.
Last season, Patson outperformed his xG tally by 6.48, also averaging the highest xG per 90(0.79). A conversion rate of 30% at the age of 22 is more than what one could dream of. However, in addition to his crude finishing, Daka’s ability to create chances is what makes him a viable option for Barcelona. This is exemplified in his 0.86 key passes per game. Patson Daka is certainly one for the Barcelona scouts to fix their eyes on.
Edouard is the perfect blend of top-notch technical and physical prowess. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Odsonne Edouard is a product of Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy who has made a case himself to be considered amongst the creme-de-la-creme of Europe’s pedigree. The youngster currently plays in the Scottish Premiership for the champions Celtic, ending the COVID curtailed 2019-20 season as the top scorer with 20 goals in just 24 starts.
Edouard is not just a finisher but a well-rounded player. The goals flow freely from the Frenchman as long as he is provided with the right service. The 22-year-old outscored his xG by 5.08 in the last season with 40% shots on target. However, even with the goals removed, Edouard is a sensational asset.
His dribbling prowess is matched by few, with a staggering 7.17 dribbles per 90. In the air, the Frenchman provides a potent threat with his physique and height. The statistics speak for themselves; 3.9 aerial duels per 90, winning 40% of them.
He also finds himself amongst the very top players with close to 6.5 touches in the box and two progressive runs per 90, a profile that the Catalans require so desperately. His move to a top club is just around the corner, and Camp Nou might end up as a win-win situation for all parties involved.
There is work to be done with Morelos, but with the right guidance, there is nothing stopping him. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
The Rangers #20 – Alfredo Morelos – takes the third and final spot in this list of potential targets for Barcelona. His finishing trade is nowhere close to the aforementioned two. That said, what makes him a great choice for Barcelona, however, is his heavy involvement in the buildup, as seen in his 17.9 off the ball actions per 90.
He is a massive part of the Rangers team that finally looks ready to displace Celtic from the top spot. He ended the last season with 12 goals in 18 starts. Despite having one of the highest xG per 90(0.75 per 90), his conversion rate is staggeringly low. At the young age of 24, he still has considerable time to mend his flaws, though.
The Colombian averages 5.63 shots per 90 and is also well equipped in dribbling. The talent is there, however it requires the right investment. His days in Scotland seem to be numbered. With Barcelona too looking at a long term project, an investment of less than €20M may be a gamble worth taking.
Going by Ronald Koeman’s words, the Memphis Depay to Barcelona deal only seems to be a matter of time, and the likelihood of the former Manchester United man coming to the camp now increases with every passing second. Nevertheless, the club should consider other economic investments that may give a bigger long term influence, while acting as a pure no. 9 that Barça crave for. Patson Daka, Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos are just three of the countless young talents out there. Which direction will this board take?