After three months of rumours, speculations and ramblings over one of football’s most high-profile swap deals, we finally see the light to the end of the tunnel. And it’s not something that looks particularly good in the eyes of the culés. Who wins in the exchange of Arthur Melo for Miralem Pjanić: Barça or Juventus?
Barcelona and Juventus have been negotiating over a swap of Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanić for quite some time. While the transfer fee was swiftly agreed upon, it was the Brazilian’s approval that was holding the deal back. But now, with the tier 1 transfer source Fabrizio Romano confirming the 23-year-old agreeing to move to Italy, the swap seems to be done. But who is actually coming out on top in this deal: The blaugranas or the bianconerri?
Arthur Melo’s perspective
Let’s be honest, Arthur Melo never wanted to leave. In 2018 he described his move to Barcelona as a “dream come true”. There was absolutely no reason for him to even consider moving out of the Camp Nou after joining only one season ago. Indeed, his second season has been hampered by injuries and a bit of off-pitch drama. But nobody expected it to end in an exit.
From being touted as Xavi Hernández’s successor to leaving the club prematurely without fulfilling his destiny, it is an anticlimactic end to Arthur’s Barça career. When he joined the Catalans from Brazil’s Grêmio in 2018, the fans actually lauded the board for acquiring such a fantastic player. Press resistant, smart with the ball, and perfectly suited to Barcelona. Arthur found himself at the club that matched his playing style. And even in his own words, he was determined to succeed.
Both Barcelona and Juventus have pushed Arthur Melo to accept a transfer | Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images
However, it seems as though his love for the azulgranas was one dimensional. Barcelona’s board considers Arthur to be a disposable piece, a player that can be used to attract mightier sales. They don’t seem to have any amount of regret in letting go of a player who fits perfectly in Barça’s puzzle. Although the Brazilian was hell-bent on staying at the Camp Nou, he has absolutely all the reasons to reconsider his future because of how he is viewed.
Arthur isn’t being seen as a footballer who furnishes the project. Instead, president Josep Maria Bartomeu views him as an asset to increase the transfer budget. At some point, the 23-year-old must have felt unwanted, and so, changed his mind to join the Italian champions Juventus. Instead of having uncertainties over his future, he agreed with a move to a club that values his services. Coach Maurizio Sarri’s system requires a player of Arthur’s technical proficiency, and this must have finally changed his mind.
It’s a shame that he is being forced out by the board, but one could rather say that he is keeping his head up and leaving to make them understand their poor decision.
Miralem Pjanić’s perspective
Miralem Pjanić, on the other hand, hasn’t been the type of player who stays at clubs on the long-term. If you include Barcelona, this will be his fifth transfer. He started off at FC Metz, soon signed for Olympique Lyonnais, then moved to Italy to join AS Roma, before ending up at Juventus. From his point of view, a move to the Camp Nou at the age of 30 is actually something he would never have thought about. To gain an opportunity to join a club of Barça’s stature and testing his abilities in La Liga would have instantly attracted him.
For Miralem, this is just another step-up. He certainly sees this as a fresh challenge at one of the best clubs in the world for a few years. In addition to the demand for a new move, one can actually see why he wants to move from Turin. Currently, he is having one of the worst seasons in Juve colours. It’s partly his fault, but the majority of the issues pertain to his inability to fit into Sarri’s scheme. As a result of this, his overall performances dropped. And on some occasions, he was even criticised by the fans for being lethargic.
A win-win for Miralem Pjanić | Photo by Mattia Ozbot via Imago
With the bianconerri unlikely to dismiss Sarri after a single campaign, Pjanić must have realised that the Italian tactician would want to replace him when he got the chance. And where better to go after playing for the kings of Italy than the kings of Spain? At 30, it’s rare for a player to receive an opportunity to move to another high-profile club. And for a player of the Bosnian’s capabilities, it is no surprise that Barcelona wants him.
He has shown admiration for the Catalans in the past. Sources close to him claim that he even watches Barcelona play as he loves their style of play. He now has the chance to wear the colours of the club he respects, and prove the fans who question his arrival wrong by winning them over.
Winners of the swap deal: Juventus
As much as the culés may not like it, they cannot deny that their board has been outwitted by La Vecchia Signora‘s hierarchy. Arthur is 23 years old, while Pjanić turns 31 next April. The fact that Juve will be paying just €10 million along with the Bosnian to acquire Arthur’s services means that they have done brilliant business. Not only do they get to sign the player who fits their system, but they are also offloading an ageing veteran who is struggling under their new coach.
The Old Lady’s quest for a regista finally seems to have come to an end. And in the process of deciding between Chelsea’s Jorginho and Barcelona’s Arthur, it’s the latter who they’ve successfully persuaded. It must be worth noting that Chelsea is a well-run club that does extremely sharp business. Negotiating with the Blues to sign Jorginho would have been an uphill struggle. And so, they picked a much easier route and chose to pressurise the naive Barça board.
Now, they have got the player who virtually solves 90% of Sarri’s headaches, at least in midfield. It will be interesting to see how Arthur fares in his new technical role under the Italian coach. But it’s safe to say that he is likely to do better than Miralem.
Losers of the swap deal: Barcelona
Barcelona’s men upstairs have been tracking Miralem Pjanić’s situation for a long time. With Juventus finally willing to let go of their most creative midfielder, the azulgranas were quick to pounce into the scene. It is true that Quique Setién’s team lacks in creativity. While there is an essential need to acquire a creative midfielder, though, one would never expect it to happen at such a loss. Letting go of young Arthur Melo for the sake of a player who is seven years senior to him looks horrendous at first glance.
Undoubtedly, Pjanić poses the skills to bring a different dimension to the Catalans’ overall style of play. But, along with his vibrant playmaking skills, comes an age factor and a mismatch in profile. At max, the Bosnian is likely to spend three years at the Camp Nou. So, is it really worth swapping a long-term candidate for a short-term fill-in?
Barcelona’s business is rightly questioned again | Photo by Lluís Gené / AFP via Getty Images
Shirt sales, media coverage and clout in the market, this is an enhancement that Barcelona receives for signing Pjanić. When compared to Arthur, Miralem has a broader attraction. Furthermore, he is also likely to bring in more fans from the Balkan region.
More than sporting benefits, one can only see a monetary boost for the Spanish giants. The board has forced Arthur out of the club to achieve this deal. It is a swap deal when completed, will not go well with the fans, who already love Melo. The blaugranas‘ fanbase is already warmed up to the Brazilian and see him as a player who would bring laurels for several years to come. The unrest across social media platforms has already begun and is only going to increase when the proceedings are completed.
Three months of hard work saw Juventus acquire a long-term solution to their desire for pivoting from the defensive style of play to attacking football. The same three months of misguidedness and foolishness saw Barcelona lose a fabulous prospect who loves the club and fits in perfectly.
Football is an unpredictable sport that has several variables, off-pitch factors that change the status of clubs. Some decisions go so horribly wrong that no amount of money can fix the damage made. No matter how big a club’s status is, it is bound to free fall if it’s not run by people who make the right sporting decisions. The difference between Barça and Juve is the ambitions of their respective boards. And that’s pretty much clear from this deal.
With that being said, there is a flipside of football’s unpredictability. Some decisions look terrible at first glance but are actually masterstrokes. Every single culé must be in complete denial of losing a player who has immense potential. But if that decision proves to be the right one in terms of fulfilling the club’s objectives, then the fans might regret it lesser. Either way, at first glance, the entire footballing world aside from the two parties involved, knows that the bianconerri have won a massive lottery.
Four candidates for the right-back spot at Barça are on the table
The last few years have been quite disappointing from Barcelona for not only the fans, but also the board. In sporting scenarios as well as commercial, Barcelona are not where they want to be. As a club, FC Barcelona needs a lot of changes if not a huge rebuild. One of the positions which must be strengthened is the right-back role. Wih Nelson Semedo’s move to Wolves all but confirmed, a new right-back is more of a necessity than ever. In this article, we’ll go through and review the four main potential replacements for the Portuguese at right-back.
Though Sergi Roberto has played at right-back often, it’s not his natural position and that is apparent against tougher opponents. As much as watching a La Masia graduate like Sergi make it big is special, a better right-back is a necessity. The four main candidates that we will go over are Hector Bellerin, Sergino Dest, Max Aarons and Emerson Royal.
Bellerin is someone who once was a very promising youngster. His performances at La Masia caught Arsenal’s eyes and he moved to Arsenal in the summer of 2011. Since then, he has gone on to play 207 matches for the Gunners’ first team in all competitions. Tactically, Bellerin is a smart player. Something that is admirable about the 25-year-old is that he knows when and when to not commit himself to the tackle. This is somewhere he edges out Roberto. The latter is patient when defending but his judgment against dribblers is often lacking.
Photo by Will Oliver – Pool/Getty Images
Bellerin’s most characteristic trait is his pace. He is aware of this fact and uses it in tandem with spatial exploitation well. If he has a lot of space in front of him, which is often the case in Barcelona with Messi drifting inwards, Bellerin is a great asset to progress the ball. However, he does need space. Unlike Semedo, the Spaniard doesn’t operate as well in tight spaces. In terms of crossing Bellerin is quite average. His deliveries are often redundant which is the main drawback. However, the ex-La Masia player has good awareness and often pulls the ball back accurately.
Arsenal have reportedly agreed to sell Bellerin if an offer for £18m arrives. In Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Arsenal have a wing-back who could take over the right-back spot soon. For Barcelona, Bellerin would add a different profile in the dressing room, and with his outgoing nature and Spanish connection, fitting in would not be a problem as it often can be for English players at Barcelona. Though he isn’t the best positionally in the final-third and he does have a history with injuries, Bellerin could be a good signing for Barcelona. However, this does not necessarily mean that he would be the best signing from these four. This leads us to our next candidate.
Dest is someone that a huge number of Barcelona fans have always been drawn to. The void left by Dani Alves has not even come close to being filled. In Dest, Culés see a full-back of a similar mould.
Sergino Dest has the profile of an ideal Barcelona right-back. Positionally smart, pacey with good dribbling, and naturally good in attack, the Netherlands born right-back is a United States international who joined Ajax in 2019. At Ajax, Dest has been a reliable and impressive player. Playing 37 matches and 2,709 minutes, he has scored twice and assisted six goals.
Dest is an excellent dribbler. His pace combined with his quick feet means that he can play as a wing-back as well as a more defensive-minded full-back. He uses quick bursts as well as good combinational play to get past the opposition. Something that Barcelona have missed sorely is the excellent combinations between Leo Messi and Alves down the right. This allowed the team to safely, yet quickly progress the ball.
Photo via Imago
The American is able to cut in very efficiently as well which makes him a good choice for overlaps as well as underlaps. Tactically, Dest is very quick at decision making. When the right-central midfielder drifts wider, Dest drives into the space created though the centre. He is very comfortable receiving and playing in tight spaces, which is something that could immensely help Barcelona. The 19-year-old isn’t shy to cross often either, and he backs those crosses with a good delivery more often than not. In the final-third, he shows good visions. Often, he can be seen drifting in and playing a ball through the lines.
As of now, Barcelona and Bayern are the front-runners to sign Sergino. Sergino Dest is a very young player who is very impressive for his age. In Dest, Barcelona achieve two highly important things. Firstly, to acquire a young player who could be an integral part of the squad for years. Secondly, and more importantly, the Blaugrana would take a step in the right direction, towards the playing philosophies the club is based upon, and away from the recent loss of identity.
Eemrson broke into Brazilian football at Atletico Mineiro and accumulated a playtime of over 2,000 minutes. He captured the attention of Barcelona and along with Betis, the two clubs carried out a deal in which he is contracted to play for two seasons with Betis and then join Barcelona. As of now, he has played 43 matches for Betis, getting three goals and six assists in the process.
Emerson has been given a lot of freedom at Betis. With Nabil Fekir drifting inwards, Emerson has a lot of space to himself. He has taken this opportunity well and showcased his attacking ability superbly. He drives forward at every opportunity and shows an attacking mentality. His work rate is impressive, not only in attack but in defense as well. He covers a lot of ground in each match. His defending, however, is not polished. Though it is partly due to the numerous tactical problems Betis have faced under Rubi, this is still an aspect the Brazilian needs to improve upon.
Emerson has had problems with positioning and knowing which run to track with Betis’ system putting him against more than one opponent at times. His acceleration has helped him many times though. With his pace and work rate, Emerson does work relentlessly in defense.
Photo by Joaquin Corchero via Imago
At six feet, Emerson can also be a threat from set-pieces. His attacking contributions are still strong without this aspect. Excellent at linking with the attackers and with attacking versatility, the 21-year-old shows more promise in attack than in defense. Emerson hence won more fouls and had more touches in the opposition box than any other defender in the 2019/20 La Liga season.
Barcelona would be improving over Sergi Roberto with Emerson at right-back. For €12 million, Barcelona can sign Emerson from Betis through a clause in the contract. However, Barcelona might face problems in terms of defensive stability the same way they did with Semedo. Though Emerson is a very promising player, he must defensively improve significantly to warrant starting for FC Barcelona.
Max Aarons has had an incredible rise in the past few years. From being selected in the Men/s PFA Championship Team of the Year to becoming one of the most important players for Norwich next to only Tim Krul and Pukki, Aarons has gone from strength to strength. Now at 20 years of age, the English youngster is one of the most promising right-backs in the world.
Aarons is another player who has the kind of profile a Barcelona full-back should. His dribbling ability and pace is superb, he is positionally very mature and is solid in attack as well as defense. One of his characteristics are his runs down the right, with and without the ball. Aarons has an attacking mindset which is showcased through his constant attempts getting forward when possible. Aarons completes a lot of take-ons and he is impressive when driving forwards as he often does.
Photo by JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Though he has a strong attacking style of play, he does not compromise in defense either. Aarons is very calm when defending. He has great awareness and he knows when to commit and when to not. With well-timed tackles and good judgement, the youngster gets the ball through pure tackling as well as interceptions often and efficiently. However, somewhere he struggles is in a 3v2 situation. He often leaves space between himself and the central-defender and makes the wrong decision when tracking his marker.
In attack, Aarons shows incredible ability as well as the potential to do much better. He is very good at choosing whether to whip the ball in, or to chip it, or to lay it off for a teammate in the final third. His attacking decision making is very mature for his age. Often, he combines with his teammates to get into the box and take a shot or pull the ball back. His shooting ability is surprisingly good. Considering the tight angles full-backs usually find themselves facing, accuracy and good decision making is a huge factor. Aarons shows he possesses a fair amount.
As of now, Aarons is linked with Barcelona but not heavily. One thing to consider when signing him apart from his abilities would be the problems English players have when fitting into Barcelona. Recently, Marcus McGuane and Louie Barry found it tough and we’re unable to progress at Barcelona. Though he may be a good choice for Barcelona, it seems unlikely that he will leave Norwich, especially for a club outside England. Regardless, Max Aarons is one of the most exciting right-backs in world football with a bright future ahead of him and one to keep an eye on. For Barcelona, Aarons seems like a very good fit on paper.