In his first campaign at Barcelona, Junior Firpo has far from impressed, and he has apparently been put in the transfer market as a way to make a bit of the much-needed money.
The left-back position, and full-back in general, has caused Barcelona more than one headache in recent years. Jordi Alba, in impressive form in his first two seasons with Valverde, is not getting any younger or better, and his replacements have offered no guarantees. His natural successors in La Masía, in Álex Grimaldo, Marc Cucurella and Juan Miranda, were not given enough chances to prove their value. And by chances we mean consecutive appearances in La Liga, rather than in a fully-rotated side in the Copa del Rey.
Meanwhile, other youngsters who showed a great level elsewhere have not been able to translate it to Barcelona. Lucas Digne and Junior Firpo are the prime examples. Digne is now excelling at Everton, but, in spite of his superb technical quality, he never shrugged off his shyness on the Camp Nou pitch. Something similar is happening to Junior. It was the current Barça coach, Quique Setién, who first showed faith in him at Betis, giving him his debut and promotion to the senior squad. He exploited his biggest virtues as a wing-back, and this attracted interest from the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool or Barcelona. After winning the U–21 Euros in the summer of 2019 with Spain, it was the blaugranas who wrapped up his signing in the end.
Before signing for Barcelona, Junior Firpo was the starting left-back in the Spanish side that won the U–21 Euros in 2019 | Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini via Imago
As Ernesto Valverde didn’t trust Miranda, despite having chosen him in the 2018 preseason, the academy graduate was loaned to Schalke. Even so, Miranda hadn’t played a single minute in La Liga, so, either way, the club needed a back-up left-back the coach could rely on. The operation for the veteran Filipe Luis didn’t go through, and the much younger and promising Junior was acquired for a significant €18 million plus €12 million in add-ons. While the Dominican Republic-born player had only spent a year and a half in the First Division, it seemed a strong addition to the squad.
But Barcelona is like nowhere else. The pressure and the tactical context demand the footballers cognitive and technical abilities that possibly aren’t been needed at any other club. Adapting is rough and performing is tough, let alone doing it on a regular basis and displaying enough promise to be a starter for many years. Like Digne, Firpo hasn’t managed to let loose his timidity and insecurity to play with personality and confidence. Supposed to be an attacking full-back, he has been hesitant in the offensive phase and vulnerable in defence.
❛ Mixed feelings: perhaps I have played more games than I thought, but the feelings have been grey ❜
on his first season at Barcelona
At the Benito Villamarín he had exhibited bravery to go forward, quality for the passing game, and capacity to cover the entire flank. Yet Barça is a whole new world. With technical problems and also regarding his awareness and reading of the game, he has not added the expected competition to Alba, although Jordi has been performing significantly below his average too. Tactically, Junior was used to being a wing-back in front of a back 3 at Betis, meaning he was not asked to have a key role in the build-ups. This has changed in Catalonia, in a four-man backline in which he is required to have a very high technical and mental precision and speed.
Junior even scored one of the four goals of Setién’s Betis in their 4–3 victory against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in 2018 | Photo by Alberto Estevez via Imago
And, while at Betis the left wing was mostly for himself on his own, at Barcelona he has had to complement his movements with those of a more advanced winger. With a lack of understanding and timing, the Spaniard has not managed to find the time and space to make consistent and threatening arrivals into the box. Nor has he been a weapon with the through balls of quarterback Messi. Not to mention the defence part, in which he has struggled to be reliable with the many metres left behind.
Junior Firpo, as demonstrated with the Verdiblancos, has some excellent conditions to be an outstanding full-back in modern football, in which they have to be offensive and involved in the attacking phase. However, the question is whether he has the conditions to be the azulgranas‘ starting left-back one day. And having the conditions means having the necessary raw material, as well as the learning capacity to acquire the knowledge he is lacking.
❛ This season has not been easy for me, I had a small injury when I was in my best form too. I want to show the player that I really am and the reason for which I was signed, which has not yet been shown ❜
Because, undoubtedly, Junior has many errors to polish, but can he do it? Is it a matter of patience and confidence, or of conditions? Maybe what’s missing is to make the most out of a potential he certainly has. Or, being honest, 99% of footballers out there are not suited or good enough to play for Barça, and Firpo could perfectly be one of them. Once more it has been proved that, to have a back-up, making a successful signing isn’t as ideal or straightforward as it seems. Trusting youth and La Masía should have come first in the pecking order, but the board has not yet learned from a mistake they keep repeating.
Now Barcelona need money, almost desperately. Junior, who is still only 23 and whose quality has not been forgotten yet, could be an obvious name to put in the transfer market and earn a small portion of the club’s much-needed cash. That’s what the Catalans seem to have done, as he could be used in a swap deal or be sold to, for example, Roma, who are interested in him according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The problem, though, is that, if he is sold, the replacement is not expected to be a La Masía graduate. It could instead be an uninspiring free agent like Kurzawa, or someone that would not be much cheaper than what Firpo would be sold for. But there’s no better solution than looking at the academy first.
Five players that Barcelona could off-load in order to sign Erling Haaland
In Catalonia, many news outlets are reporting that President-elect Joan Laporta is keen to bring the Norwegian sensation, Erling Braut Haaland, to Barcelona. Laporta’s excellent ties with Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola are known throughout the footballing fraternity. He is keen to use this cordial relationship to bring probably one of the most talented young centre-forwards to Camp Nou.
Haaland’s Contract situation
There have been many rumours about Haaland’s contract and his release clause. It’s said that Dortmund have let in known privately that Haaland’s contract includes a release clause of €75 Million. However, this is valid only from 2022; if any club wishes to sign him before, they need to open talks with Borussia Dortmund and his agent Mino Raiola.
With all said, it looks certain that almost every big club in the world will be looking to land this deal which is rumoured to cost €110 Million. Barcelona’s precarious financial situation means that Laporta and his team needs to make a decision to make some big sales in order to complete the dream of signing Haaland. We take a look at 5 players that Barca can sell in order to get the required funds.
The market value of the Brazilian currently stands around €47 Million. After his very successful loan spell at Bayern Munich, he publicly stated that he was determined to make it big at Barcelona. Ronald Koeman also said that he admires the qualities Coutinho has and would be an integral part of his project. However, six months into the season, it seems that the Brazilian has gone out of favour at the club. The emergence of Pedri and Moriba also doesn’t help his case. It has been reported that if Coutinho plays 100 matches for the Blaugranes, the club will need to pay an additional €20 Million to Liverpool.
Given the fact that Barcelona have many parasitic clauses in the contract with former Liverpool player, it’s very doubtful that any club would be willing to offer what his market value is. A long term injury which has forced him out for a big chunk of the season will also play a part in deciding the transfer sum the Catalan club can get in the transaction.
The French forward has not been able to fit perfectly in the system Barcelona plays, he has produced some good performances in the new year, but lacks the ability to move the ball quickly and take on defenders. Former Barca legend, Hristo Stoichkov, had some very harsh words for Griezzy, “Whenever Griezmann is on the pitch, Barcelona play with ten players. If they want to do something in the long term, they have to sell him. Trincao and Braithwaite must be on the team. What is Griezmann doing there?”, said the Bulgarian to Marca.
Griezmann is currently valued at €58 Million, given his wonderful finishing and relentless work off the ball, many big clubs might be interested in getting his services. The French forward will turn 30 this month, a number many clubs will be looking at very closely while making their decision to sign him.
The Danish forward, without any doubt, is a very hardworking player and has improved on various skills of forward play in his time at Barcelona. With that said, it’s a no brainer to realise the fact that he cannot be Barcelona’s only No.9. Many PL clubs from the bottom half are rumoured to be fond of the former Leganes man. With Barcelona targeting Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, the danish would certainly become a fringe player and the club will be open to hearing offers for him.
The Dominican Republic fullback was brought in with the motive to give Jordi Alba some competition at the left-back spot. Under all the three managers Barcelona has had during his tenure at the club did not play him much. Barcelona were open to selling him in the January window itself with Inter Milan in the pole position to acquire his services. However, due to some personal reasons, the move was stalled and Junior ended up staying for the remainder of the season.
The Bosnian midfielder was part of what one can say the worst deal that Barcelona has ever made. It’s a relatively known fact that Pjanic was a part of the deal which was meant to ‘balance the books’ by the Bartomeu administration. The former Juventus man has failed to add anything new to the squad and has been out of favour for a long time now. A deal that would see him go to some other big club in Europe would benefit both parties.
The Twist: Leo Messi
After the very unfortunate leaking of Messi’s contract, the entire world is aware of the astronomical contract he has. If the Argentine wizard decides to leave eventually at the end of the season, the club will surely free a very big amount from the wage bill which can be used to make some necessary additions to this squad.
It remains to be seen how things will pan out in the coming summer, but one thing is for sure that Barcelona needs to clear a lot of their squad depth in order to realize the dream to bring the Haaland to Camp Nou.
Jorge Messi will travel to Barcelona on Monday to listen to Barça’s offer, where they will offer him a renewal for another 3 years.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 13, 2021
— TNT pic.twitter.com/ld93SO6JKV
A thing that can be said with certainty is that Laporta is keen to make the signing of Haaland a reality, and come July, Barca will be into the most important transfer window of their history which will shape the future of the club for many years to come.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com