Barça’s defensive problems persist. Keeping tabs on a player like Pau Torres would be crucial for Barcelona in the future.
Barcelona’s defensive record has not been immaculate lately. They have been leaky for years now. At one point in the season, the blaugranas had their worst goal conceded tally in the last decade. The problems in the defence are reasonably visible to the naked eye. No proper shape while defending and a lack of focus are some of the obstacles tactically fixable. But the main problem is the personnel available in the defence.
Gerard Piqué is 33 now and is not growing any younger. There is no proper replacement for the Catalan yet, while the one that showed promise might leave come summer. The other position is not locked down too. While Lenglet has shown promise, he has not featured regularly under Setién. Umtiti has been his preferred option but trusting the Frenchmen for the long haul seems to be not wise. Umtiti has suffered yet another injury and has been sharing his time between the pitch and the hospital.
So, it is wise to keep an eye on potential prospects for the centre-half slot. And, one such excellent centre-back is Pau Torres of Villarreal.
A homegrown Villarreal star
Pau Torres joined the Villarreal academy at the age of five and has been there since. Slowly growing through the ranks, he debuted for the club’s B team in 2016, aged 19. The same year, the lad got his first-team debut in a Copa del Rey game. He became a regular for the reserves for the rest of the season. The next season was more memorable as he made his La Liga debut, making him the fourth Vila-real born player to play in the league.
Pau Torres has been growing in leaps and bounds this season in La Liga | Photo by Imago
In 2018, for the first time in his career, he played for a different club. Malaga loaned him for a year in the Segunda División. The Spaniard played a titular role in Málaga, finishing third in their division. He featured in more than 40 games for Los Malaguistas, in a career-defining season. With the much-needed experience, he was ready to start for Villarreal. Alongside Raíl Albiol, he has been guarding the Yellow Submarine’s goal this season.
By the end of 2019, Pau got his contract extended, got his maiden Spain call-up and scored his first goal for the club. He became the first-ever Villarreal-born player to play for the national side. The 23-year-old has been confident, dependable, and a rock at the back.
Pau Torres’ playing style
Pau Torres is tall, left-footed and comfortable playing at left centre-back in a 4-man defence. He is calm and composed when pressed and has a knack of breaking the press too. He is excellent at getting the ball out from the back and finding that line-breaking pass. His distribution, especially his long-balls, are a treat to watch.
On the defensive side, Torres likes to anticipate the opponents’ movements than jump into tackles. His concentration and the ability to read the game helps him in this regard. To put things to perspective, we can compare the Villarreal-born man to Barcelona’s Lenglet. On the first watch, the two defenders seem to have a similar style of play.
Comparison with Clément Lenglet
Lenglet is only a year older than Torres but has been playing the top-level football for some years now. So, with the experience and quality, the numbers will be slightly better. Lenglet has better pass completion and participates more in the buildup as he plays for a side that builds out from the back and has a lot of the ball. However, Torres is not far behind.
A comparison between Barcelona’s Lenglet and Villarreal’s Pau Torres | Charts by @LaMasiaNostra
Both surprisingly play a similar amount of long balls with Pau liking to send in cross-field balls to the other flank. On the defensive side of things, the Frenchman is more positionally aware and makes better interceptions. However, the Spaniard makes more clearances in the box and commits lesser fouls. Despite being taller than Lenglet, Torres wins lesser aerial duals.
Pau Torres is not far behind Barcelona ‘s Lenglet in multiple aspects | Charts via @LaMasiaNostra
Lenglet shows better numbers when pressed as well as trying to get the ball to the final third. But, Villarreal’s style of play and position in the table might restrict the Spaniard’s abilities. He stays mostly on his half rather than pushing up and pressing high, which is understandable.
Lenglet surely has better numbers in most departments, but with a better possession-based team, Pau Torres’ numbers could improve. There are very few centre-backs who could fit the style of Barcelona and Pau could be one of them. If Umtiti’s injury problems continue and Barça decide to sell him, his €50m release clause could be tempting. But, if the azulgranas do sign Pau Torres, they would get a player who would possibly start for Spain for the next decade.
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