The Champions League draw on 1st October saw the one true dream of football fans worldwide come true: Messi vs Ronaldo, one more time, and possibly, one last time. The universe works in mysterious ways, the one time Messi and Ronaldo’s teams were eligible to be drawn in the same group, they were in fact, drawn in the same group. FC Barcelona and Juventus will face off against each other in the Champions League, and with such an enticing match-up comes many exciting storylines.
Ronald Koeman vs Andrea Pirlo
Both Barcelona and Juventus are coming out of relatively disappointing seasons, with ex-managers Quique Setien & Maurizio Sarri failing to deliver in the Champions League, the European giants have turned to corresponding club legends, Ronald Koeman & Andrea Pirlo. Koeman, a seasoned manager, and Pirlo, who is stepping into the world of management for the first time, both hope to mark the turn of the tide at their respective clubs. Having been given promising squads, one led by Lionel Messi and the other by Cristiano Ronaldo, the Dutchman, and the Italian have been entrusted with bringing about a revolution. In this matchup between two managers who have something to prove, who will prove triumphant?
Frenkie de Jong vs Matthijs de Ligt
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
In 2018/19, Ajax took the footballing world by storm when they made a commendable, and an unforeseen run in the Champions League. The Dutch team led by Erik Ten Hag made it all the way to the Champions League semi-final, and if not for a 96th minute, Lucas Moura moment of magic, Ajax would have been playing in the UCL Finals. At the heart of the team, were Dutch duo Frenkie de Jong & Matthijs de Ligt. de Jong, then 21, was Ajax’s beating heart in the midfield, and de Ligt, then 19, was the team’s captain. The duo’s exquisite performances meant that scouts from every top club in Europe were watching like vultures. Two, long transfer sagas emerged, and they ended with Frenkie de Jong moving to FC Barcelona for 75 million euros + variables, and Matthijs de Ligt, moving to Juventus for 70 million euros + variables. de Jong & de Ligt both had decent debut seasons, and in their second season, the two will be hoping to take their game to the next level. Barcelona’s fixture against Juventus will see the Dutch duo return to the same pitch but on opposite sides.
Miralem Pjanic vs Arthur Melo
The summer transfer window saw Barcelona & Juventus exchanging midfield generals Miralem Pjanic & Arthur Melo. Barcelona brought in Pjanic to inject experience in a team consisting of young midfielders (with Vidal and Rakitic leaving), while Juventus purchased Arthur for the polar opposite reason, to introduce youth and a sense of excitement to the squad. The Spanish media reported that Arthur did not want to leave the Catalan club, with the Brazilian’s mother suggesting the same on Twitter. In the matchup between the Blaugrana & Bianconeri clubs, Arthur will want to show the Catalans why they were wrong to sell him, while Pjanic will play to show the world why the Catalans were right to sign him.
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo via Imago
Messi vs Ronaldo. Simply iconic. Ronaldo’s departure from the Spanish capital in 2018, planted seeds of doubt in the minds of football fans, as to whether the world will get to witness a matchup between the two greatest players of all time, ever again. Well, it’s 2020, and here we are. In a rather gloomy year, the last dance between the two legends is sure to be a beacon of light. Messi, 33, and Ronaldo, 35, in the twilight years of their careers, are hungrier than ever to prove that they have still got it, that in spite of the rise of new players, they are still the gods of the game. So when the kick-off whistle blows, make sure to savour and live every moment, because this might be your last chance to do so.
FC Barcelona will travel to Turin to face Juventus on the 29th of October, while Juventus will visit Catalonia to play in the Camp Nou on the 9th of December.
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?