Eric García, one of La Masía’s most impressive prospects in recent years, but sold to Manchester City in 2017, is now linked with a move back to Barça. Is it a relistic scenario? Or is his return too complicated?
The transfer market is getting closer and new rumours come to light. This time there is a new link to Barcelona, shared by ESPN, related to Eric García. The 19-year-old left La Masía in the summer of 2017 to sign for Manchester City after failing to reach an agreement with Barça’s board. According to sources, the azulgranas have now asked about the player and have interest in his return.
One of the most talented defensive prospects in all of Europe without a doubt. Eric may not have had many opportunities with the Citizens’ first team, but in 2020, with the injury problems in the English team, García has had a couple of valuable opportunities. Now that the Catalan club is considering his return for the summer, let’s analyse his situation and whether or not this move is feasible.
The current Barça project didn’t convince Eric García
One of the main reasons why Eric García left Barcelona was due to disagreements with the board. Before departing, the young Spaniard was one of La Masía‘s jewels. He was doing very well, with good performances and with enough maturity despite his young age. However, the directives never had a vision with the player to have him in their plans for the first team. So Barça offered him to move from the Cadete A to the Juvenil B with a contract below his true value. A proposal that disappointed Eric.
Soon after his arrival, Eric García was already named captain of Manchester City’s U–18 side | Photo by Alex Burstow via Getty Images
Another reason was the management’s treatment of young prospects. In recent years there has been a great job done in the lower categories, but such has never reaped rewards with proper first-team opportunity for the gems who really deserved it. Like Riqui Puig and Álex Collado nowadays, or Carles Pérez and Marc Cucurella a couple of months ago. In addition to the board’s disappointing proposal, Eric García analysed what was happening with the young core. As a consequence, he started to listen to offers from other teams. Perhaps Eric García lacked patience or the board lacked comprehension. In the end, the teenager was appealed by the project from Manchester City.
Eric García’s career at Manchester City
Manchester City signed Eric García for 1.5 million euros in the summer of 2017. The Sky Blues offered the youngster a greater amount of money, but that was not his main interest. Instead, the English giants presented Eric García a well-structured and reliable project where he was given a well-defined role and perspective for the long-term. And of course, Pep Guardiola as the coach increased the confidence that this proposal generated in him.
❛ I heard something about him, he was in the Barcelona academy, he was the captain in all the youth teams, he arrived here and he was immediately a captain…❜
after Manchester City signed Eric García
After playing for the reserves of Manchester City, García was promoted to the first team and he has gradually been earning several call-ups since. Even so, a good place in the team has been complicated by the large number of players in that spot, including Aymeric Laporte, Nicolás Otamendi, John Stones and Pep’s latest successful experiment in that position: Fernandinho. However, Laporte’s serious injury, among other games that the other centre-backs have missed, has served as a golden opportunity for Eric García.
Here are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from Eric García’s first appearances in the Premier League. Overall, he is an expert in terms of passing the ball. He has an average of 81 passes per 90 minutes, completing 95.7% of them. 8.42 passes of these reach the final third, and the success rate does not drop in such longer deliveries: 95.8%. These are brilliant numbers, even if his playing time has not been big enough to get a full picture of him. Notwithstanding, it already proves that he has the pure Barça DNA. He’s a master of the ball. Controlling, passing and starting plays. Moreover, he’s excellent in his positioning, anticipating and reading situations before others. All of these qualities allow him to be a mastermind when it comes to tactical scenarios.
❛ He is an incredible boy, capable of leading the entire defence. He’s very smart, plays with great concentration, and very well❜
Nevertheless, García has a lot of room for improvement in some aspects. For example, in how to mark the attackers. The young player occasionally positions himself slightly deeper, protecting the zone instead of marking his target tightly. On some occasions, this situation lets his opponent receive the ball too easily. Similarly, he is sometimes a bit vulnerable in one-on-ones or in situations where he has to occupy a big area, as is often the case with counter-attacks.
Another thing is the aerial game, as his height of 1.83 meters doesn’t allow him to win duels easily. That said, what he doesn’t achieve with his height is compensated by his mental agility, something that the likes of Carles Puyol or Javier Mascherano also had. Eric is not that fast either, but there is no need to worry.
Eric already has the characteristics hardest to find in a centre-back: a ball-playing nature and a brilliant tactical game. What he lacks is an imposing physique that is refined over time, so it shouldn’t be given so much importance considering he just turned 19.
Could Eric García return to Barça?
Barça’s situation has worsened from 2017 to the present year. It is hard to imagine that Eric García would be considered by the same board that rejected him a few years ago. There are very little possibilities for Barcelona. Nevertheless, Eric’s contract expires in 2022, and it is still unclear whether he will renew with the English team. Manchester City has been trying since January to negotiate a new contract for the player, but they have failed to convince him. Does Eric García have in mind a return to Barcelona after his contract ends? Perhaps yes, and there are reasons to believe this argument.
Eric García’s contract ends in 2022, one year after FC Barcelona’s presidential elections. This means that a new board would have been in command for a year, so the footballer could have a better perspective of the club. Another reason is that Eric was born in Barcelona, has lived there for most of his life, his family is from there and he is a huge culé fan. He loves the city and possibly dreams of a homecoming.
In spite of recently turning 19, Eric García has been a regular in the latest squad list from the Spanish U–21 team | Photo by Aitor Alcalde via Getty Images
Finally, the strongest argument of all is that his representatives are Carles Puyol and Iván de la Peña, two figures in the history of Barcelona. If Víctor Font, candidate for the 2021 elections of Barcelona, manages to become the president, Puyol will probably be named the sporting director of his board. This would greatly facilitate the return of Eric García.
For more incentives or proposals that Citizens make to Eric García, this is an important decision that is in the player’s hands. Everything will depend on what made him leave Barça: the vision. Now, what would happen if Bartomeu’s board won the elections? A return would be far more unlikely.
Having Eric García back in 2022 has to be the the top priority of Barça. In the first place, he should never have left. And, more importantly, in 2022 Gerard Piqué will be 35 years old. Therefore, getting a heir for the Spanish legend has to be a big matter to consider. Eric García, despite his tender age, is the closest to Piqué’s profile. Eric’s return to Barcelona this year is very improbable, but in the not-too-distant future he could indeed be back at the Camp Nou.
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.