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Has Trincao finally kick-started his Barcelona career?

Abhishek Khurana

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Photo via Imago

“We already know we are going to lose one of our great players, one that I consider the best, one that will define a decade from now, which is Trincao,” SC Braga president Antonio Salvador comments after FC Barcelona secured the signature of Francisco Trincao for a five-year deal in January 2020.

Fast forward to June 2020, a left-footed young Portuguese forward, Francisco Trincao was unveiled as a new addition to Barcelona’s forward options joining from Portuguese Club SC Braga for a fee of around €31M. Prior to Barça, Trincao nearly sealed to move in January 2018/19 to Juventus which broke down due to lengthy negotiations.

Most new players who have come to Barcelona in recent years have needed time to adapt, including many who were much older and with a lot of experience than Trincao, with Phillipe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann being prominent examples. This year could have been extra difficult, given the constant controversies around the club, including Messi’s attempt to leave last summer, and the resignation of Bartomeu’s as president in October. However, it is looking now Trincao is settling slowly.

The jump from Braga was huge, but Trincao has taken his time, and adapted. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images)

At times throughout the season, Trincao looked unconfident, but in his last appearances, he improved notably. In fact, over the past week, the 20-year-old has scored the winner against Real Betis, and a brace against Deportivo Alaves to take his tally to three for the club. But what awaits him next?

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Trincao is incredibly gifted with excellent technical skills and scrumptious left foot. He is usually positioned on the right flank playing wide by hugging the touchline or drifting into the right half-spaces. His excellent first touch, body orientation, combination play, and vision for ball circulation makes him well suited for possession football or positional play.

Like Antonio Griezmann, he is one of those forwards gifted with immense stamina. He often showcases the same when tracking back to win back the ball, or start moves.

Also once a winger, Lobo Carrasco, who came through the La Masia youth system before donning Blaugrana for a decade from the late 1970s to 80s, is a respected pundit in Spain and saw parts of himself in Trincao.

“I am very passionate about him because he is almost a twin of the way I played.”

Carrasco

Further, he affirmed his belief that the Portuguese will be most effective when deployed on the right due to his unpredictability.

What does he provide for Barcelona?

Width

Barcelona has been missing width this season as a result of Ansu Fati’s and Sergino Dest’s injury. On the other hand, Messi & Griezmann both prefer to occupy central zones, while Martin Braithwaite is ineffective in most games. Trincao plays as a classic winger adding much-needed width in Barcelona’s attacking phase from either flank, preferably the right flank. Graphics showcasing his heat-map (via Sofascore) below proves the same.

UCL heat-map.
La Liga heat-map.

Playing on wings, Trincao is pretty rapid, but prefers to utilise his body orientation, constantly scanning spaces, dropping deep, and incorporating movements of his teammates and opponents around him. We can see an example below from one of the games itself.

Also, the Portuguese winger clearly comes on top when comparing him to under-21 wingers from outside of the top 5 leagues. He is even way ahead of the Koeman’s favourite youngster in the team – Pedri. That being said, the stats clearly show he has nothing to change about his personality or his style of play to fit in at Barcelona, instead of just continuing to play the simple way he always has.

Scatter plot via @MartonBalla1 on Twitter.

He also makes constant runs behind defences. But to exploit that at Barcelona especially, a player needs to get on the same wavelength as Messi, something neither Griezmann nor Coutinho has managed due to do yet. He is also a brilliant dribbler and equally efficient in tight spaces and 1v1 scenarios, completing nearly 55% of dribbles attempted as seen below.

Central Zones

There have been plenty of games in the start where Trincao looked far from impressive, for example, be it either the 1-1 draw with Sevilla and Deportivo Alves or a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo. Indeed, the lack of starts and the absence of confidence from the dutchman in him wasn’t helping much either. But lately, it seems the pendulum is shifting in the opposite direction. 

As can be seen in the above graphical representation, given his past record, he has shown the capability of drifting inwards into half-spaces or more specifically between Zone 14 and Zone 15 due to his dribbling skills. His xG being its indication, which is 0.47 per 90 minutes played. 

The Portuguese also has a brilliant vision & understanding of spaces to find an easy route to goal with xA 0.28 per 90 minutes played. He completes nearly about 36% off through balls & 57% of long balls. He has certainly shown a tendency to oversee simple passes to make complex ones.

Goal Threat

Trincao also has a brilliant eye for a goal. During his tenure at Sporting Braga, his xG was 0.42 per game & 0.64 goals per 90. And after signing for Barça, it jumped to 1.39 per 90. He averages 3.5 progressive runs & 4.5 touches in the box per 90. We can see the comparison chart below for his chance creation capabilities.

Scatter plot via @MartonBalla1 on Twitter.

His recent late-winner against Real Betis was the first goal for him in Blaugrana colours. It was certainly a long-wait but Barcelona will hope he can continue his recent contribution, and keep popping up in the right moment to score key goals like this. This was visible again vs Deportivo Alaves as he continually ran the wing in the hope of finding the right chance, and was rewarded.

Aged just 21, Trincao has a long way to go forward in his career, and initial signs look very promising. He needs more confidence from the coach to provide him with playing time.

Five days shalt thou labor, as the bible says. In my life, The seventh day is the Lord thy God’s. The sixth day is for Football. That pretty much describes my life when not working. I am here to share my ineffable love for this game among other football enthusiasts.

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A significant week in Barcelona for Lionel Messi’s future

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Photo via Imago

It is a topic that gets the football world giddy. The fantasies of Lionel Messi playing in the Premier League, the formation of another star-studded front three alongside Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, and for the romantics, a return to Argentina is set in their hearts. 

After the infamous events of the summer of 2020, now more than ever, the biggest legend of FC Barcelona looks closer than ever to leaving. 

Many Barça fans feel that it could be a good thing that the six-time Ballon D’or winner leaves, bringing up the point that the Catalan side needs a hard restart next season and the idea of building a team around a 33-year-old does not seem logical, as it only benefits the near future. 

This is a valid point and most likely comes from those who want not only the best for Barca but Messi as well, as Cúlers are not ignorant to the fact that the club cannot promise their beloved number ten the fifth Champions League trophy he craves in its current situation.   

However, in an ideal world, Barça fans would want Messi to stay and win his fifth European Cup wearing Blaugrana and if that is to happen, the week that went by is the only decider on course for the club and player alike.

The Copa Del Rey comeback 

In the interview with Jordi Évole on LaSexta last December, Lionel Messi stated that he “wanted to keep competing to win trophies.” 

Two weeks ago, that desire for this season looked unlikely. Atletico Madrid had a sizeable lead over the Catalans in La Liga, Paris Saint-Germain built up a 1-4 lead in the Champions League, and Sevilla had a 2-0 advantage in the Copa del Rey. 

The first of these tasks was addressed on Wednesday night, in what turned out to be a memorable night in the history of FC Barcelona. A 94th minute Gerard Pique header sent Barça into extra time, where Martin Braithwaite completed the comeback to send the Catalans through to the final 3-2 on aggregate. 

Messi was did not score or assist, but essentially led the comeback for Barcelona. (Photo via Imago)

The chance to win another trophy would no doubt have pleased Messi but it is the story of the match that will help keep the Argentine at the club next season. 

If Messi stopped and looked around the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, he would have seen determination and heart from his teammates to keep going to the final whistle, an abundance of youthful talent performing at a level beyond their years, and world-class players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen ready to step up when certain challenges emerged. 

Throughout one night, all these combined into a sort of presentation to the Argentine, exhibiting the future of FC Barcelona and where the team is headed.

There is no denying that the gap between Barcelona and Europe’s elite is still large, but this performance showed the signs Messi has called for and that is something that can be noted down for the future.

The perfect Liga weekend

Looking ahead to the weekend, the second of Barcelona’s comeback missions received an encouraging boost. 

The Catalan side were looking to go 16 games unbeaten in La Liga in a match against twelfth place Osasuna and a win would not only see them extend this run but close the gap on Atletico Madrid to just two points, albeit with two games in hand. 

Barcelona came out victorious in Pamplona. (Photo via Imago)

The importance of this weekend lied in Atletico’s game as they face city rivals Real Madrid. In an ideal world, Barça fans would hope that the spoils are shared in El Derbi allowing the Blaugrana side to gain points on both Madrid clubs. 

Barcelona’s prayers were catered to, and not only did the Catalan giants pick up three ugly, yet important points from their encounter against Osasuna, the capital outfits had to settle for a draw. Playing the angel’s advocate, even if Atleti had come away with the three points, it would essentially narrow the title race to just two teams considering Los Colchoneros gap at the top. 

The ideal derby result. (Photo via Imago)

From Lionel Messi’s point of view, winning the La Liga title from the position Barça found themselves in a few weeks back would be a huge encouragement to stay for another season, especially if it is accompanied by the Copa del Rey. The Argentine has been part of teams that let leads slip over the last three seasons and to flip the script on that, would ultimately show progress. 

The Presidential election 

The final act of the week was the 2021 Presidential Election, where the next president of FC Barcelona was chosen on Sunday night. Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa were the three candidates fighting for Barça’s top spot, and all have addressed the situation of Lionel Messi throughout their campaigns. 

Joan Laporta had emerged as the favourite for a second spell, and like everyone suspected, the Spaniard swayed the elections, coming on top as the winner. Ideally, it would have a significant impact on the future of La Pulga, as Messi showed up to vote for the elections for the first time in his life. In fact, Laporta went on to claim that Leo congratulated him on the night. His renewal will be one of the many hurdles Laporta will have to jump over.

A new president, at long last. (Photo via Imago)

Throughout the presidential campaign, it has been rumoured that Messi will not stay if Joan Laporta does not win. Laporta himself fuelled these rumours on Tuesday during the last of the Presidential debates.

The Spaniard stated, “If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona”. 

“If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona. “Messi will weigh up the offer we make him. I’m convinced that if the other candidates win, Messi will not remain at Barcelona. He wasn’t happy during Freixa’s time on the board.”

Joan Laporta in the presidential debate

If these feelings are believed to be true, the future of Lionel Messi could take a dramatic twist on Sunday. 

Having said all this, Lionel Messi’s future could come down to one simple desire, to win a fifth European Cup. At 33 years old, the Argentine does not have time on his side in this pursuit, and it could be years before Barcelona can compete for Europe’s top prize again. 

Similar scenes soon enough? (Photo via Imago)

With ready-made teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain waiting on the side-lines, the final decision in June could come down to this week — if this week does not make it for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, there is little chance anything else will.

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