As Barcelona missed out on Manchester City’s Eric García on deadline day, manager Ronald Koeman may be facing a serious problem in central defence for the new season.
The centre-back position has been a constant source of worry for Barcelona season after season. Every year seems to be the one when the right reinforcements will be made. And every transfer window departs with the same personnel handling the defence. No doubt, Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet are excellent defenders. However, in the position they play, having reliable back-up options is always critical.
Throughout recently concluded transfer window, one central defender name was inseparable from Barcelona. The homecoming of La Masía product Eric García was the primary agenda of the board and manager. The youngster left the academy at the age of 17 to join Manchester City. Nonetheless, he has declined a contract extension with Pep Guardiola’s men and has made his intention to rejoin his childhood club very clear.
Despite having advanced negotiations, the deal fell apart in the dying moment of the window when the two clubs could not agree on a fee. As it stands, Barcelona can sign the youngster on a free transfer next season, or for a token fee in the coming winter transfer window. For now, though, the Catalans are a centre-back short for the upcoming term.
Presently, the starting partnership of Piqué and Lenglet seems to be cemented. The Spaniard has looked fresh and has been the standout player in many games even in the last campaign. While his form may not be a major worry, his age catching up with him mandates more frequent rest. One would expect it to be difficult for him to play the entire 90 minutes in all the games across three competitions.
Barcelona may regret having missed out on Eric García, already a Spanish international | Photo by Pedro Fiuza / Xinhua via Imago
Lenglet has been a wonderful addition to the squad since he arrived in 2018. Consistent performances combined with Samuel Umtiti’s constant injuries have paved his way to establishing himself as an undisputed starter. Cool, calm and composed under pressure, his defensive stability has made him a household name among culés. Still, as is well known, he has not always been the referee’s favourite candidate. Suspensions have not been kind to him, to say the least. Though this accounts only for a very small number of matches, suspensions increase the importance of centre-back backups manyfold.
Even so, the options on the bench look bleak indeed. Ronald Araújo is the only silver lining of an otherwise dull bench. The young Uruguayan has impressed with his performances. With age on his side, a good physique, unbelievable pace and a dominant aerial presence, his future appears bright. After his recent promotion to the senior side, he would be beaming with confidence.
Beyond the Uruguayan, the only available first-team centre-back is Umtiti. Once dubbed the “next Puyol”, things have only been on a downward spiral for the Frenchman. Outright rejection of surgical intervention has damaged his football career recklessly. Given his horrendous injury record and his sky-high wages, he found no takers in the transfer window despite being deemed unwanted by Ronald Koeman. At present, he is a Barcelona player earning ridiculous wages for little to no participation whatsoever. How much can we expect from him in the coming season?
Of what we have learnt over the past two seasons, not much. He has continuously struggled for fitness, and his lack of match practice too is concerning. A sudden return to fitness for him is beyond expectation at this stage. Including Umtiti in his plans for the season would be a mistake on Koeman’s part.
The biggest puzzle in the given situation is the case of Jean-Clair Todibo. Todibo arrived at the club amidst massive hype, for a fee less than €1 million. Not once had he put up a performance so bad as to ostracise him from the team. He did show a good amount of composure and defensive stability in his few games. Notwithstanding, the board over the last two seasons has been hell-bent on finding him a way out. Despite knowing the void in defence, the board has shipped him out for a minimal fee. This could be only explained by the fact that his signing was never to strengthen the team but to generate revenue. Horrendous.
In the situation now, with Todibo shipped and Umtiti not reliable, the team finds itself at a dead end. Koeman has to juggle his three pieces for two spots in the side, and there is always the risk of falling short of options. In recent games, the newly-acquired youth team defender Santiago Ramos Mingo has received back to back call-ups. That said, it is hard to fathom him getting chances. Undoubtedly, Barcelona will be eyeing to acquire the services of Eric García in January. In all probability, he will return home because Manchester City will want to avoid losing him on a free transfer. Till then, Koeman is on a tightrope. One mishap in the volatile department and the team could come down crumbling.
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?