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Analysis

The silent rise of Clément Lenglet

As Clément Lenglet turns 25, we review his quiet rise from Nancy to Barça.

Aaryan Parasnis

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Header Image by Aitor Alcalde via Getty Images

Lenglet has been wonderful in his time at Barça so far, but has perhaps gone under the radar. On his 25th birthday, we take a look at the quiet rise of Clément Lenglet, which deserves more recognition.


FC Barcelona largely owe Clément Lenglet a debt of gratitude for their win over Leganés last night. In what was a rather cagey match, Lenglet’s contributions were vital in securing all three points. Within the first 15 minutes, Leganés burst into the box and Miguel Guerrero had the Barça goal gaping. However, Lenglet made an absolutely heroic block off the line to keep the game scoreless. Had he not intervened, the champions would have been in real trouble. The Frenchman grew into the game even more from there on out. He also completed a staggering 124 passes out of 128. A completion rate of 96.88%, via SofaScore.

After serving a one match suspension against Mallorca, he returned to action after 101 days, and he looked as confident as ever. A very welcome sight as the league leaders travel to Lenglet’s former club Sevilla for a crucial game in a couple of days. His performance had everything Barça fans are finally coming to admire him for. Holding his defensive position impeccably well, moving to track the attackers, intercepting vital passes and offering wonderful support on the ball. Since arriving at the club, Clément Lenglet has never looked back. And as he turns 25 years old, it is time he gets some well deserved recognition.

From Nancy to Sevilla

Clément Lenglet started his senior career with AS Nancy in 2013. In fact, Lenglet’s first brush with top flight football came as late as 2016. When he made his debut in 2013, Nancy were a Ligue 2 side. They would remain in the second division till the 2015-16 season, which is where Lenglet’s stock gradually begins to rise.

In April of 2016, the young defender scored from a corner that secured promotion to Ligue 1 for Nancy. The small French club would return to the first division after a three-year absence and also secure the Ligue 2 title in the process. In their very first season back, teams around Europe started noticing Lenglet. Just halfway through the 16/17 Ligue 1 campaign, Sevilla brought the promising talent to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.

Clément Lenglet rise Sevilla Bayern Munich

Clément Lenglet already gained experience in the European stage with Sevilla | Photo by Imago

Clément Lenglet immediately got his debut eight days after joining in January 2017. He continued his steady rise and became a key player at Sevilla in the following season. Making 35 league appearances for the Andalusians, he played a vital role in European games as well. He was particularly great in Sevilla’s Champions League win against Manchester United. His wonderful short stint at Sevilla caught Barça’s attention, continuing his rather rapid rise up the ranks.

Clément Lenglet at Barcelona

Barça triggered Lenglet’s release clause of 35.9 million euros in the summer of 2018. When he signed, it looked fairly certain that he would initially just be an understudy to Gerard Piqué and Samuel Umtiti‘s starting duo. Nonetheless, the long term injuries to compatriot Umtiti, meant Lenglet was thrust into a starting role far earlier than expected. The sudden step into the limelight turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both Barça and Clément. And it has more or less justified his massive release clause of 300 million euros.

The calm and quiet, 6’1 / 1.86 metres, left-footed centre-back has made miraculous strides in his development at the club. Since he has joined, he has made 43 league appearances for the blaugranas and 19 Champions League appearances as well. His demeanor on the pitch certainly doesn’t fit the mould of a conventional defender. He is not too vocal and aggressive, instead very composed and dutiful.

His technical ability vastly overshadows the need for physicality. He is a great distributor of the ball, an elite tackler and very astute in his awareness and positioning. All traits, which make him the ideal centerback not just for Barcelona, but for almost any club in the world. And even Barça legend Carles Puyol seems to agree.

❛ A pleasure speaking to you, Clément. My dear Barça’s defence is in good hands. Good luck, now comes the best and the most beautiful and give your all! ❜

Carles Puyol
via Instagram in January 2020

Another facet of Lenglet is his consummate professionalism. He is a very classy individual, who keeps away from unnecessary controversy. He behaves like a gentleman off the pitch and lets his football talk for itself on it.

With Barça, he has already won a La Liga trophy and the Supercopa de España. His continued improvement also earned him his first France call-up in May 2019. Since then, he has seven caps for the national team, slowly but surely inching his way up the pecking order.

And not just for France, he is also staking a major claim to an undisputed starting spot at Barcelona. Although Quique Setién has been in two minds recently claiming that Umtiti and Lenglet are “on a similar level”, the latter is regularly showing why he deserves to be in the team. He also stated that he feels “at home” with Barcelona.

❛ You never really know what the future will be like if you are a football player; but I hope that I will play in Barcelona next season, yes ❜

Clément Lenglet
in an interview with French radio Station RMC

His career’s constant upward trajectory can only mean that there is a lot more success in store for Clément Lenglet. The now 25-year-old will very likely be seen as one of the world’s best defenders very soon. Here’s wishing him a happy 25th birthday. One of many personal and professional milestones to come for this amazing talent. And hopefully many of them will come in Barcelona colours.


See more

Tactical analysis: Barcelona 2–0 Leganés

• Barcelona 2–0 Leganés: Player ratings

• Umtiti vs Lenglet: Which centre-back is a better ‘fit’ for Setien?

• Barcelona 2–0 Leganés: Match Review

It was the great César Luis Menotti who once said that "to be a footballer means being a privileged interpreter of the feelings and dreams of many, many people". This quote has stuck with me since my childhood when football first caught my attention. My interest in football developed from a hobby to an emotion embedded into every fibre of my being. Football and Barça became my life. I spend every waking moment thinking about football and my sentimentality towards FC Barcelona is a catalyst. The world's most popular sport is a universal language that unites everyone who loves it and, to me, writing about football is being able to transmit that language in my own way.

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Analysis

Using Machine Learning to predict Barcelona’s 2021/22 league season

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Photo via Imago

Johan Cruyff famously said, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.” It is indisputable that money is not the only deciding factor behind a football club’s success. Time and time again, we have seen that football is chaotic and absurd. Anything can happen.

That being said, it is evident that statistically, the clubs with more money are usually the more successful ones. While one cannot predict the unpredictability that is engraved within football, an outcome that is statistically probable can be predicted. This article will explore the relationship between the points a club accumulates in a league season and the total value of the club’s squad. Then, Python will be used to build a linear regression model in order to predict the number of points Barcelona will obtain in the 21/22 season based on the club’s hypothetical squad.

Let us begin with visualizing the relationship between the total league points obtained by a club and the club’s total squad value. Since the amount of money spent on transfers has increased tremendously over the course of the last decade, in this article, only seasons 2014/15 – 2019/20 will be considered. Upon plotting the total points against the total squad value, it is evident that there is a positive correlation between the two. Granted, the correlation is not extremely strong, but it exists nonetheless.

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A line of regression has been generated. The line’s gradient is approximately 0.05138986, and its y-intercept is approximately 44.5470726. There is only one dependant variable in question, club value/total value of squad, and so our line of regression can be modelled by the equation:

P = (0.05138986 )V + 44.5470726 where P is the points and V is the total squad value.


club_values = np.array(df['Values']).reshape(89,1)
club_points = np.array(df['Point']).reshape(89,1)

from sklearn.linear_model import LinearRegression
linear_model = LinearRegression()
linear_model.fit(club_values,club_points)

In order to predict the points accumulated based on Barcelona’s squad value next season, the squad value won’t directly be inputted into our equation above. The coefficient and the y-intercept have been rounded up after a certain number of decimal places, and so, to preserve the precision of the prediction, Python’s LinearRegression predict method will be utilized.

Now comes another challenging part of coming up with Barcelona’s hypothetical squad next season. Based on reports, it can be assumed that Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Martin Braithwaite and Phillipe Coutinho will be some of the notable players to leave. To compensate for the outgoing players, it can be assumed that Barcelona will sign Eric Garcia, David Alaba, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. Here is a table that contains all the players in Barcelona’s hypothetical 21/22 squad and their corresponding market values:

PLAYER NAME MARKET VALUE (MILLION POUNDS)
MARC ANDRE TER STEGEN79.34
ARNAU TENAS1.59
RONALD ARAUJO26.45
CLEMENT LENGLET26.45
GERARD PIQUE12.70
DAVID ALABA58.19
ERIC GARCIA21.16
OSCAR MINGUENZA10.58
JORDI ALBA26.45
JUNIOR FIRPO10.58
SERGINO DEST26.45
SERGI ROBERTO26.45
SERGIO BUSQUETS10.58
FRENKIE DE JONG84.63
RIQUI PUIG19.04
ILAIX MORIBA10.58
PEDRI GONZALEZ74.06
GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM37.03
ANSU FATI84.63
KONRAD DE LA FUENTE2.64
OUSMANE DEMBELE52.90
TRINCAO26.45
MEMPHIS DEPAY47.61
ANTOINE GRIEZMANN54.00
LIONEL MESSI84.63
Figures via Transfermarkt

The club’s total value comes up to be £786.60 million. It is important to note that a player’s value is volatile. Transfermarkt updates player values every few months, and so it is extremely probable that this squad’s market value will be drastically different next season.

It is also important to understand that Transfermarkt’s market values are not official and so they are not always an accurate representation of a player’s true market value. Moreover, a player’s value is not always an accurate representation of their quality. Age is a key factor in determining market value, and so while a young player might have a high market value indicating that they are a bright prospect for the future, they might not necessarily be an excellent player at the time when the value is assigned.

Now that all of this has been established, the only thing left is making the prediction.

The machine learning model predicts that Barcelona will obtain 85 points in the 21/22 La Liga season. In the 19/20 season, Real Madrid won the league with 87 points, and in the 18/19 season, Barcelona won the league with 87 points as well. The difference between the points accumulated by the last two winning La Liga squads and the predicted points that Barcelona’s 21/22 squad will obtain is a mere 2 points. This shows that it is possible for Barcelona to win the league next season.

Since the correlation between the two variables, as observed from the data from the last 6 seasons, is not even close to being extremely strong, Barcelona’s 21/22 league points tally may be drastically different from what was predicted by the machine learning model. However, at the end of the day, the model can only work with the data it is exposed to.

Erling Haaland can change the course of Barcelona’s season. It would take forever to make predictions based on Barcelona’s hypothetical squads that include all of the club’s potential transfer targets, however, due to Haaland’s influence, an exception can be made for him. Laporta’s interest in signing Haaland has been widely reported.

However, he will cost a fortune this summer, and with Barcelona’s debt situation, it is unlikely that the Catalan club will pursue him in the upcoming transfer window. That being said like mentioned previously in the article, football is chaotic, and anything can happen.

Oh, Haaland. Oh, you. (Photo via Imago)

Assuming that Barcelona does end up signing Haaland in the summer, Antoine Griezmann will most definitely have to leave (due to wages and the money that can be generated from his sale). Haaland’s current value is £99 million, and so Barcelona’s total squad value for next season, after being corrected for Griezmann’s exit and Haaland’s arrival is £831.60 million.

Haaland’s addition can put 21/22 Barcelona on level with the previous two Spanish champions in terms of total points won. The difference in points between a squad containing Haaland and one not containing him is only two. However, an argument about whether signing Haaland is worth it, is not in the scope of this article.

“Transition seasons do not exist at Barcelona.”

Joan Laporta | Presidential campaign

A club of Barcelona’s stature will always compete for titles. The machine learning model shows that Barcelona is in contention for the 2021/22 La Liga title. Ronald Koeman has done a splendid job at the Blaugrana club this season, and there is no logical reason for him to not do an even better job next season after getting fresh players in the summer.

While football at its core is unpredictable, statistically, it would not hurt to trust Barcelona to win the 2021/22 La Liga title.

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