There is arguably not a single player in Europe who can replicate what Sergio Busquets does at Barcelona, in terms of his skill set. And having a such a unique player has become a bit of a worry for the club, for who can even replace him?
At 33, Busquets does not have too much left in is career, especially at Barcelona. If reports are to believed, the 2022/23 season will be his last in the Catalan capital, after which he will move to the MLS to start a new chapter.
Xavi needs to start preparing for life after Busquets, especially if he is building a long-term project. While it is abundantly clear that Barça will not pursuit a replacement in the market this year, the manager does have a few options within the squad for next season.
According to Mundo Deportivo, Xavi will rely on Nico Gonzalez, Miralem Pjanic (if he stays), and occasionally even Franck Kessie to replace Busquets next season.
For a majority of the 2020/21 campaign, Nico was deployed as a defensive midfielder by Garcia Pimienta at Barcelona B. However, he was used primarily as a classic 8 upon promotion.
Xavi will look to reverse that this season, as he has already tried using the Spaniard in Busquets’ role during pre-season.
Nico holds the ball very well, and can carry it upwards without fail. There are, however, some serious doubts over his progressive passing, especially if he is pressured to mirror Busquets’.
On the flipside, he is defensively astute, physically, and unlike Busquets, can handle quick defensive transitions.
Right off the bat, Pjanic’s continuity at Barcelona is not given. In fact, there are far more chances of him leaving than staying. That said, his performance in the deep midfield role against Juventus yesterday was praise worthy.
If Xavi wants his #6 to always find a passing option, progress the ball quickly, and be press resistant, Pjanic is the obvious Busquets replacement.
His defensive positioning is a bit suspect at times, but no other midfielder in the team mirrors his passing range, and on his day, the Bosnian is simply unplayable.
Kessie is a much better defender than the aforementioned duo. He is proactive, reads the game brilliantly, and can put in one heck of a sliding tackle. However, his skill set is best used up field.
The Ivorian has technical ability for days, which when coupled with his high pressing and eye for goal make him an ideal #8. That said, he is certainly an option to play as a lone pivot if push comes to shove.