Barcelona’s new boss Gerardo Martino has been quick to highlight the areas he needs to strengthen. Of course it wouldn’t take a footballing genius to pinpoint defence as an area of immediate concern, typically Barcelona are left to rely on the likes of Song and Mascherano as their lack of depth is exposed throughout the La Liga season.
In the last few weeks the club have been linked with moves for David Luiz and Daniel Agger, of Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, in a bid to bolster their options, but as one of the best clubs in the world – should they not be setting their sights higher?
Attack has always been favoured ahead of defence for the Catalan giants, something that is symptomatic of Spanish football in general. As such, the club have traditionally favoured a ball-playing centre half as opposed to your traditional rugged English defender. The threat of a towering long ball is less apparent in Spain and the likes of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol have been able to thrive in this environment. Gerard Pique would seem a timeless fixture of the Barcelona side, but at only 26 he has many years ahead of him. Sadly the same cannot be said for stalwart Carles Puyol whose time appears to be numbered as injury and age begin to wear the Spaniard down. Marc Barta may be the future but aside from that the backline continues to look woefully thin and in need of an overhaul. Do Luiz and Agger fit the bill?
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In reality they may have to. There appears to be a complete lack of world-class defenders available in general, whilst clubs can select from a vast array of midfield options their defensive choices seem limited. This is the reason why Thiago Silva’s contract renewal at PSG earlier this summer came as such a blow to Barcelona who would have seen him as a world-class replacement for Puyol. Gerardo Martino would not be drawn on the issue when speaking to press following his appointment, commenting:
“I have only spoken to [Carles] Puyol this morning, but haven’t even had a training session with the players yet so it’s much too early to draw any conclusions about the needs of the team.”
The inference being that Barcelona clearly need a new defender, but the issue over who is a difficult one considering the options available.
Barcelona’s chase for Luiz is perhaps an unsurprising one considering the Silva snub. The Brazilian is much maligned in England for his defensive frailties, but in Spain this is accepted as a necessary evil for a ball playing centre half. Luiz is the kind of player that I could well imagine playing for Barcelona. A team famed for their methodical build up play from the back, Luiz has the creative instincts to thrive in that kind of environment. If anything Barcelona need Luiz more than Chelsea do, and therefore the move definitely has legs. Will Barcelona stump up the required £40m? This is difficult to tell considering the financial side of Spanish football is so baffling. Gerardo Martino gave no further clues when pressed on the matter:
“We are here in Thailand, there is nothing we know about this.”
The Daniel Agger interest is perhaps a little more intriguing. The Dane is a professed loyalist and would therefore be a difficult acquisition to make. Having had an excellent season last year it is difficult to omit him from any list of the worlds top defenders and Barcelona’s interest is clearly justified. Agger offers something a little bit different to Luiz, with less creative influence but more defensive steel. The choice is largely a question of which way Martino wishes to take the club as in my eyes they both represent excellent prospects.
But should Barcelona be aiming a little higher?
The reality is they can’t. Defenders now come at such a premium, hence the £40m being mooted for Luiz. The crop of world-class centre backs can be easily counted on one hand and this really emphasises the problem Barcelona and Martino face. Do they choose from the limited crop of ready-made talents, or seek to develop a younger option?
Inigo Martinez the 22-year-old Real Sociedad defender was someone marked for a move to the Nou Camp. Far from the finished article, he is highlighted as someone with the potential to develop into a world-class player in the near future. My view is that Barcelona’s defensive options appear so limited that they may need to do both, plan for the future whilst buying in established stars for the short term.
Would Luiz and Agger be the right signings for Barcelona?
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