After ceding the La Liga title to Real Madrid and bowing out in the Champions League Quarter-Finals, it is fair to say that Barcelona did not have the best of seasons. Although it’s clear that Barça simply doesn’t have the talent that its cross-country rival does, the club must push for as much success as possible while Lionel Messi is still absolutely world-class. New boss Ernesto Valverde doesn’t have much experience with incoming transfers; let’s give him a little help with this short, short list of possible targets.
It should come to no surprise to anyone following Barcelona that right-back is a position of weakness. Champions League hero Sergi Roberto has found his feet at the position and unlike some other Barça followers, I believe he should remain the club’s first choice in the position. Bringing in a slightly younger player (Semedo is 23, Sergi 25) will allow Sergi to remain confident with his ranking in the squad while allowing the Portuguese defender to adapt to life in La Liga.
Nélson Semedo has the ability to outperform both Roberto and Aleix Vidal, a backup wingback that saw little playing time this season. In a Primeira Liga-winning Benfica side, Semedo was one of the standout performers. Not only can he deal with the pressure of competing for a league title, but he has the attributes commonly sought-after by Barcelona. Accurate passing is probably the most noticeable trait that ‘Nelsinho’ possesses. In addition, his intelligence on the ball, vision, tackling, and dribbling ability are all elite. There is quite simply no better right back on the market at Semedo’s age.
Reports surfacing of Manchester United bidding €34 million for Semedo may cause Barcelona some financial trouble with the deal. However, if Valverde and company come knocking on Benfica’s door looking to bring the defender to the Camp Nou, it would certainly be difficult for the 23-year-old to turn down a chance to play directly behind Lionel Messi himself.
After completing his fourth season at Tottenham Hotspur following his move from Ajax in 2013, Christian Eriksen is finally garnering the reputation that many astute followers know he’d receive all along. The Danish playmaker has made waves in London for his playmaking ability, creative thinking, and overall technique. Eriksen has accrued 42 goals and 56 assists in 179 appearances for the Premier League club, meaning he contributes to a goal in more than half of the games he features.
Christian Eriksen is one of those players who never shies away from the action but also understands his place within the game plan. This is important at Barcelona. Players like Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets are fully committed to achieving team success; this is what has allowed the Barcelona system to strive for years within and outside the Spanish borders. Eriksen does not have the footballing mind like Messi, the pure striking power of Luis Suárez, or the flashy skills of Neymar. Christian Eriksen has the ability to fit right into Barça’s system. No more, no less.
Christian Eriksen is a Culé at heart even if he doesn’t know it. After playing for Ajax Amsterdam before his move to England, the Dane grew accustomed to the style of football instituted by Johan Cruijff at both Ajax and Barcelona. Eriksen’s sharp passing, teamwork-oriented thinking, and magical sense surrounding him are exactly the traits inspired by working within such structures in the Dutch capital and Spanish coastal city.
So, it’s settled then. Christian Eriksen needs to be a Barcelona player. Well, not so fast. After a spectacular 2nd-place finish in the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur is one of the most powerful clubs in the world. There are no significant weaknesses across the team’s first eleven so the priority will be to maintain its best players. Christian Eriksen won’t be easy to purchase by any stretch of the imagination, but Barcelona should put a hefty chunk of their transfer eggs into the Eriksen basket.
I’m going to say this right from the get-go: Mikel Oyarzabal is not ready to be a mainstay in the Barcelona squad. In fact, if you’re not an astute follower of La Liga you probably haven’t even heard of him. Oyarzabal is a 20-year-old left-winger: Real Sociedad’s golden boy, if you will. He hasn’t been lighting La Liga on fire, but he’s Sociedad’s top assist man and has done a respectable job replacing Antoine Griezmann since the age of 18. Oyarzabal has some great potential and should be considered by the Barcelona transfer committee due to the club’s lack of depth in wide areas.
Mikel Oyarzabal is not the normal winger. Although he is quick off the mark, he is not particularly pacey. He’s got a knack for losing the ball, but he’s confident with his dribbling. He doesn’t cross particularly well, but he’s adept at fitting in a short-passing system like the one in Barcelona. Oyarzabal is no Neymar, but he has the potential to back-up the Brazilian and potentially fill his shoes in the long term if he develops correctly.
With Arda Turan looking set to depart the club and Rafinha not performing as well as many would’ve hoped, there could be a major drought on the flanks at the Camp Nou this summer. Everton’s Gerard Deolofeu looking set to return to the Spanish club after Barcelona reportedly activated his buy-back clause, but he is more of a right-sided winger who would probably back up Messi. With nobody but Turan to naturally fit in behind Neymar on the left, Oyarzabal would be the perfect youngster to bring into the shadow of Brazil’s superstar.
Barcelona’s appointment of Ernesto Valverde was, to many, a step in the right direction for the club. It is now imperative that Barça begins investing in more players to bolster the squad this summer, if only to de-throne Real Madrid from atop La Liga. Leo Messi, Luis Suárez, and Andrés Iniesta deserve a better supporting cast as their years of world-class ability dwindle down. Will Barcelona continue to fade behind the imposing figures of its European rivals, or will it rise above the crowd to claim its dominance once again?
Featured image provided by Football Whispers