FC Barcelona has been questioned defensively for years now, not having the best of times when faced on the counter, not having enough pace, etc. But last season, if not the best, was better than previous years having a couple of young players in Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo coming through the academy to replace the likes of Lenglet and Pique, and giving a ray of hope for the future. Also, adding Sergiño Dest as a full-back added to the ‘defensive rebuild’ for the team.
In addition, the club has signed center-back Eric Garcia from Manchester City on a free, and Emerson Royal, the right-back from Real Betis for €9m. There are rumors about Aymeric Laporte heading to Camp Nou, but he won’t be cheap considering what the Cityzens paid for him in the first place. So far, the backline is looking decent enough to compete, but there’s also the issue of selling Umtiti, and whether or not to keep Sergi Roberto, as the midfield is stacked, and the right-back position has two young players already.
Junior Firpo is heading to Leeds for about €15m, and the club is looking at Gaya from Valencia, who intends to extend his contract, and might not be open to selling unless he wants to leave. With not many left-backs out there, who could compete with Alba, the Blaugrana have very limited options to go for. Eric Garcia went to Man City three years ago, and hasn’t played that much on club level (played 6 and started 3 last season in the Premier League), but is a Spanish International who plays on the right side of the defense and could be prioritized over Mingueza just on the basis of experience. The latter could also compete for the right-back position with Dest and Emerson.
Ronald Araujo could team up with Garcia, and so could Clement Lenglet, who struggled last season. The Uruguayan is still yet to be dribbled past this season but is injury prone. He played 24 games (started 16), has 0.8 interceptions per game, 1.8 clearances, scored twice, and assisted once. But the fans need to be patient with these young players, as they can’t become the next ‘Puyol’ or ‘Pique’ overnight, since those are generational talents. Eric Garcia is 19 years old, while Ronald Araujo and Mingueza are 22, and they still need to develop a lot before they can become undisputed starters week-in-week-out. The expectation from these kids is high, but patience and consistency is the key for them to succeed.
23-year-old Ajax defender Lisandro Martínez is another great option for Barcelona in the young center-back market since Jules Koundé won’t come cheap, having a number of clubs already after the Frenchman. The Argentine international has 1.1 interceptions per game, 1.2 tackles per game, 1.9 clearances, and 3 goals last season in the 26 Eredivisie games he played last season. Given the relationship between the two clubs, a deal could happen, but it remains to be seen what Juan Laporta and the board have in mind.
The most logical backline would be Dest and Alba as the full-backs, with Araujo and Garcia starting (if the club doesn’t sign an established center-back like Laporte) with Mingueza and Lenglet coming off the bench. Given Gerrad Pique’s age, he would be slowly phased out next season, and it could be his last as well before he retires.
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