Barcelona are tipped to be on the verge of agreeing a deal to sign Adrien Rabiot. But, is the PSG midfielder something they really need?
Last week, Fabrizio Romano and Le Parisien reported that Adrien Rabiot had agreed terms with FC Barcelona and that he would be joining the Catalan club in the summer of 2019 on a free transfer when his contract with PSG expires. This news sparked a storm on twitter as most Barcelona fans voiced their opinions against the signing of Rabiot citing his 10 million euro per year salary and off the field attitude as the major reasons for not wanting him in the squad.
However, now that the dust has settled a little let’s address the elephant in the room.
To get to the bottom of the answer, we must first understand the player he’s being lined up as a replacement for. For about a decade now, Sergio Busquets has been a vital cog in the Barcelona and Spanish system and a hallmark for defensive midfielders in the world.
Despite not getting the mainstream attention his talent deserves, Busquets is absolutely pivotal to the Barcelona system that requires his understanding and immaculate positioning to thwart opposition attacks while his on-the-ball technique and vision to withstand pressure and build attacks enables his teammates.
Adrien Rabiot started out strong in his career with PSG ever since he debuted for the Parisian outfit in 2012. He was absolutely scintillating in PSG’s infamous 4-0 victory over Barcelona in the first leg of the Round of 16 Champions League clash in Paris in 2017.
The young Frenchman was decisive in stopping a front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar and even blocked Andres Iniesta out of the game on the night. He was instrumental to Emery’s plans that often played with a double pivot and Rabiot partnered Marco Verratti in midfield.
He is great at pressing but isn’t disciplined and insightful when it comes to positioning and calculating moves on the pitch. Also his on-the-ball abilities are limited. He has a good two-touch dribbling technique that often allows him to bypass the first line of opposition pressure but he isn’t creative with his passing range.
He has often refused to comply with Unai Emery’s orders when the Spaniard was in charge of the PSG dressing room and reports around the player suggest that Rabiot considers himself too great a player to listen to anybody else and positions himself on the pitch as he best sees fit – a toxic mentality for any professional in the sport, especially someone who still has a major portion of career ahead of them.
Once, one of the best young talents in the world, Rabiot slowly started falling out of contention and over the last couple of seasons, his development has stagnated with things going extremely south this season. Adrien, advised by his mother and agent Veronique Rabiot, refused to sign a contract extension with PSG and as a result, has fallen out of favour ever since sporting director Antero Henrique intervened in the matter.
This regression and off-field unrest also started showing up in his on-field display. Rabiot has been accused of being lackadaisical and not putting in enough efforts on the pitch multiple times.
However, in Rabiot’s defence he is still 23 and could still make significant progress in his career. And it is no surprise that Barcelona, Liverpool and Juventus were actively pursuing the player for his signature.
But this is where another side of the story creeps in and complicates things. Adrien Rabiot is infamous for his off-field tantrums and attitude issues. Adrien Rabiot most recently rejected Didier Deschamps’ proposal of having him on the standby list for the Russia World Cup and criticised the national team manager on excluding him from the squad.
In a lengthy letter, Rabiot lashed out at Deschamps along the lines of “I suspected the impact of my decision, but I regret to be caricatured as a young immature player unable to measure the scope of his actions. Wearing the blue jersey is for me an honour, a pride. To win with France, to win for France, is a mission. Since the age of 15 I have worn the colours of France. I have the culture of France.”
“Since my first call, as a reserve in May 2016, I played with my club, PSG, a big European club. 88 games including 13 in the Champions League, scored seven goals and I was awarded by seven trophies. I am a competitor without qualms, but I am also a man, and as such I would have liked to be considered as such. My approach does not target the selected players.”
Even in a recent statement, Adrien Rabiot labelled Tottenham Hotspur who were interested in his services as being ‘below his ambitions’. Are Tottenham Hotspur a team that has failed to win trophies while Rabiot has managed several during his time at PSG? Yes. But should you be making such a statement in public? Sure as hell no.
Barcelona would be better off avoiding a player with toxic mentality in the dressing room, a player that does not dedicate his 100 percent to the cause of the club and his manager and considers himself greater than his teammates. It would be hard for Rabiot to scale his true potential given his immaturity on and off the field.
Frenkie de Jong, another player Barcelona have been actively following for years and is more naturally suited to take the place of Busquets in the Barcelona midfield ahead of Rabiot.
And finally, there’s the financial side of the transfer. While Adrien Rabiot would be arriving for free in the summer once his contract expires, according to reports he will charge a salary of 10 million euros per year, not even the great Andres Iniesta made that much during his time in Catalunya.
Barcelona already pay ridiculous salaries to Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele and that’s leaving aside Lionel Messi. As of now, the club has a disastrously unbalanced wage bill and there are considerable concerns regarding the financial aspect of bringing in Adrien Rabiot.
Therefore, all things said and considered, could Rabiot prove to be an important asset for Barcelona if he set aside his ego and put his mind to improving and adapting himself? Yes.
But with all the complications involved and considering every context, is he a player Barcelona desperately needs right now? Definitely no.