FC Barcelona have sent Rey Manaj to Spezia Calcio on a season-long loan deal, with the Italian club having the option to sign him up for €2.7 million.

In an official statement, FC Barcelona have confirmed the departure of Rey Manaj. The striker has left the club to join Spezia Calcio, on a season-long loan, with the club further having the option to make the move permanent next summer, for a fee of €2.7 million.

A native of Albania, Manaj had joined Barca in January of last year, though he was only drafted in as part of the reserve team. The forward made an immediate in Catalonia, emerging as the top-scorer for Barcelona B last season with 14 goals in 22 matches. He also had impressive spells at Albacete and Granada.

On the basis of performances in Spain, the 24-year-old was promoted to Barcelona’s senior side this summer, shortly after the departure of Lionel Messi and the injury of new signing Sergio Aguero. For about three weeks, he was the club’s primary alternative for the main strike duo of Memphis Depay and Antoine Griezmann, who is now being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid on deadline day.

Unfortunately, Manaj failed to make a single competitive appearance for Barcelona. A return to Italy, therefore, makes sense for the Albanian, who has already notched up 24 caps for his country.

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Spezia could be a sensible option as well, as the forward has significant experience of playing Italy. During the early parts of his career, Manaj has had stints with Inter Milan, Cremonese, Pescara and is actually a product of the Piacenza youth academy.

He should be an ideal frontman for a Spezia side who are hoping to punch above their weight under the leadership of former Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta. The team has had a complete overhaul in the attacking department as well, notably bringing in five different forwards including Manaj himself.

As for Barcelona, the Albanian international’s departure does limit Ronald Koeman’s options. The club has been linked with a late swoop for Joao Felix but it remains unlikely that anything will materialise. So it will be interesting to see how the Catalans cope with their lack of depth in the attacking department this season, especially if Griezmann ends up leaving the club.

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