The Hard Tackle takes a look at five La Liga players that Barcelona could and should sign this summer to improve their squad depth on a limited budget.
Barcelona, much like almost all other clubs will go into the summer window on a reduced budget in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has impacted the football market and the world’s economy otherwise as well.
Teams looking to cash in on their players will have to reduce prices significantly for any other team to afford them. However, not all teams may be willing to take a hit on their superstars, for example, Borussia Dortmund refuse to budge from the €120 million tag they’d slapped on Jadon Sancho months ago.
Moreover, the Blaugrana are reportedly in rather deep financial trouble in the form of heavy debt, and a stadium upgrade which is due soon. According to The Athletic, Barca will have to raise €109 million in player trades this summer to balance their books. This seems pretty much impossible, at least this summer with big-money signings like Lautaro Martinez touted to arrive at Camp Nou.
The Catalonia-based outfit are in desperate need of a squad revitalization with the last members of their ‘Golden Era’, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique, all over the age of 31, and the average squad age going over 26.5.
Despite financial troubles, an ageing squad, revitalization needed in certain positions, we just know Barcelona will follow suit of the previous few windows, where they bring in a midfielder they don’t need on heavy wages (looking at you, Pjanic), one or more very expensive forwards (Neymar, obviously), and they will try their level best to not improve full-backs on either side even though they have two of the league’s most talented players, namely Marc Cucurella and Emerson, on loan at Getafe and Real Betis respectively.
The club will need to cut down on expenditure by going for cheaper alternatives or promoting players from the once-famous, now infamous La Masia. Apart from Riqui Puig and Alex Collado, the club does not particularly boast of exceptional talents that can fill in the void at the club. Not immediately at least.
The ideal solution for the club could be to source players in necessary positions from within the league that can add depth to the team but more importantly help Barcelona balance their finances.
The Hard Tackle takes a look at 5 players from La Liga that Barca can target under a certain criteria: under 24 years old, likely to cost €50 million or lower, and add commendable depth in the necessary positions, i.e. centre-back, left-back, striker, winger and central midfield.
Winger: Ferran Torres
Valencia’s prodigious winger Ferran Torres finally has the world at his feet after first breaking out in the 2017/18 season as a 17-year-old. He made 13 appearances in the league in his first season and quickly gained a reputation among La Liga clubs as someone who could well be on his way to becoming a world-beater.
Valencia play in a fluid 4-4-2, which becomes a 4-2-3-1 in the presence of Kevin Gameiro who drops a bit deeper to act as an anchor. Both of Torres and Carlos Soler start deeper than a modern winger but are able to progress quickly up the pitch because of their impressive pace and stamina.
Torres is the protagonist of every offensive move seen byLos Che, bringing the right side to life since Goncalo Guedes’ massive drop in form. He is a right footed-right winger but likes to move inside to play lay-offs or shoot across goal. The 20-year-old isn’t a prolific goal-scorer but is lethal in transitions because of his tireless attitude.
Although Lionel Messi is Barcelona’s right-winger on paper, the coach often has to play someone like Sergi Roberto or Arturo Vidal in a wider-than-usual position in midfield to compensate for Messi who drifts inwards to act basically as a false-9 or as an attacking midfielder.
To tackle this, Barca had announced the signing of Francisco Trincao from Sporting Braga earlier this year, with the player set to arrive in the summer. But, the leap from Braga to one of the best teams in the world is huge and may not work out. This is where Torres comes in; a player who is lethal on the wings and can turn games on their head almost single-handedly.
The Spaniard, who has been linked with Real Madrid in the past, has a €100 million release clause. But according to Mundo Deportivo, he does not want to renew his contract that expires in 2021, as Barcelona close in on this deal which can go through for a mere €35 million. This summer may be Valencia’s last chance to cash in on Torres if they do not want to see one of their best players leave for free.
Striker: Alexander Isak
Real Sociedad have become one of the most exciting teams in the league this season since the re-appointment of Imanol Alguacil in December 2018. The young manager brought with him a very eye-catching style of football spearheaded through rapid passing, counter-pressing and attacking through wide areas.
The Basque club boasts of some incredible young talents which have helped the club rise to fourth place in the table, and reach the final of the Copa del Rey. One of these players is striker Alexander Isak who has assumed responsibility from Willian Jose as the first-choice at the club.
Standing at nearly 6ft 3in, Isak is an absolute unit of a footballer, but in no way limited. The Swede is, in fact, one of the fastest centre forwards in the league. His pace and strength help him outplay defenders by latching on to loose balls, crosses and through balls.
His physical attributes are supplemented by his top-notch finishing and 7 goals in only 9 starts this season in the league is proof of the same. Furthermore, Isak is also the second-highest scorer in the Copa del Rey this season with 5 goals, the most notable of those coming at the Santiago Bernabeu when he stunned Real Madrid with two goals in as many minutes.
While Borussia Dortmund have a buy-back clause attached on Isak, Barcelona can get him this summer for almost €50 million. This is less than half of what the club will be paying for first-choice target Lautaro Martinez.
Central Midfielder: Marc Roca
Barcelona’s arch-rivals Espanyol gloat of one of the best passers in the league in the form of a certain Marc Roca. The Spaniard came through the club’s youth ranks and broke into the first-team as a 19-year-old in 2016-17. Making an instant impression, he went on to play more than half games in the league that term.
Roca has improved leaps and bounds since then and is one of the first names on the team-sheets. According to the player himself, his playing style most resembles Sergio Busquets, but the 23-year-old can play further up the pitch as well. He acts as an anchor attracting markers towards him and then breaking press lines with the help of lobbed passes.
Espanyol currently sit bottom of the table and relegation seems inevitable at this point, especially if the season resumes. Because of that they might need to cash in on some of their top players in order to cover for the revenue they were receiving from the top-flight. And Roca is one of those few players.
The midfielder likes to play the ball off the ground often and completes over 4 long balls per game, overall completing 39 passes per game with 80% passing accuracy. They may seem low, but it is the highest in an under-performing Espanyol. Stats like these are proof of the fact that he will fit in seamlessly into Barcelona’s team.
Roca has been linked with Arsenal and Bayern Munich in the past, and Barcelona may get into a tussle for him, but it might be worth it for €30-35 million and most definitely an upgrade over the 30-year-old Miralem Pjanic that president Josep Maria Bartomeu seems so desperate to acquire.
Centre-Back: Pau Torres
After spending 2 seasons in the third division of Spanish football with Villarreal B and then a season on loan in the second division with Malaga, Pau Torres has finally received his big breakthrough this season. The 23-year-old has been undroppable and is one of the biggest reasons behind the resurgence of Villarreal who finished 14th in 2019. Pau has been top notch at the heart of defence, partnering alongside Raul Albiol.
While his style is quite common among centre-halves recently, it stands out because it is more pleasing to the eye compared to other defenders. That is mostly because Pau boasts of exceptional footwork and an amazing passing range.
He manages to complete 84% of his passes, which is not particularly high, however, he also completes over 6 long passes per game, which is at least 2 more than the likes of Aymeric Laporte and Virgil van Dijk. He has also created 2 big chances, of which 1 has been converted successfully.
What makes Pau such an exciting option for Barcelona is because he is left-footed and can seamlessly replace Samuel Umtiti who may well be out of the club this summer. The Spaniard is already on Barcelona’s radar and can be acquired for less than his €50 million release clause.
Left-Back: Aihen Munoz
Aihen Munoz will most probably be the most unknown player in this list of five. That is because he plays second-fiddle to Nacho Monreal at Real Sociedad. However, he has shown throughout the season that he can take over from the 34-year-old, who is in the last phase of his career.
Munoz is incredibly quick and quite a carrier of the ball, because of which he has been used as a wide midfielder as well. The Spaniard also has a slick cross in him, which most resembles Trent Alexander-Arnold’s trademark early cross. His most apparent weakness is his defending which has seen him lose the starting spot to Monreal.
In the eight games, he has played this season, Munoz has helped Sociedad keep 2 clean sheets, but his best stats are in regards to his passing. He completes 90% of all his passes he attempts in his half, but this total drops to 81.5% as an overall. Munoz can serve as an excellent backup to Jordi Alba who is heading into his last few years at the top level.
Currently valued at €4 million by Transfermarkt, the 22-year-old is likely to cost Barcelona less than €10 million ideally, which is more than a fair investment for a player who has a very high ceiling.