With Barcelona set to miss out on Raphinha, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three cost-effective alternatives for the Brazilian the Catalans should consider.
Barcelona have been dealt a major blow in their pursuit of Leeds United winger Raphinha. The 25-year-old had been on the Catalan giants’ radars for months together now as they had identified him as the priority target to replace exit-bound contract rebel Ousmane Dembele this summer.
And for the longest time, it seemed like Barcelona would get their man, having already agreed personal terms with the Brazilian international nearly four months ago. But the Blaugrana’s poor financial health meant that they have been unable to reach an agreement over a transfer fee for Leeds United, allowing other clubs to swoop.
And that is exactly what Chelsea have done. The Blues made a swift £60 million (€75 million) bid to sign Raphinha earlier this week, which Leeds United have accepted. Barcelona tried to call the Whites with a late offer but are reportedly in no position to match what Chelsea are shelling out to sign the former Rennes ace.
The Blaugrana have still not given up and are making efforts to sign Raphinha. But, Chelsea have already begun contract negotiations with the Leeds United man and have offered him a deal worth €6 million per year. So, as things stand, the 25-year-old winger, who scored 11 goals and set up three more to help Leeds stave off the threat of relegation last season, is closer to Stamford Bridge than Camp Nou.
🚨🎖| Chelsea have broadly AGREED personal terms with Raphinha, with offer of a 5-year & €134K per week. They are still aiming to complete the signing him, despite Deco holding 11th-hour talks with Barcelona. @Matt_Law_DT #fcblive pic.twitter.com/mjPlgjoEG5
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) June 29, 2022
It leaves Barcelona in limbo with regard to their pursuit of a replacement for Dembele, especially considering that another of their targets, Angel Di Maria, is closing in on a free transfer to Juventus, having agreed to sign a €7 million per year deal.
The Hard Tackle now looks at three possible cost-effective alternatives for Raphinha that Barcelona could target this summer without having to bear a huge financial burden to sign them.
Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich)
Salihamidžić on Gnabry situation: "We really want to keep him. I hope that he chooses Bayern. If a player doesn't want to decide for the club, then we can find a solution that makes everyone happy", tells SkyDe. 🔴 #FCBayern
Gnabry's current deal expires in June 2023. pic.twitter.com/nFJxhNSCdp
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 23, 2022
The first name on the list is a player that has been on the radars of Barcelona in the past but is more prominently linked with their arch-rivals Real Madrid this summer. Indeed, Serge Gnabry is a man in demand in the transfer market as he is entering the final year of his contract with Bayern Munich and talks over a new deal have stalled.
One of the best wingers on the planet currently, Gnabry is coming on the back of an excellent season that saw him plunder 17 goals and ten assists in 45 matches in all competitions, helping them win the Bundesliga title. The 26-year-old has been brilliant since moving to Germany from Arsenal six years ago and has accumulated the requisite experience at the highest level while also showcasing his top-notch quality.
Gnabry is a player who can play anywhere in attack but has played some of his best football on the right flank. Blistering pace, skilful ball control, exceptional vision and ability to score and create goals in equal measure, the 26-year-old has it all and would, in some aspects, be an upgrade on Raphinha for Barcelona.
The German ace is valued at €65 million by Transfermarkt. But given his contract situation, reports have indicated that Gnabry could be available for a sum of €40 million this summer. However, signing him might not be easy for Barcelona, given the competition from Real Madrid and their strained relationship with Bayern Munich due to the pursuit of Robert Lewandowski could complicate matters further.
Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
A player that has been performing exceptionally in Italy year after year and is ready to take the next step in his career, Domenico Berardi could be an exciting option for Barcelona to look at if they end up missing out on Raphinha. Barring a two-year loan stint at Juventus, the 27-year-old has spent his entire career at Sassuolo and has become a top player for the Neroverdi.
Berardi has accumulated over 300 appearances for Sassuolo so far and has been directly involved in over 200 goals. The Italian international, who was part of the squad that won the UEFA Euro 2020 last year, backed it up with an excellent campaign at the club level, finishing with 15 goals and 17 assists from 33 matches in Serie A.
Much like Raphinha, Berardi also relishes cutting in from the right flank, and as seen by his numbers, he is a player who can make great contributions in front of the goal. Apart from his pace and silky skills on the ball, the Italian is also a lethal finisher, and at 27, is in the peak years of his career.
One more from the request line
— Simon (@analytic_footy) June 29, 2022
Berardi, who has two years left on his contract with Sassuolo, is valued at €35 million by Transfermarkt. Last summer, Sassuolo allowed Manuel Locatelli to join Juventus on a two-year loan deal with an obligation to buy, with the total deal costing around €37.5 million. Barcelona could explore the possibility of working out a similar deal with the Italians for Berardi.
Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
A left-field choice, considering how Nicolas Pepe fared in the last season at Arsenal. However, the 27-year-old is available on the market this summer and has shown his quality in the past at the Emirates as well as his former club, LOSC Lille, making him an option worth looking at for Barcelona.
Indeed, Pepe enjoyed a fine stint with Lille, scoring 37 and assisting 18 goals in 79 matches, prompting Arsenal to shell out a club-record fee of €80 million. The Ivory Coast international has been unable to justify the massive investment during his time at the Emirates Stadium but has shown glimpses of quality, having been directly involved in 48 goals in 111 matches.
Despite not playing regularly last season, Pepe still managed a return of three goals and six assists from 23 games for Arsenal. Much like Raphinha, the 27-year-old possesses great speed, the ability to dribble past opponents and link up with teammates with short, quick passes in tight spaces, while he is also a top finisher with his left foot, although his tendency to give away ball leading to moves breaking down is a concern.
Nicolas Pepe, 2021-2022 vs Raphinha, 2021-2022 Attacking Midfield & Winger Template, Comparison Radar pic.twitter.com/LZbMpXQmip
— Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) June 27, 2022
Valued at €25 million by Transfermarkt, Pepe, who still has two years left on his contract with Arsenal, would reportedly be available for a fee of around €30 million. But given the lack of suitors, the Premier League club could be forced to lower their asking price, making him a cost-effective market opportunity that Barcelona should consider.