Laporta is FC Barcelona’s President, several new signings have been made, Ansu Fati is back from injury and Lionel Messi is set to stay. Time for excuses, transitions and grudges is over, Ronald Koeman needs to deliver a major trophy this season and anything less than that will undoubtedly now mean that his time as the head coach of FC Barcelona is over.
Last season Ronald Koeman’s side was on a warpath from December till April clawing back from 10 points behind despite playing 2 more games played than Atletico to come within inches of reaching the summit. Apart from this period though, FC Barcelona looked less than average. Koeman made several excuses for that and seldom took responsibility upon himself, some of those excuses were in regards to him not getting the players he wanted. He can no longer make that claim as he has been granted 4 new players with potentially more on the way.
Signings Till Now
He got his wish of getting a number 9 as Laporta brought in not one but two players who are proven experts in putting balls in the back of the net. Sergio Aguero is one of the best strikers in the history of the sport and Koeman’s demand for Memphis Depay was perhaps the club’s worst kept secret. Koeman also demanded for a new center back to fix the team’s very leaky defense. He might not be the most experienced player, but Eric Garcia has played alongside some of the best in the business like PL POTY Ruben Dias and his trusted partner “Sir” John Stones and even veterans like Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany. He also comes with flying recommendations from Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, two names which are etched in the club’s history. The latter playing him in the Euros ahead of several big names like Sergio Ramos and Pau Torres.
Koeman may have wanted these but there is apparently another player profile that he wants which is a strong and robust mid fielder. It seemed like he was getting his wish with Gini Wjinaldum almost becoming a Barcelona player until PSG offered a little over what FC Barcelona was offering him. Since then, the latest name matching that profile who might be on his way to Camp Nou is Saul of Atletico Madrid in an exchange deal for Antoinne Griezmann.
What is the Deal
It is rumored that the initial deal was Antoinne Griezmann going back to Atletico Madrid and Saul and 15 million Euros going to the way of Barcelona but there have been new developments. Some reports have recently stated that Barcelona has apparently asked for Joao Felix instead of Saul and forfeiting the cash involved in the deal. These reports though, feel completely bogus as it makes no sense for Barcelona to make this deal. The reason for this deal from Barcelona’s perspective is to reduce the wage bill and relieve some of their abysmal financial situation along with accommodating the new attackers in the squad. Felix earns significantly more than what Saul does at Atletico Madrid and he won’t be thinking of a pay cut right now. Apart from that, Atletico won’t be giving any cash to Barcelona if they are to let go of their star player. The reports on the other hand which are perhaps more accurate are that of the Blaugrana asking for Mario Hermoso and/or Renan Lodi instead of the Spanish mid-fielder.
Thoughts on the Deal
FC Barcelona’s mid-field was perhaps the only section of that team which was functioning well for the majority of the last season. Their defence and attack however was shambolic with the attack underperforming their xG by 6.89 compared to Real Madrid who underperformed by just 1.86 and Atletico Madrid who OVERperformed their xG by a massive 6.51 showing once again why they are such an efficient team. Koeman has gotten his attackers but what he hasn’t got is someone to command that central defense and someone to challenge Jordi Alba for that Left Back spot. Eric Garcia is though a great prospect showing great signs, he isn’t someone who can single handedly fix their defensive woes.
That is why the names of Lodi and Hermoso make a lot more sense than Felix and even more than Saul. Lodi is an exceptional left back who can give competition to Jordi Alba and Hermoso was an integral part of Simeone’s title clinching side. He can operate both as centre back and left back and the Catalonians could use a new pair of legs in both these positions.
Koeman has expressed his demand of a robust central mid-fielder but is his demand a justified one? Koeman trusted his young guns last season and they have all paid massive dividends for him. Ronald Araujo took his game to a whole new level and Oscar Mingueza and Pedri were extraordinary revelations. Another sensational player who actually fits the description of the kind of player Ronald is looking for, was also one of the gems found in the Barcelona squad last season, the 18 year old Ilaix Moriba. He is showing remarkable class in his game and will surely be one of the greats once he reaches his potential. With Moriba’s contract situation already uncertain, buying another player with the same profile as him may not help his chances of staying at his boyhood club.
Apart from him Ronald has Busquets, De Jong and Pedri at his disposal all wanting to play first team football. Another name which possesses the quality to start in a game wearing the Barcelona crest on his chest is the player highly beloved by the fans and President Joan Laporta alike: Riqui Puig. Puig was not given enough minutes on the pitch last season as one might have hoped for especially considering how Pedri seemed completely burnt out by the end of last season. With all these highly qualified players with splendid quality fighting for minutes, how is Saul supposed to fit into this team? These names are yet to include the like of Miralem Pjanic, Sergi Roberto and Phillipe Coutinho, who can play in these postions but are not favoured to stay at the club.
Saul’s inclusion might overload the mid field and though wages will be affected, it is hard to ignore that Griezmann is Barcelona’s most valuable asset that they can sell and exchanging him for a player whose profile already exists at the club and not a whole lot of cash might not be the smartest move. There have been a few but not many reports that Manchester City might be interested in the French World Cup Winner and if any kind of deal whether for cash which they have in abundance or Aymeric Laporte, who is reportedly looking for a new club, is reached it would be the ideal situation for the Catalonians.
A crazy though may be Juventus as Cristiano Ronaldo might be leaving the Italian outfit and that will leave a gaping hole in their attack. This hole could be filled by Griezmann in exchange for a player that Ronald Koeman is a big fan of: Matthijs De Ligt. De Ligt’s quality is unquestionable and he has expressed his desire for playing for the Blaugrana. This is a crazy idea but might come to fruition as it looks like both teams are looking to be in business anyway with regards to Miralem Pjanic as the Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is a big fan of the player.
Koeman’s tenure at the club right now is only continuing because the club literally could not afford to fire him as his termination fee of roughly 14 million was too much for the club to pay considering their financial situation. It is make or break time for the Dutch man and now he has nothing to complain for and he has to deliver results.