From Villa to Luiz: The tactical worth of Barcelona's latest target
Having failed in their near-relentless pursuit of Paris-Saint Germain’s South-American centre-half Thiago Silva, Barcelona have reportedly turned the eye of the Nou Camp to London; where Silva’s Brazilian compatriot resides.
It has long been clear that Barcelona are in desperate need of a centre-half. For much of this year, they have been deputising for injured captain Carles Puyol; despite the options available to them being not only thin, but makeshift. Argentine Javier Mascherano is easily the pick of the bunch, and regular Gerard Pique looks most comfortable next to the experienced South-American. The rest of the deputies’, however, provide the problem. Full-back Adriano has made 7 appearances alongside stalwart Pique this year, while the woeful Alex Song has struggled in all 3 of his. Young Marc Bartra, although undeniably talented, has been ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and featured in both of Barca’s humiliating defeats to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Despite some exceptional performances for the Spain U-21 Squad in their Championship winning-run, the inexperienced Spaniard still resides under clouds of major doubt as to whether he can be the long-term successor to the magnificent Puyol.
So is David Luiz truly the answer? The erratic Brazilian is undoubtedly talented – often recklessly so – but is sheer talent truly what Barcelona need? His speed, power and athleticism are his best traits and, coupled with his skill on the ball and impressive passing range, Luiz has all the attacking qualities needed to be a successful…midfielder. And therein lies the problem.
Barcelona don’t need another centre-half who would rather play elsewhere on the pitch. They don’t need a centre-half who is going to bomb forward at every opportunity, or pine when restrained. What they need, is a solid, dependable player who is disciplined enough to make watertight again the recently leaky Catalonian back four.
This isn’t an anti-Luiz article, far from it. I’m a massive fan of the Brazilian, in fact – I think the guy is brilliant. However, I’m really struggling to understand how such a dynamic player would fit into the well-oiled, synchronised machine that is FC Barcelona.
It’d be silly to believe that Luiz – still a fledging midfielder – would be purchased in order to provide cover in the centre of the park. He isn’t disciplined enough to perform the ‘Busquets role’ as the deepest midfielder, and it would be foolish for him to try (note: see Alex Song) and if anyone believes he could truly displace Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas then they need a reality check. Luiz’ style contrasts so emphatically with that of the current FC Barcelona that it would be strange, almost surreal to see his name alongside those Spanish midfield prodigies. He’s just too different.
So if Luiz is too reckless to be the answer to Barca’s defensive shortages, who else can they turn to? Compatriot Thiago Silva has turned them down, young Marquinhos has made the cross-continentental switch to join him in Paris and, other than that, Barcelona-standard centre-halves are looking thin on the ground. Could the answer then, be closer to home?
Real Sociedad were the ‘surprise of the season’ in La Liga last year, claiming the final Champions League spot on the closing day. However, a change in management and the loss of arguably their best player, 22-year-old anchor Asier Illaramendi to Real Madrid mean that there are doubts over whether La Real can repeat their success again this season. As such, the club is ripe for the plundering – and FC Barcelona need to take advantage . For La Real harbour another special Spanish talent, this time a defender – someone I feel would be perfect fit at the Camp Nou. Barcelona need to snap up Marc Bartra’s U-21 defensive partner Inigo Martinez, before someone else does.
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