For years, the international break is a time in which local Barcelona news agencies look for headlines. And the best way to reach people is transfer rumors, although the club is in a delicate situation financially. Therefore, It wasn’t a surprise for me to see the reports about Barça monitoring the market for players that will end their contracts this summer. Some names came out like Onana, Pogba and Rudiger. But the latest names are those of Kessie and Zakaria. In the reports they say that Barcelona will look for a new defensive midfielder out of those who finish their contract next summer. Players like Kessie, Zakaria and Kamara are fitting this profile.
One thing I saw is the immediate response of many: “Why do we need another midfielder while we have Busquets, De Jong, Nico, Gavi, Pedri, Riqui and more”? Well, that’s what I wanted to talk about in this article.
The Importance of a Defensive Midfielder in football
I grew up in the 90’s, and started to watch football in the last years of Cruyff in Barcelona. One of my oldest memories was the commentator talking about how Pep Guardiola “Never misplaces a pass”. This comment made me look at Pep playing and I noticed how he knew what to do with the ball before it got to him. Somehow, it made me look at football differently and I didn’t look only on dribbles and goals. Furthermore, players like Rijkaard, Pirlo and others always fascinated me. I realized that a ‘pivot’ is one of the most important players out there, especially in Barcelona.
Later on, Xavi came in and people immediately compared him to Pep. And as an organizer he did looked a bit similar to Guardiola. But Xavi was different, as he didn’t have the physical abilities of Pep. He wasn’t as tall as him, he couldn’t join the backline when needed, and in retrospect the comparison was unfair to him.
In the start of the 2000’s Barcelona didn’t look good at all. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these were the years that Xavi spent as a defensive midfielder in Barcelona. Alongside Cocu, Rochemback and others, the midfield of Barcelona didn’t combine well, and the club wasn’t successful at all.
In 2003, the first year of Laporta started very bad, and Rijkaard almost lost his job. But then, Edgar Davids came on loan in January and the whole season changed for the better. Davids added physicality, and allowed Xavi to move forward. The club immediately improved.
Looking for a ‘Pivot’
In 2004 Barcelona decided to move Xavi to the central midfield, and his career changed drastically. The club signed players like Marquez and Edmilson, both central defenders and defensive midfielders. Moreover, Thiago Motta looked great, but unfortunately he suffered a lot of injuries.
In 2007, Barcelona signed Yaya Toure, who was the best player for that position in that time. His physicality and technical abilities made him an important player both defensively and offensively. Moreover, it allowed Xavi, Deco and Iniesta to have more freedom going forward. A year later Pep came as a coach and we all know what happened with the team.
Yaya was one of my favorite players in those days. He was a vital player that many people didn’t notice, because of his quiet work.
Personally, it took time for me got love Busquets, because I still remembered his father’s embarrassing performances as a goalkeeper.
Busquets, De Jong, Nico, Jandro?
Today, we all know that Busi is a club legend. Moreover, I think that the recent performances with the Spain NT proved that he has a lot to give. But it will take a coach that will know how to use him.
Overall, Busquets can still contribute. But do we want to use him in every game? Wouldn’t it be better to save his energy and have other good options out there?
As for De Jong, I believe that his best position is as a box to box midfielder. Using him as a ‘libero’ or a ‘pivot’ will make us lose his abilities, just as it was with Xavi back in his days. Therefore, we need someone to be there as a ‘pivot’ who will allow Frenkie, Pedri, Gavi to have more freedom.
Nico and Jandro are very talented players, and I’m the first one to want to give opportunities to youngsters. But do we want to have Nico, a teenager, as the only substitute of Busquets? If Busquets gets a red card vs Valencia, do we want Nico to start in ‘El Clasico’? I believe that although Nico obviously has the talent, it’s too early for him. The guy converted to a defensive midfielder in the last year. So it will be unfair for him to start him in vital matches. Moreover, if he would make a mistake, Koeman would talk about him again. Unfair.
The smart thing to do is to bring a strong defensive midfielder to compete with Busquets. Both Jandro and Nico can play with the B team, and one of them will hopefully be the natural successor of Busquets in 2-3 years. In my opinion that would be the smart thing to do for the club.
Is there a new ‘Yaya Toure’/Davids?
Well, in order to answer that, we need to understand what that means. Both Yaya and Davids weren’t similar, but they both offered tireless work, physicality and knew how to play possession football.
Yaya Toure was taller, more technique and had an eye for goal. I would go for someone in that profile. Moreover, I would search for someone who finishes his contract in 2022, considering the financial situation. So who are the possible candidates?
Franck Kessié: The Ivorian midfielder from Milan is one of the hottest names out there right now. The 24 years old midfielder is doing a great job for years in the Italian league. After successful spells in Atalanta and Cesena (loan), he became a crucial player in Milan. The Italian giants still try to renew his contract, but he might leave as his contract is about to expire. Barcelona might be going for him, although other clubs will probably offer him more money, so it would be tough to get him.
Boubacar Kamara: The 21 year’s old midfielder from Marseille can also play as a central defender. He’s very young and has enormous talent, but right now it seems like Barcelona aren’t after him.
Denis Zakaria: 24 years old, 1.91m tall, and can also play as a Center-Back. The Swiss midfielder from Mönchengladbach can be a more affordable option. According to ‘Sport’, Zakaria rejected the renewal offer from Mönchengladbach and an offer from Roma, as he’s waiting for Barcelona to offer him a contract. It’s still early, but he might be another bargain operation for Barça.
I believe that Busquets is getting older, and Nico/Jandro aren’t ready. Moreover, I don’t want to ‘waste’ Frenkie in a too defensive spot. So getting a new strong defensive midfielder for FC Barcelona makes a lot of sense to me.
Personally, the best option is Zakaria, although I would be pleased with both Kessie and Kamara as well. I think that the sport management is looking for a new midfielder for that spot. And no, it shouldn’t stop the growth of our other talents.
A coach with good men management would know how to use all the tools he has in the squad. Moreover, it will allow this coach to rotate and have different approaches, and make us less predictable vs our opponents.
Who is the best defensive midfielder to bring to Barcelona? Do we need to bring one? Answer our poll here: