It has just been over a week since Sergio Busquets announced his departure. Xavi has already made it clear that he wants a pivot this summer. Another priority added to Barcelona’s ever-growing list of transfers needed for the summer. But as always, the question arises. Is it really possible for one individual to replace Sergio Busquets given his unique profile? Or Do Barca need multiple reinforcements in the position and change their style of play to compensate?
Busquets is probably leaving a void in Barca that can never be properly filled. Defensive contributions, ability to withstand a press, positioning sense, ability to find spaces in behind opponent defenses through long balls, ability to find line breaking passes which nullify opposition press, each of these traits could be replicated by individuals but it is nearly impossible to find every single trait in one individual. With Sergio’s departure from Barca we’re probably seeing the end of such art in a position which is not known to produce such art.
But that does not mean Barca should stop looking for replacement. In fact, Barca have been looking for a suitable replacement for quite some time now. At first Frenkie De Jong was used in the position, but De Jong has failed to convince the management. Although De Jong’s ability resist a press is commendable there is a lot more to the role than just that. He does not contribute defensively as much. His ability to find line breaking passes and his sense of ball distribution in general is nowhere near at the level Barca requires from its CDM.
The options in the market
It is not entirely clear whether Barca plan to shift to a double pivot system to compensate for the absence of Busquets. What is clear is that Barca will be in desperate need of a player just to cover the position. Let us have a look at all the profiles Barca have looked at so far, how they can contribute into filling the void and how much of a chance each of these players have of joining Barca this summer:
1. Sofayan Amrabat
Earlier this year in January, Sofayan Amrabat did everything possible from his end to make a move to Barca a reality. But the finances of Barca which have been a blockade in many deals over the past few years turned out to be the blockade in this one too. However, due to Ambrabat’s lower price tag he is again a real option for Barca this summer. It’s Amrabat’s excellent performances in the world cup that brought him in Barca’s radar. Amrabat is an excellent ball carrier. His defensive work rate is also commendable. But just like De Jong he lacks in the department of ball distribution. Barca can maximize his output by using a double pivot system. His companion in the double pivot would be focusing more on the ball distribution department which he lacks.
2. Martin Zubimendi
Barca coach Xavi has made it pretty much clear that Zubimendi is his first choice for a pivot. However, Zubimendi extended his contract with Sociedad not long ago and now has a release caluse of €60 million. The transfer fee alone makes the transfer difficult. On top of that Zubimendi insists on staying at Sociedad. Profile wise he is very close to what Barca need. Zubimendi is pretty much press resistant. His defensive work rate is also commendable. His ability to distribute the ball is also worthy of acknowledgement. If Barca don’t gamble they might want to use a double pivot system instead to compensate for shortcomings in that department. In the end it comes down to how much Xavi really prioritizes him.
3. Ilkay Gundogan
Gundogan has a contract offer of 3 years (2 years + 1 optional) to join Barca as a free agent this summer. He did not like Manchester City’s contract offer initially because of its length. But recently City have offered a new contract that offers an additional year of extension. Gundogan is likely to let his final decision be known after the end of the Champions League final. Gundogan’s preferred position remains in the central midfield, but he is known to have played in a double pivot system on multiple occasions in the past. But Barca are most probably looking at him as a rotational option for Gavi and Pedri time to time.
4. Ruben Neves
Ruben Neves has been linked with Barca for a long time now. He also has an agreement of personal terms with Barca incase Barca decide to sign him. Although, he is not a player Barca are looking at to replace Busquets with. Neves has played in a double pivot system in the past. Neves is known for his positioning sense, ability to provide quality long balls. Barca could be looking at him in case they decide to play in a double pivot system to help with the ball distribution. At the same time, it is also true that if Neves arrives, he might not be a regular first team player.
5. Joshua Kimmich
No one really knows how reliable this rumor is. It has the least chances of happening as of now. But one thing is sure that of all the players that have been linked with Barca so far, Kimmich is undoubtedly the best possible option. The German international needs no introduction. He was originally a find of a former Barca coach Pep Guardiola when he was at Bayern. Although Kimmich started his career as a right back, during the conversations with Guardiola before his transfer to Bayern, Pep convinced him that his actual potential lies in the defensive midfield area. Over the years, Kimmich has only gone to prove just how right Guardiola was. Kimmich is a proven world class individual but even using him in a single pivot would be a risk. The best possible scenario is a double pivot between Kimmich and Frenkie De Jong.
We can see that a lot of combinations and options available to Barca to replace Sergio Busquets. But many of these combinations becoming a reality depends on many factors. The most important of them all is how much salary cap will be available to Barca next season and how much they will be allowed to spend. While Xavi’s priority remains Zubimendi, the rest of the options can also be used well enough for creative solutions. An interesting summer awaits us where we get to see how Barca really approach the replacement of one of the best defensive midfielders of the game.