Connect in the back of the net

Barcelona’s summer transfer window has been a struggle with the club losing Neymar in the most spectacular of circumstances as well as failing to address key issues of concern, especially in midfield.

This poor window, unlike this informative post, looked to be continuing as the club rather bizarrely pursued Philippe Coutinho, even making a final offer of around £118 million for the Brazilian even though there was no position in Barcelona’s team where Liverpool’s star would fit comfortably.

However this could be about to change with Los Cules set to make two far more sensible signings which could give their first-team squad a huge boost with Jean Michael-Seri and Ousmane Dembele the two priority targets for the remainder of the transfer window.

Seri’s agent was in Barcelona on Monday negotiating the finer details of the deal between the Blaugrana and OGC Nice and whilst no deal will be finalised until after the French club’s Champions League tie with Napoli, those within Barcelona are intimating that they expected a deal to be made official this week with the 26-year-old signing a four year contract.

Dembele on the other hand seemed more difficult with the German club having set a price point at around £138 million, but it seems Barca is closing in on sealing a deal with the French forward.

 

Xavi has never been replaced

You just need to look at Barcelona’s weaknesses from the last few seasons to see exactly why a player like the Ivorian Seri is needed.

Los Cules have never replaced Xavi and for a time it didn’t impact them with Luis Enrique and Ivan Rakitic’s arrival giving the club the ability to be a little more direct and incisive.

This surprised opposing teams and added another string to their bow en route to lifting the Champions League trophy in Berlin, however it was not the evolutionary play-style that had catapulted Barcelona into the lofty position they now have at Europe’s top table.

It was easier for teams to figure out and once Rakitic began ageing and losing his edge the whole template crumbled.

Sergio Busquets was at his very best playing behind Xavi and Andres Iniesta in what was the best midfield trio the modern world had ever seen play the game. Now Busquets has the cut of a tired man and we are one match into the La Liga season.

The responsibilities placed upon him in midfield are monumental because not only is he expected to shield the defence in the same way he always has done but in Xavi’s absence he has been expected to set the tempo for the team creatively as well.

 

Paulinho an understandable signing, but not at Seri’s level

It was then no real surprise that injuries began to impact his career throughout the 2016/17 season.

Paulinho’s arrival, whilst uninspiring, does make footballing sense because the Brazilian is in the best form of his career and is playing with confidence, something the current Barcelona squad could do with an injection of, and he will be able to lessen the strain placed on Busquets.

Seri however arrives as the heir apparent to Xavi in a way that Thiago Alcantara should and would have been had the club not been so poorly managed behind the scenes in recent years. At Nice the Ivorian has developed his game significantly and whilst his passing ability was always clear playing at such a high level has helped him refine his craft and he often carries Nice.

He sets the tempo of their entire team, he keeps the ball moving and he moves into clever pockets of space to ensure Nice can attack from any position and hurt teams in the blink of an eye. Xavi himself has publically declared in an interview with FourFourTwo that he is a huge fan of Seri and would love to see him at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona’s favourite son will get his wish soon enough and there is hope that this arrival not only addresses a need in midfield but it can also help Los Cules return to the playing style which firstly made them so successful but secondly made them so popular.

It is no secret that the organisation’s reputation has taken an almighty knock over the past 18 months as a result of various tax scandals and a rather ugly way of trying to unsettle players belonging to other teams before trying to sign them.

 

The alternative to Neymar

Dembele quite clearly represents Neymar’s alternative both on the pitch and it is hoped eventually commercially.

The Frenchman’s rise has been phenomenal and his debut season at Borussia Dortmund saw him live up to the hype his spell with Stade Rennes created. At 20 years old he has so much talent that he could be a future Ballon d’Or winner but his career suggests he would contribute right away.

Every new challenge he has faced has seen him thrive and there is little reason to suspect things will be any different at Barcelona.

Not only is he skilful but he is so effective in the final third, his chance creation is incredibly reliable for such a young player. He took England to the cleaners in the end of season friendly at Wembley and working closely with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez could be perfect for his development.

 

Dembele was the best available option

Replacing Neymar is impossible that’s just a fact.

The only two better players than him in the world are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and the Brazilian is still young enough to get better.

So Barcelona then had to look at who they can get who is likely to reach Neymar’s level. There are several candidates for that ranging from Kylian Mbappe to Christian Pulisic and perhaps if he was working under a different coach, Anthony Martial.

Dembele however is the closest to a guarantee you can get in this market. He will be a first-team player at the Camp Nou right away and he will deliver right away, with the three names all mentioned above you would have questions marks over age, consistency and production.

 

Sensible acquisitions and will improve the squad

For Barcelona these two signings make sense in terms of squad balance and both Seri and Dembele are improvements on who is in the first-team in their positions at this moment.

It may take a little while to finally agree a fee with Dortmund but with Seri almost in the door and the Frenchman seemingly likely to follow, Los Cules can now start to move past the Neymar sale and hope the club can begin the season on a more even footing with it clear they certainly have been spared an incredible positional headache by failing to sign Coutinho.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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