Sunday, January 29, 2023

Barcelona Inch Closer To Signing This Italian Maestro: But Valverde Has To Stick At It

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Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan used to be the Featured Columnist at The 4th Official. Completely immersed in football and almost all other sports on planet.

After a disastrous season, where they could only manage a Copa del Rey, Barcelona are desperately seeking major reinforcements to regain the lost stature. The Catalans’ terrible season turned into a nightmare as Real Madrid did a double after winning the Champions League by crushing Juventus.

Last season has clearly been Real Madrid’s, in Spain as well as in Europe. And Barcelona, the only other side in La Liga to rival them both in stature and finance, cannot let it sustain for long. Luis Enrique’s underwhelming summer shopping last summer had left some major holes in the Barca squad, which needs immediate reinforcements.

And one major position is the attacking midfield. Despite having a world class attacking trio in Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi, Barcelona lacked a playmaker in the number 10 role as Andres Iniesta had to spend much of the season on the injury table. The likes of Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic have been just above average as compared to the star cast midfield that Real Madrid fielded.

Barcelona had to face the music as they were majorly outplayed in the Champions League, first by Paris Saint-Germain and then by Juventus. And reportedly, they have identified a perfect fit in PSG star Marco Verratti to play just behind the attacking three. The 24-year-old is one of the best anchormen in Europe at the moment and could be just the missing piece in Barcelona’s puzzle.

The first thing new Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has done upon his arrival is handing over a long list of transfer targets, and the Italian international sits right on the top of that. However, given PSG’s huge financial resources, luring Verratti away would be near impossible. And if PSG’s former sporting director Patrick Kluivert is to be believed, then the club has been blocking the player’s sale.

Apparently, Verratti is an avid fan of the Catalans and has even agreed to personal terms with the club. But PSG are willing to hold out a world record fee for their best player, which is delaying the deal. The midfielder has scored three goals and assisted eight times last season, and is still Unai Emery’s best player in his star-studded line-up.

Barcelona are eyeing him as the long-term replacement of Andres Iniesta, although Chelsea are also in the race. However, Camp Nou looks the likely destination if PSG allows him to leave. He is in contract with PSG till 2021, which makes his transfer fee all the more astronomical.

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