With the fans continuously calling for a new striker at Barcelona, Pete Jenson explains why it is other areas of the team that the Catalans need to bolster.
There is a clamour every day in Barcelona, a hunger, a hankering even, for a new forward to be signed this January. Barça fielded a B-team XI in midweek and it failed to take anything more than a 0-0 from its first leg Copa del Rey game against third-tier opposition Villanovense – this raised panic levels even further. Alexandre Pato was rumoured to be on his way come Thursday morning.
Young strikers Sandro and Munir have played 527 and 464 minutes respectively without scoring – the latter because he has been unlucky, the former because he was cursed in this column three weeks ago by someone who still believes he has that little bit of added intelligence that others who have emerged from La Masia, only to fall by the wayside, have lacked.
Barcelona need to sign a striker, say supporters. And some of them even lapped up a front page this week that suggested Ricardo Oliveira was about to be brought in. “I laughed when I saw the story” said the 35-year-old former Betis forward. He is currently at Santos and not likely to be arriving in Barcelona any time soon.
If Barcelona’s technical director Robert Fernandez was not in Brazil watching Oliveira then perhaps he was watching Pato. The former AC Milan striker is currently on loan from Corinthians at Sao Paolo and he is another of the so-called ‘Larsson’ options.
To be a “Henrik Larsson option” you need to be – as the 32-year-old Swede was when he signed for Barcelona in 2004 – a legend in the last couple of years of his career willing to lend a hand without demanding regular first-team starts. Pato is 26. On Friday 35-year-old Dirk Kuyt was also said to be in the frame.
The screaming truth is that every second Barcelona supporters spend wondering which striker the club should sign in January is a second in which they have forgotten to remember the names Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan.
These are the best winter transfer window signings the club has made since Edgar Davids was brought in on loan in 2004.
Vidal is more than capable of replacing Pedro. He has the same zip of speed, he is direct and aggressive and he comes with the added bonus that he can play at right-back.
Arda Turan is the perfect man to fill the gaping hole Andres Iniesta leaves in the team every time he gets injured – which sadly is at least once a season. And when the great man is fit, he and Turan will be perfectly tuned on the same frequency to play together in the Barça XI.
Turan has 14 international goals in 77 international appearances which make him a fine Top Trumps card and a very good signing. Vidal only scored six times for Sevilla last season but was credited with nine assists. Neither is László Kubala but neither needs to be because Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar scored 122 goals between them last year.
Turan and Vidal will create opportunities, take some chances themselves, and give the squad a depth that it was always going to lack in light of the player registration ban that ends on January 1. There is no need for emergency measures to be taken. Pato and Oliveira can stay in Brazil and the money can stay in the bank. Even Robin van Persie – who at least has the pedigree to be mentioned in the same breath as Larsson – feels like an unnecessary addition to a squad where ever player appears to get along with every other player.
If they absolutely must bring a new face in this January then the fact that they have conceded 12 goals in their first nine games – and fallen behind in half the matches played so far – should be the clue to where they should spend it. The defence needs bolstering. Put a Shkodran Mustafi alongside Gerard Pique and they would look more like a team capable of winning the treble. They may have to wait until next summer to haggle down the €50m buy-out clause.
What they don’t need is another forward. In the 2015 calendar year Suarez has 31 goals, Neymar has 33 and Messi has 41. That’s Messi who will be back perhaps not in time for the November 21 Clasico, but certainly back to get on the end of the all the Vidal and Turan passes in January.