What do you get the man who has everything? Another top class centre-forward apparently.
Despite possessing arguably the most fearsome strikeforce in football history, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has hardly played down his determination to supplement Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar with an affordable alternative this summer.
However, with Kevin Gameiro, Luciano Vietto and Nolito all choosing first-team football over the Barca bench, there suddenly appears to be a paucity of options available to the LaLiga champions.
So, with just three weeks of the window remaining, we profile five possible answers to Luis Enrique’s striker problem.
Mario Gomez – Fiorentina
After an injury-stricken stint in Serie A with Fiorentina, Gomez reignited his career last season, scoring 26 league goals to inspire Turkish giants Besiktas to their first title in seven years.
However, due to Turkey’s ongoing political instability, Gomez is looking for a new club. And, handily, Barcelona are looking for a new striker.
The 31-year-old may no longer be the same relentless goal machine that struck 113 times in just 174 appearances for Bayern Munich between 2009 and 2013, but his impressive performances for Germany at Euro 2016 proves Gomez remains an instinctive, penalty-box poacher.
Andre-Pierre Gignac – Tigres
Although denying that Barcelona had made an approach for the former Marseille forward, Tigres admitted last month that they would not stand in Gignac’s way if the LaLiga champions came calling.
However, despite the 30-year-old unearthing a prolific streak relatively late in his career, scoring 55 goals in the last two seasons in France and Mexico, Gignac surely lacks the movement and clinical edge required to succeed at Camp Nou.
Yet, he remains on Barca’s lengthy wishlist. How far down, however, is another matter entirely.
Lucas Perez – Deportivo
“We’re looking for a pure striker who is fast,” Luis Enrique told Mundo Deportivo last month.
Lucas Perez, then, fits the bill better than most. An energetic, direct forward in the mould of Jamie Vardy, Lucas netted 17 LaLiga goals last season for an otherwise goal-shy Deportivo. And, with a further 10 assists to his name, the 27-year-old’s tireless work-rate and team ethic will undoubtedly appeal to the former Celta Vigo boss. As will the €20million release clause in his contract at the Riazor.
Lucas’ agent Rodrigo Fernandez hardly played down talk of a potential move either, telling Voz de Galicia on Thursday that the uncapped forward would not be committing his future to Depor before the end of the transfer window.
Robin van Persie – Fenerbache
Three years ago, Robin van Persie’s 26 goals inspired Manchester United to the Premier League title. Twelve months later, he stunned the watching world with a spectacular diving header against Spain at the World Cup.
The following years have not been kind to Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, however, with West Ham, Stoke City, Middlesbrough and Rangers suddenly appearing realistic destinations for a man who scored 35 Premier League goals in 2011 alone.
Yet Van Persie may be due one more shot at the top level with his tumultuous spell in Turkey at Fenerbache looking certain to come to an end.
“We’re waiting for buyers, if he wants to be sold,” Fener president Aziz Yildirim told AMK Spor last month. Barcelona may just take up that option, especially for the relative pocket change of €7m.
“We have to be open to improving the squad,” Luis Enrique told a news conference on Tuesday. “If we find a striker we like we will bring him in. If not, we will continue with what we have.”
What Barcelona have, however, is not much. If you discount three of the most prolific forwards in world football, that is. Remember La Masia? Since Pep Guardiola’s 2009 heyday, only Pedro, Sergio Busquets and, to an extent, Sergi Roberto have cemented their roles in an increasingly opulent first-team.
Rafa Mujica scored a stunner against Leicester City in pre-season but, at 17, cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of expectation should injury befall one of the MSN, while Denis Suarez remains an unproven talent.
That leaves Munir El Haddadi. Despite two exceptional finishes in that 4-2 win against the Premier League champions, the 20-year-old scored just three LaLiga goals last season and frequently failed to impress in Messi’s absence between September and November. As Sandro Ramirez, Cristian Tello, Isaac Cuenca and Bojan Krkic found out, Barcelona will not wait around for potential to transform into consistency.
“We are going to sign a forward,” sporting director Robert Fernandez told AS. “The options are on the table and we will take the most opportune decision. It will be before the start of the league season. That is our intention.”
The clock is ticking.
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