The October international break has brought a huge headache to Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde.
The Catalans have been left without Thomas Vermaelen who picked up a right hamstring injury during Belgium’s 2-1 Nations League win over Switzerland and will be out of action for up to six weeks.
With Samuel Umtiti also ruled out due to a knee injury, the situation Barcelona are in at the moment is worrying at least.
The reigning La Liga champions are left with only two fit central defenders ahead of what likely to be a key period in their attempt to defend the Spanish title. Barcelona are given 4/6 to lift the domestic trophy two years in a row which will be easier said than done.
Ernesto Valverde will only have Gerard Pique and Clement Langlet as Barcelona’s only recognized centre-backs for the Saturday’s clash against Sevilla and ahead of the Champions League tie versus Inter Milan next Wednesday.
Barcelona will then take on Real Madrid in this season’s first El Clasico on 28 October and the Catalans face a proper struggle in attempt to maintain the second place in the La Liga standings.
The Blaugrana have dropped points in their last four La Liga outings. They have looked defensively fragile and the club hierarchy are said to have already started preparing a January plan of action.
Barcelona are likely to move forward during the transfer window and here we suggest the three top targets –along with a rather surprising one – that the Catalans could (and should) pursue during winter.
Matthijs de Ligt
He might only be 19 years of age but Matthijs de Ligt has been turning plenty of heads for a while now. The talented Ajax defender boasts the composure, focus and concentration, strength and stamina, tactical astuteness and positional awareness of a much more experienced player and many believe he would be ready to fit straight in at Camp Nou.
Heavily linked with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and as of recently Juventus, the Netherlands sensation is heavily guarded at Ajax who appear relentless in their attempts to keep him at the club (at least until the end of the season).
Another star of the future predicted to achieve all the glory of professional football, Dayot Upamecanpo has gone through quite a lot to reach the stardom. Rising from the RB Leipzig reserves to the first team in a short period of time, the talented 19-year-old would be an asset for any big club on the planet.
A notable physical presence on the pitch that he is, Upamecano has a particular knack for making surgically precise interceptions and clean tackles. As a huge threat from set pieces, the RB Leipzig defender’s areal play is remarkable. Just like the first name on this list, Upamecano boasts the composure of a player beyond his age. The French national team regular – who went through all the categories before his 2018 debut for the Under 21s – Upamecano is sure to quickly become a notable force in world football. Perhaps in a Barcelona shirt?
A slightly more experienced name among all on the list, Milan Skriniar has been linked with a move away from Inter Milan for quite a while. The 23-year-old Slovakia international is a rare commodity in world football. A combination of remarkable focus and composure, Skriniar is also a technically gifted defender who’s been described as a perfect fit for Barcelona.
Skriniar has enjoyed a steady rise to prominence in an Inter Milan shirt. Heading towards the midterm of the season, Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij have arguably forged one of the most notable partnerships in European football. As a combination of common sense and raw power, De Vrij and Skriniar (but mostly the Slovak international) has been put in the notebooks of scouts across the continent. Inter Milan are determined to keep him, however. Will they succeed in the face of a potentially whopping offer?
* Branislav Ivanovic
Cost effective option with great value for money that would be involved in a potential deal for the Serbian, Branislav Ivanovic is the most surprising name to be linked with Barcelona in a while.
The Catalans have already been paired with a possible move for former Serbia and Chelsea captain and appear to be willing to reassess the option during winter. El Mundo Deportivo claims Barcelona are well aware that getting anyone from the aforementioned list would be a daring task in January, which is why they would be willing to explore alternative options.
The 34-year-old Zenit – along with Djene Dakonam and Unai Nunez – are being mentioned as possible targets and the Serbian’s name alone is more than enough to raise a couple of eyebrows.
Ivanovic is a soldier by nature and a player whose versatility allows him to perform equally successful as both centre-back and on the right. His speed and stamina are commendable, even in the twilight of his career, and there is no doubt that – albeit borderline shocking option – Ivanovic could turn out to be a good short-term solution for Barcelona.
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