the game of chairs around Busquets

BarcelonaMany of the trainers of the Barça squad, as well as analysts and coaches, consider that the center half position in Barça is one of the most complicated in which to play. The last decade has had an indisputable master and lord: Sergio Busquets, who made his debut in the elite under Pep Guardiola, a privileged teacher for an advantaged student. Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, Luis Enrique, Valverde, Setién, Koeman and now Xavi. They have all trusted the midfielder from Badia del Vallès as their main pivot. A decision that can be extrapolated to the Spanish national team, where Rodrigo Hernández, Manchester City’s midfielder and one of the few players who can overshadow him, also plays.

Of the four Barça captains, in fact, the closest to Xavi’s praetorian guard on the pitch is Busquets. The door was opened for Piqué to leave, Jordi Alba is trying to regain his place and Sergi Roberto knows that he has the coach’s endorsement for his versatility and because the right-back position remains one of the softest in the squad. But, despite the fact that Busquets retains Xavi’s confidence, the club has been working on the search for a replacement for some time. His contract ends in the summer and, for now, he has not made any gesture that contradicts his decision to leave, probably to the United States, when he runs out of his bond as a Blaugrana player. In the summer it was proposed to extend his contract and thus be able to defer, again, payments to help with the fair playbut this option was discarded due to the player’s refusal to renew.

During Bartomeu’s tenure, despite being a very different player from Busquets, it was believed that the heir in this position had to be Frenkie de Jong. This is what they conveyed to the Dutchman when they went to sign him from Ajax, ahead of clubs such as PSG or Manchester City. But, despite having great virtues, he has never quite convinced Xavi in ​​this position, because the coach prefers a more positional midfielder, while De Jong is a footballer with a tendency to drive the ball. In fact, despite being positively valued within the sports management, his high profile led to attempts to push him away from Barça in the summer in the face of the interest (and the juicy financial offer) of Manchester United.

The player’s desire was and is to continue as a Blaugrana player. Where he likes to play most is in midfield, although he knows that Busquets is still the starting pivot. Half to shake up the team, half to make rotations, De Jong played in this position again in the triumph against Villarreal and was one of Barça’s best. Before receiving the Athletic Club, Xavi remarked that it was a circumstantial event and wanted to highlight the virtues of Badia. “Against Villarreal, the free man was the pivot. Frenkie understood it very well and made a supporter. But in many moments the pivot is marked and he must also understand that there are defensive tasks, cover , help at the start, organize the line of pressure and, in this, Busquets has a master’s degree: he has experience, he has the gift of knowing where to be, he recovers many balls, defensively he is spectacular for the team and will continue to be important for the team. Like Frenkie, he plays wherever he plays,” said the coach.

The options to occupy the pivot

With Barça, de Jong has acted as a pivot on 38 occasions. And although he can (and would like to) play in midfield, the sports management and Xavi are evaluating other options to strengthen this position when Busquets leaves. One of the ones that the coach likes the most is Real Sociedad center Martín Zubimendi, who has recently renewed his link with the Basque team until 2027, but his clause remains at 60 million euros. What has been done, basically, has been to improve his salary status for the role he is having with the first team. Another option is the Portuguese Rúben Neves, an operation that would bear the seal of Jorge Mendes, an agent who has the confidence of Joan Laporta. The footballer has let himself be loved lately by saying: “Who wouldn’t like to play for Barça?”

The house’s options are summed up in Nico (on loan to Valencia), Sergi Roberto (as an emergency alternative), Christensen (who has already played in this position with Denmark) and even Eric Garcia. This year, Roberto is the first candidate of the coaching staff to occupy the pivot in case neither Busquets nor De Jong did it. As for the Dane, he is still injured and the forecast in Sant Joan Despí is that he will still be out for approximately another two weeks.

Eric Garcia, the most remote option

The coaching staff does not rule out that Eric can act as a circumstantial midfielder, but they attribute it to a more remote option. “Once, during his time in grassroots football, we had tried it, but his position is central. He is used to playing with a 180-degree peripheral view, like goalkeepers. Instead, the pivot has to to have 360 ​​degrees. I see that it is difficult for him to adapt to this position,” explains Franc Artiga to ARA, who worked as a coach in Barça training football for eleven years and knows the footballer from Martorell well.



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