BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 13: Head coach Josep Guardiola of FC Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League group H match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan at the Camp Nou stadium on September 13, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona’s Champions League title defense started in the worst possible fashion at CampNou as they found themselves a goal down within a minute after kickoff and then squandered a 2-1 lead in the final minutes of the game.
Alexandre Pato managed to out maneuver the make-shift center-backs, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, dashing into Barcelona’s half and putting the ball to the back of the net after just 24 seconds, one of the fastest goals ever recorded in UEFA Champions League history.
Barcelona failed to cope with the pace of the lanky Brazilian, who often out paced both Busquets and Mascherano with his bursting runs, exposing the susceptible defense within the first half hour.
Injuries to both regular center-backs Pique and Puyol means Barcelona have no depth at all at the back, which could lead to their undoing this season if reinforcements are not bought in time.
Carles Puyol did make his return after several months on the sidelines as a second half substitute, but failed to show the form he displayed last season, and the confidence just didn’t seem to be there. He was rash at times, and seemed to lack full fitness.
During pre-season, it was debated that Barcelona needed to strengthen their defensive options. Lets face it, the stalwart of Barcelona’s back four, Carles Puyol, will not be playing every week, Eric Abidal isn’t getting any younger, and the burden is definitely going to fall on Pique, who is sidelined with injury at the moment. Pique seems to be a better player when Puyol is around, and does at times struggle with makeshift partners at the back. Mascherano is susceptible with lack of pace, while Busquets seems to have no clue at the back. The answer to Barcelona’s problem could be a center-back with the qualities of going forward, and one Mats Hummels seems to fit that bill very well.
At the same time as Barcelona faced Milan, Mats Hummels was in action in Group F as Borussia Dortmund took on Arsenal at the packed Signal Iduna Park.
Hummels has a playing style reminiscent to that of a fit Carles Puyol and might even be a step better than Barcelona’s captain. Hummels is very versatile and his attacking qualities are outstanding. Against Arsenal he withstood the attacks Arsenal forwards and wingers threw at him, and then was the key to instigating Dortmund’s offense. His passes from the back to German sensation Mario Götze were absolutely inch perfect, however, the latter failed to play equally as good passes on that night.
Hummels would be a perfect fit for FC Barcelona and certainly have an instant impact at the club. However, I fail to see how Dortmund would part with their number one defender especially with the Bundesliga side tipped to do well in the Champions League. He might not be a possibility this season. Nevertheless, I think he should be Barcelona’s number one target in next years summer transfer window.
The season has just begun and its hard pointing fingers at Pep Guardiola or Barcelona’s think-tank but its still a point to ponder… Have we missed a trick here?