Last year, I wrote two articles. One detailed the search for a left-back, and I said Barca should go for Jordi Alba and our poll indicated 53% of people agreed. Barcelona signed Alba from Valencia, and I still think that was a good choice.
I wrote another giving details about potential signings at centerback. I recommended Javi Martinez, and 31% agreed. Thirty-four percent preferred Thiago Silva. And who did Barca pick up? Why, Alex Song, now used exclusively as a holding midfielder.
Now, with goals being conceded at an astonishing rate, it's quite obvious Barca should have bought a centerback. Last year, I wrote:
The worst case scenario: Puyol returns but his advancing age and mounting injuries limit him greatly, Pique continues to play distractedly half the time, Masche's great run of form comes to a close. The youngsters develop, but not quickly enough to be relied on. ... The trouble for Barca is the uncertainty: the team's margin of error is small if they don't buy another player. It would be great if the best case scenario actually takes place, but what if it doesn't? It's too much of a risk to take if the team has enough cash to bolster the position.
Barcelona has a chance to correct things this summer. Already the team targeted Mats Hummels and Silva, but the murmurs are that the negotiations won't take place. Silva's cost is prohibitive and Paris Saint-Germain do not want to sell. Reports are that coach Tito Vilanova has said Hummels is too similar to Pique and thus a bad investment, and Hummels probably does not want to leave Borussia Dortmund anyway.
That leaves a few targets still on the board: David Luiz (Chelsea), Marquinhos (AS Roma), Iñigo Martinez (Real Sociedad), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur). Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), and Daniel Agger (Liverpool) were also considered, but for the moment have said they want to stay at their respective clubs.
Note: estimated value calculated from Transfermarkt.com
David Luiz (Chelsea)
Estimated Value: 25m Euro
Positives: Great dribbling, passing, and shooting for a defender. Fast. Tall and capable heading ability. Can play holding midfield as well as left-back. Experience at the highest level. National team experience with Adriano Correia, Daniel Alves, and Neymar.
Negatives: Poor positioning, not a great tackler. Can make mental mistakes.
Verdict: Luiz is such a "Barcelona defender", and I meant that both in the positive and negative sense. His skills are undeniable; he even has a unique and dangerous way of hitting free kicks. However, he is sometimes unfocused or too willing to dive into tackles. He is as exciting a prospect as there is, but I'm not too sure...
Marquinhos (AS Roma)
Estimated Value: 10m Euro
Positives: Great tackling technique. Good passer. Very good acceleration. Very young, lots of potential. Can play right-back.
Negatives: Lack of experience. Potential is just that, potential.
Verdict: Marquinhos is perhaps the most exciting prospect for his great potential. However, Roma will probably hold out for a good bit of money for their young star. Barca will most likely pay over the estimated value. Is he worth the investment?
Iñigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Estimated Value: 5m Euro
Positives: Shows good concentration. Good positioning skills. Decent dribbler. Very good passing range. Young and with potential. Spanish youth international.
Negatives: Needs to improve short passing and heading ability. Lack of experience.
Verdict: Martinez has lots of potential, but still unproven at the very top level. Sociedad are in the Champions League and thus will not want to part with a good player. Perhaps Barca might let him be tested in the UCL for one season before making a decision.
Ezequiel Garay (Benfica)
Estimated Value: 17.5m Euro
Negatives: Not the fastest. Can improve short passing. Already failed to establish himself in Spain with Real Madrid.
Verdict: An interesting idea, especially given his Madrid background. A good player, though his lack of elite speed is a question mark. The latest is that Manchester United will swoop in, however.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Estimated Value: 19m Euro
Positives: Loves to shoot. An offensive weapon, scored 4 goals and gave 3 assists in the Premiership last season. Very good tackler. Good vision and positioning. Good passing range and accuracy. Should be near his prime. Experience playing similar system with Ajax. Can play left-back or defensive midfield.
Negatives: Not the fastest. Plays risky - opponents can go by him too often if he misses. Similarity to Pique could be an issue again.
Verdict: Vertonghen was an option Barcelona considered last year before he left Ajax for Tottenham. At Spurs, he has been a revelation and part of the team's strong push for a top four finish. A great fit, but have Barcelona passed on him for good already?
Luiz is the most strongly linked player of the bunch. Reports are that newly-appointed coach Jose Mourinho does not want him at Chelsea anymore. Luiz is a very skilled player but represents a risk.
In fact, every player on the list is a risk in some way. Marquinhos and Martinez lack experience and their teams may demand a huge sum for their potential. Garay is a risk because of his checkered past in Spain. Vertonghen mainly because he is a player who takes risks on the field himself.
As always, money will play a huge factor in the decision and without anything close to exact figures, it's difficult to make a choice. Still, what do you guys think? Who should Barcelona sign at centerback?