Heading into the summer transfer window Barcelona's main goal was to finally land a true central defender that could fill the void that was made abundantly clear during the Champions League Semi-Final loss against Bayern Munich. As Carles Puyol was recovering from his most recent knee injury, Barcelona's inability to land Thiago Silva, or any other central defender for that matter, was exposed by the Bavarians and Barcelona's dreams of European success vanished.
Fast forward more than two months later and Barcelona are still in that same position; despite making the biggest splash of the summer with the much anticipated signing of Neymar. Up to this point Barcelona have been linked with many of the top tier names in Europe and has already seen offers for Thiago Silva (PSG) and David Luiz (Chelsea) rejected, both of which exceeded €30 million.
Needless to say that counter offers could come from Barcelona for both these players, and most likely for others as well; is the pursuit of these high profile, high cost transfers really the best course of action for the club? While the pursuit of these players can be questioned given their excessive transfer fees and the needs of Barcelona's backline, the main shortcoming so far in Barcelona's pursuit of a central defender has not been as much with whom they are targeting, but really in what they are targeting from the signing.
Silva and Luiz have played great for both club and country, but also play for the same country, Brazil, in two very different roles. Silva more as the true defender and stopper and Luiz as the offensive minded and creative defender. Given that Gerard Pique will be the anchor in central defense for years to come at Barcelona and is more comfortable in the possession based/offensive minded role, Barcelona needs to pursue a strategy that gets them a player that compliments Pique's skills and exhibits a much more defensive mindset given the more aggressive and offensive nature of Barcelona's "tiki-taka" style.
As of now Barcelona has relied upon signing players like Javier Mascherano, Adriano, and Alex Song to help fill the void in central defense and brought up youngster Marc Bartra late last season from Barcelona B to help Gerard Pique. It is safe to say with the exception of Javier Mascherano, none of the other players are neither comfortable nor suitable long-term replacements for central defense. So what does Barcelona need?
Barcelona's pursuit this summer should focus on a central defender who has played the role at the highest level in top tier European leagues. This player should exhibit exceptional skills at defending corners as well as set pieces, one of Barcelona's biggest issues over the last two seasons. This player should also be an aggressive defender in the air and be able to mark the oppositions biggest offensive threat in order to disrupt any continuity leading into the final third of the field. The ideal player will have great speed and be able to recover well on the counter attack to mask the initial lack of coverage left by Jordi Alba or Dani Alves playing further up the pitch.
Ultimately this player should be the most defensive minded player on the field for Barcelona. In short, a true central defender. While the potential addition of David Luiz may get fans excited about how he could "gel" with the current squad, adding another offensive minded defender isn't the solution to Barcelona's problems and especially at the rumored price tag. So who does Barcelona pursue?
While many names have been mentioned as the future replacement for Carles Puyol, the best option for Barcelona seems to be Marquinhos from AS Roma. Although his rumored transfer fee could be in the €30 million plus range, his young age, 19, his height, 5'11, ability to play in the air, and significant development at AS Roma in a short period of time are difficult things to ignore.
While a fee in that range may seem high it may be justifiable as a premium has to be paid for Marquinhos' "potential" (as well as other clubs understanding of Barcelona's desperate need for a central defender), while the fees for Thiago Silva and David Luiz are to clubs that don't need to sell their respective players and can demand more money.
AS Roma on the other hand are not in as an enviable position and could use the fee to significantly enhance their squad for the upcoming season and try to get back into top flight European football. In addition, Marquinhos wages are more comparable to what Barcelona would be willing to pay and would almost definitely come with an increase that would be significant for the player but not onerous to Barcelona's balance sheet. These wages compared to Thiago Silva's or David Luiz' also make for one less obstacle in completing the signing.
As the summer continues it seems Barcelona's interest in Marquinhos has increased but it seems imperative that Barcelona make Marquinhos their number one target and get him into the squad as soon as possible.