So... What's with that new center-back you've been promising us all, Barcelona?
We are a few days away from the start of Barça's preseason, and Luis Enrique's squad still doesn't have any additions to their defense. As things stand, the only true CBs on the team are Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartra. There is no reliable option at Barça B, and you can't use Javier Mascherano as a defender now, especially after all we see him doing as a midfielder in the World Cup. So the only option left is to buy new backs, something that both Andoni Zubizarreta and Josep Maria Bartomeu promised after the terrible defensive performance of last season.
Barça has made plenty of signings to the other positions, reaching deals with the likes of Marc-André Ter Stegen, Claudio Bravo, Ivan Rakitic and -- still not official -- Luis Suárez. Along with Rafinha and Deulofeu, who are back from loan, that's six high-quality additions to the squad, in positions that actually needed some help. But the center-backs should be a priority now, and it seems weird that no deal has been done at that slot. The clock is ticking, and Zubi needs to take some action now.
As of right now, the two favorite targets for Barça are Valencia's Jeremy Mathieu and PSG's Marquinhos. According to multiple sources, Barcelona have reached a personal agreement with both of them, including contract details. The problem here is that neither of the teams want to sell, for different reasons. Valencia has been clear that they'll only negotiate if Barça agrees to pay the full buyout fee, of €20 million. The Blaugrana have offered €14 million, and the talks haven't advanced because of it. Mathieu has held meetings with Valencia's board to force his exit, but his club will not change their minds unless Barça pays them.
Marquinhos' case is a bit different. He has told Paris Saint-Germain that he wants to go to Catalunya, but PSG won't let it happen until they sign a new CB. They've already bought Brazil's star David Luiz to play with his fellow national team defender Thiago Silva, but they lost another Brazilian, Alex, in the process. If they don't find any replacement to Alex, Marquinhos is going nowhere.
If those deals don't materialize, Barcelona has a Plan B, according to sources. That would be Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen, who impressed as Belgium's left-back at the World Cup, showing his versatility to play at a different position, along with his already proven defending skills. Vertonghen's buyout fee is currently set at €22 million, not high for such a quality player.
Another target for Barça could be Borussia Dortmund and Germany star Mats Hummels, who has been considered the best defender of the World Cup so far. He'll play on the Final this Sunday against Argentina, and Barça's board will be watching the match, including our beloved Zubi. Hummels battled some injuries last season, but has shown no signs of it during the tournament.
Last week, both Zubi and Bartomeu told the press they had the CB names and the deals were imminent. We sure hope they actually happen, because we wouldn't mind getting just a little bit of help on defense.
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