When Barcelona decided to meet Clement Lenglet’s buyout clause just a few weeks after the Blaugranes had battered Sevilla in the 2018 Copa del Rey final, the chattering classes went into overdrive.
The general consensus appeared to be that the club had lost their minds, especially given that the centre-back had only made just over a half century of appearances for the Andalusians.
There was always the need to have decent defensive cover for the likes of Samuel Umtiti and/or Gerard Pique, it’s just at the time of his hire many believed that Lenglet wasn’t that man.
How wrong can you be?!
We haven’t been able to praise the backline much this season, but Lenglet’s has proven to be an ideal signing. Great in the air, on the ball, cool headed, he’s likely to stick around for long at the club.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) January 13, 2019
With his French colleague battling knee problems consistently in 2018/19, Lenglet has certainly had a lot more action than he, and probably the club, bargained for, but he’s passed his exam with flying colours.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to suggest that Umtiti shouldn’t be allowed to just waltz straight back into the side when he’s fit again.
Sure, he’s an absolute colossus when on his game, but Lenglet has hardly put a foot wrong in his absence and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
For example, his performance against Eibar was another calm, composed, assured and authoritative one.
If genuine competition for places is what Ernesto Valverde desires for each position, then he certainly has that now at the heart of his back line.
Which souldn't be the case imo. We play better with Lenglet at the back. His passing ability is significantly superior to Samuel's, and as a defender too he hasn't put a foot wrong in Barça shirt so far. Sam shouldn't be the indisputed starter now.— Azlan (@azlanrao10) January 13, 2019
Let’s not forget either that in the not too distant past, we were looking to Thomas Vermaelen to be our defensive cover.
To his credit, the Belgian did a lot better than we all expected, but Lenglet is a level above the former Arsenal man and at just 23 years old, can only grow more as a player.
He does perhaps need to improve on certain aspects of his game, but what he lacks in physical presence - an area in which Umtiti excels - he makes up for with other attributes.
He links very well indeed with Jordi Alba on the left side and has a turn of pace that often gets Barca out of trouble. It’s noticeable that when Umtiti is alongside Pique the team run the risk of being beaten to the punch by balls over the top.
Not enough attention is given to the fact that Lenglet has been nothing short of amazing. Definitely on par with maybe even better than Laporte this season.— 2pac (@siddheshv6) January 13, 2019
One can best describe Lenglet’s game as understated excellence, and the thought of him being out for any length of time now isn’t a palatable one.
That shows just how important he’s become to the side in a short space of time, and his €35.9m fee is already looking like a bargain from where I’m standing.