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Will Junior Firpo be the man to put pressure on Jordi Alba?

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‘The squirrel’ is virtually untouchable

Real Betis Balompie v Sevilla FC - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

With the news that Real Betis have dropped their initial demand for a €30m transfer fee for Junior Firpo, it appears that Barcelona are edging closer to acquiring the left-back as cover for Jordi Alba.

A difference of €5m apparently exists between the two clubs’ valuation of the player at present, but all the noises surrounding the deal would suggest that this can be bridged.

Ernesto Valverde is known to want any deal completed before the squad fly out to America on Monday to undertake their two-game mini tour against Napoli, but is the 22-year-old the right man to put pressure on a player that is virtually untouchable at this point?

In 28 appearances for the verdiblancos last season, he managed to score three goals and supply four assists.

When looking at that particular statistic against Marc Cucurella, for example, it compares very favourably, given the former Barca youngster scored a solitary goal and provided two assists in his 31 appearances.

For the record, Alba managed two goals and eight assists in his 44 appearances.

Firpo can match his contemporary for his dynamism in getting forward and is certainly a useful supplementary attacker in that regard.

His pass completion rate is only slightly worse than Alba’s (82.9% to 85.6%) and he’s also better in the air, but perhaps his biggest failing is his lack of maturity and discipline.

That’s something which Alba has often been accused of, but Firpo’s 10 yellow cards in 2018/19 surpasses that of the former.

Further, there’s the issue of consistency.

If there’s one thing that Barca can rely on with Jordi Alba, it’s his work rate. The ethic to bomb up and down his channel from first minute to last, week in and week out, as well as motoring back to cover defensively.

There have been concerns over his defensive ability from time to time but that too has been something levelled at Firpo, whose game can be a little raw.

He’s also been accused of not always giving 100 percent in every match, which certainly won’t wash at the Camp Nou.

How well will he settle into life with the Blaugrana too, given that he wasn’t schooled at La Masia? That’s absolutely something that Cucurella - and Juan Miranda - have over him.

Very definitely signed as the second-choice in the position could be the biggest problem of all.

Like others who have joined Barca in the recent past, eg Cillessen, Alcácer etc., the swift realisation that they won’t actually get to play many games comes as a bitter blow.

He remains a decent enough prospect, but can Barca really afford to pay €20-25m at this moment for a player who’ll largely be nothing more than a reserve?