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How do Barcelona solve their left-back problem?

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Firpo has to go

Rayo Vallecano V FC Barcelona - Copa Del Rey Photo by Irina R. Hipolito / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

Another tough night against a supposedly inferior team, but Rayo deserve an awful lot of credit for staying in the game as long as they did and taking the lead.

That they did so was due in no small part to Junior Firpo being in a different district of Madrid.

In fact, he wasn’t on his team-mates’ wavelength for much of the match, and Messi’s first half-reaction when Firpo fell over the ball rather than play a one-two told its own story.

Let’s be crystal clear. Junior Firpo isn’t a Barca player. Never was, never will be. He was brought in by Ernesto Valverde and should go the same way as our former manager.

Elche CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Fortunately, his replacement on the night, Jordi Alba, delivered the goods.

Great as he was in his brief cameo, it only highlights the issue that Barca have had for years in that position and that is there is no-one to challenge Alba on a weekly basis.

If we want to scale the heights domestically and in Europe again, we need genuine competition for places, and the one area where we are woefully short in that regard is the left side of defence.

Barca B star, Alejandro Balde, has been talked up in dispatches, and some watchers would have you believe that he’s ready to make the step up.

He’s strong, athletic and quick and has all of the attributes a left-back at the club should have, however, with respect, it might still be just a little too early for him.

FC Barcelona B v RCD Espanyol B - Segunda Division B Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

I’m all for another La Masia graduate coming through the ranks, but can we honestly say we would want a defence with Araujo, Mingueza and Balde in situ at this point?

Are we that brave?

It’s important that we shield our young jewels, develop them and unleash them when the time is right, not before. Though it is worth posing the question as to whether Koeman can afford to ignore his claims?

It’s a shame that more consideration in the past wasn’t given to the likes of Marc Cucurella, Alejandro Grimaldo or others.

We’ll never know if they would’ve made the cut, but they were the right age and could’ve slotted into the team nicely.

With rumours now doing the rounds that there’s interest in Jose Gaya, there’s a glimmer of hope that Alba may soon be looking over his shoulder, but even at a reported €15m, Barca will surely have to sell in the summer before they can buy.