For fans looking for a new signing to be excited about, Emerson Royal is an under the radar prospect to pay attention to.
After two seasons on loan at Real Betis, where the Brazilian impressed as one of the best up and coming full-backs in La Liga, Barcelona brought him back to the club this summer after paying 9 million euros for his full rights.
This was a significant decision given the interest Emerson was generating with clubs around Europe, and the fact that Barca has been looking to make sales wherever they can.
The club believes in this guy, and we should too.
Last season, Emerson played more minutes than other player at Betis, earning the confidence of Manuel Pellegrini, and helping lead his side to a spot in the Europa League.
Don’t be surprised if he comes in and earns a big role right away at the Nou Camp.
Emerson could be immediately valuable to the team in particular because he is effective on both ends of the field, a quality that will endear him to any coach.
The first thing you’ll notice about Emerson are his physical attributes.
He’s tall (6ft) and fast, and is highly rated in terms of pressures and tackles at 15.62 and 2.88 per 90 minutes respectively. He also is good in the air, which will be beneficial on defensive set pieces where Barcelona has been routinely exploited in recent years.
Compared to Sergino Dest, who rates lower in most defensive statistical categories, Emerson’s offensive attributes on paper aren’t as great. With passing in particular, where Dest rates in the 90th percentile consistently, Emerson rates in the low 70s.
This of course is in large part due to the different tactical profiles between Barcelona and Real Betis, where Dest was expected to maintain possession, while Emerson was given freedom to take chances going forward.
The battle between Dest and Emerson will be one of the most important storylines next season.
Barcelona needs to get more productivity from the right side.
Jordi Alba, as an example, has the trust of his teammates, but he also plays with confidence, relentlessly making runs and taking chances going forward.
Dest has shown glimpses of his ability and potential, which may in fact be greater than Alba’s when it’s all said and done, but he also had stretches of games where he lacked for confidence and initiative.
Emerson will push him to be better on both the defensive and offensive ends.
It will be hard for Dest to overcome what Emerson can provide defensively because of the differences in their physical profiles, so his best bet could be to improve his concentration and field awareness.
Where he can really stand out, however, is on the attack, by taking defenders on, and serving dangerous crosses into the box.
Emerson in contrast is less inclined to want the ball at his feet, but loves to make runs off the ball and behind defenders.
One thing’s for sure, gone are the days of Sergi Roberto. Ronald Koeman now has two young right-backs with world class potential that he will need to foster. If done right, he’ll have powerful weapons at his disposal to unleash on opponents.
One interesting option, if Barca don’t sign a left-back, is whether Koeman uses Dest and Emerson at the same time in order to give Alba rest, or to bolster the defense when it’s really needed.
With the signing of Emerson, Barcelona has gained needed depth and competition on the defensive line.
Koeman will hope it makes a difference in close games that could ultimately determine whether Barca wins silverware.
Emerson is a very welcome signing, and could be central to these efforts.