It’s been a matter of debate for some while now, but Jordi Alba showed in the space of 14 minutes against Osasuna why he’s worthy of at least another season at Barcelona.
Contract and salary issues notwithstanding, he offers a standard of excellence in the left wing-back role that is unmatched at the club at present.
Alejandro Balde certainly has the pace - though Alba himself is far from a slacker - but he doesn’t yet have the finesse.
That will come in time, but for next season particularly if Lionel Messi does return to the club, Alba’s experience has to trump Balde’s youthful exuberance.
The goal that takes the blaugranes to within a win of the league title, thanks also to a favour from Real Sociedad, was the icing on the cake of a superb cameo from the 34-year-old.
Osasuna, despite being down to 10 men for over an hour, were doing a sterling job at frustrating the hosts, and were it not for Alba’s goal, an unexpected 0-0 would likely have been the result.
Aside from Frenkie de Jong, it was another laboured, late-season performance from many of the players and that’s what really should concern Xavi.
0 - Barcelona have failed to register a shot on target in the first half of a LaLiga game at Camp Nou for the first time with Xavi Hernandez - the previous time was against Real Madrid in October 2021 with Ronald Koeman. Obstacle. pic.twitter.com/Eu7erjSfqd— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 2, 2023
Barca huffed and puffed but rarely got out of first gear. Indeed, it was the first time since October 2021 that they’d not managed to have a single shot on goal in the first half of a game.
That was against Real Madrid under Ronald Koeman, and we all know how often the Dutchman was lambasted for supposed ‘boring’ football.
Whilst Xavi’s side did try to play on the front foot, they just weren’t inventive enough and the wide players were consistently unable to either beat their man or find their team-mates with balls into the box.
Alba’s presence completely changed the dynamic down the left side.
His passes were crisp and sharp, and 15 of the 17 he played found their target, per WhoScored.
It’s easy to be blinkered when discussing those players (Alba, Busi, Sergi Roberto) that have often been termed to be part of the ‘club de Amigos,’ but the facts speak for themselves.
The left-back’s general standard of performance ensures that he deserves another crack at the game’s biggest prizes.
He doesn’t have to be the main man on the left if Xavi truly believes that Balde is the future for the Catalans, but let’s not brush Alba’s contributions under the carpet because it suits a certain narrative.