One of the most interesting things to watch for in the next few weeks is Vitor Roque’s adaptation to the Barcelona system and how his arrival impacts Robert Lewandowski, who has been on an extended run of poor performances and very little joy in front of goal which has caused many to call for his benching.
Manager Xavi Hernández had an infamous row with his squad at halftime of the final game of 2023 against Almería, with much of his frustration reportedly aimed at his star striker. Lewandowski responded with a better overall second half and the game-winning assist to Sergi Roberto, but the questions still surround the Pole as we enter the home stretch of the season.
Vitor Roque’s arrival brings youthful energy, a natural scoring ability and a clear competitor for Lewandowski, which leads to the obvious question of whether or not the Brazilian could replace Barça’s biggest name as the leader of the line. That question was posed to Xavi in his pre-match press conference ahead of the first game of 2024 against Las Palmas, and the coach made it clear that Lewandowski will be treated like any other player when it comes to his role on the team.
‘It has already happened… I’ve already done it. I cannot treat one footballer differently than another, otherwise the group will not work well. If players are on the pitch, it’s because I believe they can help. The example is the last match between the two halves. We’re not talking about anything new here. As for the row, perhaps it has been given more importance than it needs, it was something more for the whole group.’
But the coach doesn’t see a direct competition between his star striker and the fresh, exciting new signing. Xavi sees Vitor Roque as a good fit anywhere in his system, and thinks the two can play together.
“Vitor can adapt to any position in the attack, he can play out wide, as a nine.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Xavi will follow up on his promise to treat everyone the same, including Lewandowski. But what’s more interesting is his willingness to play Lewy and Roque together, and that will be a fascinating thing to watch indeed.