With only three days to go until El Clasico, Fermin Lopez really couldn’t have timed his audition for a starting spot any better.
Much of the talk this season has been about Lamine Yamal, and with good reason, but I’d contend that Fermin has made more of an impact in the games in which he’s played.
It’s clear how highly the club rate him too, given they extended his contract to 2027 and placed a €400m release clause within it to ensure he’ll stay with the club for the next few years at least.
Signed by the player on Tuesday, his showing against Shakhtar on Wednesday evening will almost certainly have had the board nodding in approval; a job well done on all sides evidently.
Talent like Fermin doesn’t come along all that often either.
A player that is fearless in possession and yet his maturity on the ball is clear for all to see. Thus far he’s rarely wasted a pass, with WhoScored noting a completion rate of over 86 percent in the Champions League.
Shorn of Pedri’s technical skills and Frenkie de Jong’s ability to burst forward, Barcelona have needed something different for long periods this season and Fermin has plugged that necessary gap with evident ease.
On Wednesday he could quite easily have had a hat-trick, and he would’ve deserved it too.
Consistently taking up intelligent positions, he was never frightened of having a go from distance, as well as playing in his colleagues if they were better placed.
That he is now a genuine shout for a start against Real Madrid shows the trust that the club feel that they can place in him.
It’s worth remembering too that he’s already played against Los Blancos this season, albeit in a pre-season friendly. His all-action cameo was cemented by scoring a pile driver from outside the box which helped Barca to a 3-0 win.
5 - Youngest players to score in their first Champions League start for Barcelona:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 25, 2023
1⃣ Giovani dos Santos (18 years and 215 days)
2⃣ Pablo Torre (19 and 212)
3⃣ Sergi Roberto (19 and 302)
4⃣ Sergio Busquets (20 and 98)
5⃣ FERMÍN LÓPEZ (20 and 167)
Expected to be depleted through injuries, it’s likely that the Catalans won’t be as strong in personnel terms as they were on that July day, however, with players like Fermin Lopez in the team, Barca will always have a chance.
As the football world lauds Jude Bellingham, the right mixture of midfielders against the England international and his colleagues could make the visitors’ lives more difficult than they might be expecting.
Particularly if Fermin is able to find those pockets of space which he drifts into with ease and almost unnoticed.
He’s certainly given Xavi food for thought not just for this weekend but also for the future.
When Pedri, Frenkie, Oriol Romeu, Gavi, Gundo et al are all fit, in my opinion the coach still needs to find a place for Fermin because he brings a different vibe entirely to middle of the park.
It’s on Xavi to let him loose to do his thing.