Versatility. Intensity. Quality. Three words that may well summarise the early highlights of Luis Enrique’s reign as coach of FC Barcelona; past and present players alike have alluded to the extra intensity that Lucho has and will bring to the table as manager, while the majority of his moves in the transfer market have been for quality players who will add versatility – an extra dimension to a somewhat stagnant philosophy.
Against all our most recent principles, the Blaugrana have signed a "nine" in Luis Suarez, and a centre-half in Jeremy Mathieu. The idea of an undisputed "number one" is also long gone, as Claudio Bravo and Marc-André ter Stegen will fight to replace the departed Victor Valdés, while the arrival of Ivan Rakitić represents the most potent threat to the Xavi and Andrés Iniesta midfield duopoly since, well, ever.
Established players are also being forced to rethink their roles in Catalunya. Of course, Xavi is the quintessential example but he’s by no means the only one: Javier Mascherano and maybe even Lionel Messi will move into new roles this season under Lucho’s watchful eye. There’s even talk of a semi-permanent move to a three-man backline being discussed internally – although Culés have raised concerns around Barça’s continued defensive fragility, despite the signing of Mathieu.
Certainly, the consensus amongst the fans is that Barcelona need to sign another central defender, with the majority of Culés hoping for a "marquee" signing: a Mats Hummels, or a Marquinhos. However, given Marc Bartra’s incredible rise and rise at the tail-end of last season and Javier Mascherano’s undoubted quality – both at centre-half and in midfield – there might not be a need to break the bank.
Instead, Barça could instead search for strength in depth; a willing squad player as opposed to a bona fide superstar. Indeed, while we all pine for a Thiago Silva-esque signing, a signing of that magnitude may cause more problems than it solves. We all saw how Thiago Alcântara reacted to a perceived lack of game-time; who really wants to make a similar gamble with Marc Bartra?
Similarly, given Sergio Busquets’ dominance at pivote, who wants to further limit Javier Mascherano’s minutes and risk losing a world-class player and an important locker room presence just to procure a Hummels or a Marquinhos?
Therein lies the problem with modern football fans; football isn’t played on paper, yet reputation rules amongst supporters. The difficulties of rotation, morale and ego management; they never factor into it – most fans only want the biggest and best names at their club, irrespective of the friction they may create. Let’s face it, a big name defensive signature would probably even render Mathieu’s arrival redundant – we probably don’t need a Hummels or a Marquinhos.
What we need is more intensity, more versatility; the quality will come naturally – let’s move on from the Mats Hummels’ and the Marquinhos’ of the world and cast our eye elsewhere. Preferably across the Channel to Britain, to Wales and to recently relegated Cardiff in particular.
Why not Gary Medel?
Following the Bluebirds ignominious descent back into the second tier of English football, former Sevilla star Gary Medel faces the prospect of a year in the SkyBet Championship, a world away from the Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu. And yes, he is rumoured to be attracting interest from the likes of Internazionale and Galatasaray, but as yet, Medel remains contracted to Cardiff.
With a reported pricetag of just £10 million (€12 million), Medel wouldn’t break the bank. Heck, he wouldn’t even make a dent – and his quality is proven. A star in Chile’s recent World Cup run, the Pitbull is capable of filling in at defensive midfield and in central defense; all this in spite of his relative stature, as he compensates for his lack of height with a fiery attitude and an impressive understanding of the game.
Tactically, Medel would make the rumoured 3-4-3 a far more viable option for Enrique, yet his impact could be felt in other areas of the pitch as well. Like Mascherano, Medel could add steel to the midfield yet still possesses quality we expect from a Barcelona player.
A pipe dream? Perhaps. But if FC Barcelona are planning on another central defensive signing, they could certainly do a lot worse than Gary Medel...