Barcelona might have filled the one hole in their lineup with an absolute steal of a deal this summer.
For the meager sum of €14 million, Barca returned another one of their brood to the nest and possibly tipped the scale back in their favor in La Liga.
What Alba brings that players such as Maxwell, Eric Abidal and Adriano haven't in the past two seasons is the ability to be a two-way player.
For certain, it’s not as if the players mentioned were not worthy of putting on the shirt. Each had deficiencies, however, that made it the one spot in the lineup that never seemed to be nailed down by any player.
Barcelona needs to invest in a true defender. No more Maxwells or Adrianos. No more midfielder/forward defenders.
Alba wasn't one of the players mentioned at that time, but he has come on leaps and bounds in the last six months.
Alba, as he has demonstrated in Euro 2012, has the motor to be running down the wing from the first minute until the last. His performances so far in the tournament have been very solid and he has already begun to form an understanding with Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi.
The left-back also adds an element of width that Barcelona sometimes lose depending on who they are fielding during a match.
When players such as Pedro and Christian Tello aren’t on the pitch, Barca don’t play with the kind of width that comes with the added pace of the aforementioned duo.
Alba’s presence would allow him to overlap on the outside, allowing the team to play with an additional central midfielder to give the left-back a free reign on the flank.
His statistical models don’t show him to be the most accurate crosser of the ball, but in Barcelona’s system, that’s not necessarily a troublesome stat.
He’s proven himself in Euro 2012 to be effective in the system that will be in place once he arrives at Barca’s team camp this summer.
Perhaps the biggest asset Alba brings to the table is pace.
With teams aiming to beat Barcelona on the counter-attack, having a pacey defender at the back could solve some of the problems presented by the sometimes lumbering trio of Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.
Alternating attacks with Dani Alves would prevent the squad from becoming shorthanded at the back, while also allowing Sergio Busquets to move forward into the attack more frequently.
This will allow Barcelona to stay with their tried and trusted 4-3-3 that morphs into various shapes as the match progresses.
A player at the back with the speed to alter counter attacks would have proven critical in moments during last season’s campaign.
While both scorers (Ramires and Ronaldo) split the central defensive pairings, replace Mascherano with Alba and perhaps Ramires never gets the angle to get the shot away.
In the Madrid match, Adriano never tracked Ozil’s run to the right side, where perhaps Alba is able to move over in time and stop what proved to be the game-winning assist.
Perhaps the biggest reason Alba is such a steal, however, is the price tag.
Consider the list of left backs that have been moved recently:
Fabio Coentrao = €30 million
Aly Cissokho = €14 million
Domenico Criscito = €15 million
Leighton Baines = mooted €25 million
Among those mentioned, only Criscito is comparable in terms of price and performance. Clichy might be a slightly better value (€8.6 million) but never nailed down the left-back spot at Manchester City this season.
While Baines hasn’t moved, it’s not likely he’ll go for anything below €20 million. Thus, for the performance that Alba brings, his price is a bargain and then some.
It's a deal that doesn't break the bank like other deals have done, and allows Barca to have some peace of mind in the defense.