For a great deal of the summer transfer window, the majority of Barcelona’s transfer speculation has seen them linked with defensive recruitment, first with the Premier League pairing of David Luiz and Daniel Agger, as per the Daily Mail’s John Drayton.
However, the trail having gone cold on that particular front, Gerardo Martino has turned his attention to Porto starlet Eliaquim Mangala.
That’s according to Ben Jefferson of the Express, who alleges that the reigning La Liga champions sent scouts to the Estadiao Dragao this weekend.
There, they will have been paying close attention to the young centre-back as his side kept a clean sheet in their 3-0 mauling of Maritimo, although he only played the first half.
For Barcelona fans, it’s an altogether more encouraging move than the one being touted for Luiz this time last month, a move that would have seen their club shell out around £35 million.
Considering that Mangala is four years younger than his Chelsea counterpart and is still in the stages of his development, his acquisition would certainly be more suited to the philosophy that Barca have grown accustomed to over the years.
Another savvy purchase on Porto’s behalf, the Portuguese outfit are again set to double their money on a player they paid Standard Liege £5.5 million for in 2011. Just two years later and the same Express report touts the club as willing to listen to offers in the region of £12 million.
In recent years, the Dragons have shown their shrewdness in the market time and time again, bringing in talents from around Europe and South America not for tiny fees themselves, but justifying such expenditures by then selling the stars on for vastly bigger sums.
Over the last four seasons or so, latest examples of such players would be Radamel Falcao, Lisandro Lopez, Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles, Lucho Gonzalez and of course this summer’s mega-sale of James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho to AS Monaco.
In short, the scouting system at the club would appear to be pretty spot-on, with Mangala just the latest potential profit emerging.
Although a centre-back by nature, Mangala is part of an ever-growing crop of central defenders who have the physical attributes necessary to play in the full-back positions if necessary. This would appear to translate into Martino’s option of playing a high line of defence, one that’s capable of tracking back on the break.
Whereas Luiz certainly is a gifted talent, his already being established at Chelsea means that the inflated price tag may not actually speak of his real worth, especially considering the Brazilian’s eagerness to propel forward whenever the chance arises.
In Mangala, the Spaniards would have a more down-to-earth option, and one still willing to learn, soaking up whatever lessons and ideals are thrust upon him. In that sense, the Frenchman is the kind of putty more preferable to side oriented around their youth, malleable and able to adapt.
Luiz is far less so, and would be an incredible loss of money should the South American have been unable to fit in with the style that Barca seek to employ. Carles Puyol was never the flashiest of Catalan defenders, yet could still go down as one of their finest ever simply due to that fact, something Luiz doesn’t always seem to understand.
At his current price, 22-year-old Mangala wouldn’t have the ego to demand starting football at the Camp Nou like Luiz might have, and he'd be permitted the time to migrate into a first-team spot before eventually flourishing in his new surroundings.