Barcelona Can't Afford to Let Sergi Roberto Become Thiago Alcantara Mark II

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 5, 2013

BANGKOK, THAILAND - AUGUST 07:  Sergi Roberto #24 of Barcelona makes a break against Thailand XI during the international friendly match between Thailand XI and FC Barcelona at Rajamangala Stadium on August 7, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

According to David Wright of The Daily Star, Barcelona youngster Sergi Roberto is the subject of interest from Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

The 21-year-old midfielder has been a peripheral figure under Gerardo Martino, despite his obvious promise, and the Catalan club now stand at risk of losing a second prized asset in the space of eight months.

Roberto's buyout clause, reported to be €20 million, is equal to that of Thiago Alcantara's—the player el Blaugrana lost this summer to Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich.

Thiago used the U-21 European Championships to showcase his talents and affirm his potential to become one of the best players in the world, and while Roberto hasn't had the same chance, Barca chiefs must be wary of committing a major gaffe for the second transfer window running.

Sergi Roberto is one of the most highly thought of youngsters ever to graduate from the walls of La Masia. At one stage he was a lock to take up the mantle in Barca's midfield and keep them tiki-taka ticking over.

Under previous regimes—that of Guardiola or Tito Vilanova—Roberto would have likely come in for some serious playing time by now, but under Tata, he has mustered just three substitute appearances.

Things have changed at Barca since their new Argentine boss took charge and, in line with his belief in the principles of verticality, the club are playing football in a different way.

Cesc Fabregas and Neymar have struck a chord together in shifting the ball between the lines quickly, and the latter is thriving off excellent, direct service from the middle.

Alexis Sanchez, arguably the club's biggest (and most welcome) surprise this season, has seven goals from seven La Liga starts and now looks an elite threat off the flanks or through the middle.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 06:  Sergei Petrov of Russia challenges Thiago Alcantara of Spain during the UEFA European U21 Championships, Group B match between Spain and  Russia at Teddy Stadium on June 6, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Get
Ian Walton/Getty Images

As a result of this uprising, Xavi is being marginalised—and with him the original fabric of Barca's hallmark play.

Their failure to dominate possession against Rayo Vallecano in September—the first time in 317 matches—has been overblown, but don't doubt that there are certifiable changes in the method of play.

Less short passing at the back, more lumping it clear of danger; more vertical running, less horizontal passes.

If Martino turned around and stated that Roberto didn't fit with his style of play right now it'd be understandable, but both player and club must work to make sure he does fit the style in the near future.

Barca took a hit, both in player quality and pride, when they lost Thiago for a mere €20 million. Sergi is not a comparable player (in terms of style) but represents the next-brightest prospect in the ranks.

He won't find regular minutes in Liverpool or Tottenham's midfield, and it's incredibly unlikely he'd make the move to either club this January. What's worrying, though, is that the Catalan club could lose yet another star in the making due to mismanaging his minutes and involvement on the pitch.

Don't make the same mistake. Don't let Roberto become Thiago Mark II.