Barragan at Liverpool Take One
In 2005, Sevilla sporting director Ramon Rodriguez reluctantly announced Barragan's decision to sign for the then-reigning UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool.
"The FIFA rules regarding young players who do not have professional contracts have favoured us on many occasions," Rodriguez said, per BBC Sport. "This time it is Liverpool who have taken advantage of them to take the player [Barragan]. He has been negotiating with Liverpool for the past six months."
The presence of Rafa Benitez and a Spanish-speaking clique at Liverpool must have swayed Barragan to sign with the Reds, but it was also a pragmatic decision because Dani Alves was the undisputed right-back at Sevilla.
A year later, do you remember which right-back Liverpool almost signed? Alves, per ESPN FC.
Barragan's stay at Liverpool was short.
He was described as a "homesick youngster" by the Liverpool Echo, but this was contradicted by an interview Barragan gave.
"There are a few Spanish players at Liverpool and it does help you settle in better as they speak your language," Barragan said, per Steve Hunter at Liverpool's official website. "I really like the city of Liverpool, it is a nice place. I am staying with a lovely family who have made me very welcome and I am really enjoying it."
According to the impression of then-Liverpool player and fellow Spaniard Luis Garcia, Barragan was settling in fine.
"He [Barragan] doesn't seem too overwhelmed about moving to such a big club in a new country at such an early age," Garcia said, per Paul Rogers at Liverpool's official website. "I've heard he's very highly-rated back home. In training he's looked very impressive."
When then-Liverpool prospect Jack Hobbs signed a professional contract with the Reds, he pointed to the rapid ascension of teammate Barragan as a source of motivation.
"Antonio Barragan has already made his first-team debut in the Champions League," Hobbs said, per PA Sport (h/t ESPN FC). "That's a great inspiration to the rest of us to try and follow."
Barragan signed with Deportivo de La Coruna in 2006 with Liverpool inserting a derisive £475,000 buyback clause, per BBC Sport, in a move which heavily weighed in Liverpool's favour.
If Barragan flopped, Liverpool did not need to deal with him. Yet in the event that he transitioned into an elite footballer, Liverpool could buy him back cheaply.
Barragan had chosen Depor because he was familiar with manager Joaquin Caparros, the former Sevilla manager, per Francisco Acedo at Sky Sports.
One problem: Under Caparros, Barragan did not start a single La Liga game at Sevilla.
In hindsight, his decision to hastily leave Liverpool did not work out and his career nosedived in Spain.
Fortunately for Barragan, he did not need to take the drastic step of playing in a lesser league like former Spanish youth international teammate Toni Calvo.
Aside from a brief stint at Parma, Calvo, a former Barcelona player, has played in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece—certainly not what he envisioned while growing up at La Masia with Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi.
Barragan has improved at Valencia after bottoming out, so let's breakdown his game.
Antonio Barragán; you are the weakest link - goodbye! #cmore— Petter Veland (@PetterVeland) November 20, 2012
Antonio Barragan now has four assists in nine la Liga-games. If one guy has improved his game at VCF, it's Antonio!— VCF in English (@VCF_English) February 8, 2014
Barragan is a 6'0" and 168-pound brawny right-back, who has been experimented as a winger.
He is a bustling attack-minded defender and covers an inordinate amount of space on the right wing.
Barragan's playing style rings true to the observation of then-Liverpool reserve manager Hughie McAuley in 2005.
"Antonio [Barragan] played very well and he has good pace and is quality on the ball down the right hand side," McAuley said, per Steve Hunter at Liverpool's official website. "He is scoring goals as well which is a real bonus for us."
Barragan generally forces his way into the defensive half of the opposing team like in Valencia's 5-0 win over Real Betis. He found himself in an advantageous situation and sent in a precise cross for Valencia centre-forward Paco Alcacer to steer the ball past Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Barragan has delivered key passes (a pass that leads to a shot) on a regular basis.
|League Only||Key Passes Per Game||Assists||Pass Completion %|
One of the advantages of Barragan constantly bombing forward is Valencia right attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli can play centrally, yet the right wing is not vacant as Barragan will be there.
L'onze del VCF: Alves; Barragán, R. Costa, Mathieu, Bernat; Fuego,Parejo, Feghouli, Fede, Vargas i Alcácer pic.twitter.com/jBgwURlQrN— Blanquinegres (@Blancinegres) February 16, 2014
This was shown in one play during Valencia's 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao.
Feghouli was central and placed a through ball for the onrushing Barragan, who hit a first-time pass to Valencia centre-forward Jonas.
In one sweeping play elapsing three seconds, Valencia moved the ball from a non-threatening position to just outside Bilbao's penalty box.
Barragan has the physical capacity and the determination to be a top-flight footballer, but his decision-making is impeding him from becoming a better player.
The way Barragan got himself sent off in Valencia's 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano encapsulates everything wrong about his defending.
- Rayo central attacking midfielder Alberto Bueno was moving away from the right flank.
- Barragan followed Bueno meaning the right-back slot was vacant. Again, bad positioning.
- Valencia were down 1-0 and Barragan was on a yellow card, yet he attempted a high-risk tackle and did not cleanly win the ball.
- Referee Clos Gomez dismissed Barragan for a second bookable offense and Valencia's chances of mounting a comeback diminished.
- It was a low football IQ decision from Barragan.
It is not the first time Barragan has received a pointless red card and it will not be the last.
There is a Jose Bosingwa-like feel to Barragan's game in that when he is bad, he is Sunday league-bad.
Barragan has had games where he has registered a 85.7 cross-incompletion percentage against Real Sociedad, a 81.8 cross-incompletion percentage against St Gallen and a 83.3 tackle-incompletion percentage against Sevilla.
Barragan is a La Liga-standard player, but Liverpool should be aiming to sign world-class prospects or world-class footballers—Barragan is neither.
Statistics via WhoScored