After a season to forget in 2013/14, it’s hardly surprising that Barcelona have been busy in the summer transfer window.
With a whole host of stars putting pen to paper to join Luis Enrique’s revolution at the Nou Camp, the days of success look like returning sooner rather than later.
The signing of Luis Suarez means that Enrique is satisfied with the attacking trio of the Uruguayan, Lionel Messi and Neymar, and he will now turn his attention to the club’s back line.
Though Jordi Alba is widely regarded as the best left-back on the planet, it seems that he may have some competition for a place in the team next year, with two big-name full-backs reportedly in line for a move to Catalonia.
The first is Dutchman Daley Blind, who impressed so much with the Netherlands at the World Cup that he’s made his way onto Barcelona’s radar—per Mundo Deportivo, via Anthony Hay of the Daily Mail.
Hay reports that Enrique is keen on bringing Blind, who is valued at €22 million, to the Nou Camp for the upcoming campaign, with his versatility making the hefty price tag worthwhile.
The 24-year-old is somewhat of a utility man, being able to play anywhere across defence and in midfield, but the way that he performed at left-back in Brazil means that his natural position may well have been found.
The statistics don’t lie, and Blind’s record at the World Cup with the Netherlands rather speaks for itself—per OptaJohan:
4 - Daley Blind (1 goal, 3 assists) has been involved in four goals this World Cup, a record for a Dutch defender in one WC. Creative.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 12, 2014
Signing for United would mean being reunited with national manager Louis van Gaal for Blind, and it’s clear that the Red Devils require his services far more than Barcelona do.
With Alba proving a star at left-back and Barcelona harbouring a wealth of talent in defensive midfield, where exactly Blind will fit in at the Nou Camp is difficult to envisage, and he could have to settle for a life of playing out of position at centre-back if he makes the switch to Catalonia.
Ajax manager Frank de Boer also revealed that prising the 24-year-old from the Amsterdam club’s grasp will be tough, as he doesn’t expect Blind to be leaving anytime soon—per AT5, via Sky Sports:
“Personally, I don’t think so,” De Boer said, when asked whether Blind will be moving this summer. “Everyone is obviously for sale, but we feel that those three players, the World Cup players (Blind, Jasper Cillessen and Joel Veltman), with a few guys in the current squad, should be the water carriers of this squad.”
It’ll be down to Enrique’s powers of negotiation to lure Blind to the Nou Camp; however, in the case of Jeremy Mathieu, it’s the other way around.
The Valencia left-back has reportedly been pleading with the club to let him join Barcelona, who recently tabled a bid for Mathieu’s services.
Though the initial approach was knocked back by Valencia, the Frenchman released a statement through Spanish news agency EFE asking for permission to leave—as Patrick Haond of Sky Sports reported:
I want to ask Valencia CF and its president, Amadeo Salvo, to please understand the situation and accept to negotiate my exit. I have the opportunity to play in the biggest club in the world and that's all I want. I'll never forget what Valencia has done for me, but it's time to move on in the best way possible.
Haond also reports that Valencia club president Amadeo Salvo has told Mathieu that he’ll be free to leave if Barcelona table €20 million—some €5 million more than their reported current bid.
Though the French defender was a mainstay of Valencia’s team last term, similarly to Blind, it’s difficult to see what he can add to Barcelona’s setup.
Another player with the ability to adapt around the pitch, Mathieu would likely be deployed at centre-back for Barcelona should he make the switch, but ESPN’s Jonathan Johnson believes that the club would be paying over the odds for an unproven player:
Had the move been for a free transfer or a significantly reduced fee, Johnson may well have been praising Mathieu for the way that he can conduct himself across the defence, but €20 million is indeed an astounding total.
Barcelona are in desperate need of a centre-back to shore up their defensive line ahead of the upcoming campaign, but a young, talented player with room for improvement and progression should be high on their list.
Though Blind does tick those boxes, not being a natural centre-back will work against him, and Enrique should go back to the drawing board and find a new target or two.