Barcelona's summer transfer activities continued on Wednesday, as they finally confirmed the signing of a defender to shore up their porous back line.
Valencia's Jeremy Mathieu is set to sign a four-year deal as new Barca boss Luis Enrique attempts to add depth to his defence, having already brought in several attacking players this summer, per Barcelona's website:
FC Barcelona and Valencia CF have reached agreement for the transfer of the French player, Jeremy Mathieu. Jeremy Mathieu will sign a contract with FC Barcelona for the next four seasons, plus an optional season more. The cost of the transfer is 20 million Euros and the buyout clause will be 50 million Euros.
The transfer is a necessary one, as Barcelona suffered from a weak defence and won no trophies last season. Also, veteran Carles Puyol is no longer available, having retired after 15 years with the club.
However, 30-year-old Mathieu's signing is not going to solve Barcelona's problems at the back. While he is solid defensively, he is not world class and also does not constitute a long-term solution.
He will be 31 in October, something many have highlighted in the wake of the announcement and a factor which makes his very high transfer fee rather baffling, per beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri:
Honestly I struggle to understand Barcelona's policy: 20m€ for a decent, just decent, defender going to be 31 years old like Mathieu— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 23, 2014
Furthermore, while he has most recently played as a centre-back for Valencia, his natural position is actually out on the left.
Barcelona need an out-and-out central defender of the highest quality, as they suffered last season from having to play players out of position and make do with an ageing Puyol and an out-of-form Gerard Pique.
To bring in another player—as they did with Javier Mascherano—to effectively play out of position as a centre-back seems very short-sighted, as talkSPORT's Lee Roden and football writer Rupert Fryer allude to:
So looks like FCB will wrap up a deal for not centre back Mathieu. He'll join not centre back Mascherano, not centre back Adriano... & Song.— Lee Roden (@LeeRoden89) July 23, 2014
Barca adopting the Inter transfer policy with that Mathieu deal. Over 28? Check. Overpriced? Check. One good season? Check.— Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) July 23, 2014
Why not bring in a tried, tested, world-class centre-back? That should surely be possible, especially considering the club were prepared to spend €20 million.
While Mathieu is undoubtedly a solid and reliable talent who can and has played often in the centre-back role, he is not top class, as his international record highlights, per Ligue 1 journalist Jonathan Johnson:
He only has two caps for the French national team, an unlikely stat for someone supposedly worth so much, and he will only decline in quality as he gets older.
As a squad player for a decent price, Mathieu would have been a decent signing, especially considering he already has La Liga experience. But he now looks to be Enrique's marquee defensive move, which is a worry for Barca.
The likes of Paris Saint-Germain's 20-year-old Marquinhos would have been a far better option, per Metro's Chris Winterburn, and the Catalan giants would do well to pursue further defenders:
No resale value in Mathieu+with the club wanting to lose Dani Alves you cant help feel a deal with Marquinhos would have been worth pursuing— Chris Winterburn (@Chriswin4) July 23, 2014
With a 14-month transfer ban looming, per BBC Sport, Barcelona must sign at least one top-class centre-back before the start of the season, as Mathieu will not be enough to shore up a creaky defence.
Without further reinforcements, Enrique can look forward to a tricky season in La Liga and the Champions League, as without a strong defence, Barcelona will struggle once again.