Jeremy Mathieu May Find It Hard to Cope with Immense Pressure at Barcelona

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2014

Jeremy Mathieu could find it tough going.
Jeremy Mathieu could find it tough going.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

There will be all kinds of pressure weighing down Jeremy Mathieu's shoulders at Barcelona, and although he insists he can cope, it's unclear if he understands the size of the task ahead of him.

Mathieu certainly talks a good game. He spoke on Thursday night at a press conference for his presentation.

When asked about coping with pressure, he said, per Sport:

I don't feel any pressure about coming here. Puyol was a great player here and I hope I can achieve the same kind of things that he did here. I know it's difficult to follow on from a player like that, but all I can do is fight hard and give everything I've got for Barcelona, and hope I enjoy myself here.

Mathieu was determined to come to Barcelona, and now he has got what he wants, will he be able to handle it?

His career path so far has seen him play for two French sides, Sochaux and Toulouse, and one La Liga club, Valencia.

None of those clubs come with anything like the expectation that Barcelona players feel.

Of course, it doesn't mean that he won't be able to handle it but having played at Camp Nou for Valencia isn't anything like playing there for Barcelona.

If anything, teams feel no pressure when they play away at Barcelona because they know they are expected to lose.

Mathieu playing at the Camp Nou for Valencia.
Mathieu playing at the Camp Nou for Valencia.Siu Wu/Associated Press

Furthermore, he has only ever been capped twice by his country.

The Frenchman made his debut in 2011 in a friendly against the United States, but he has only played once for his national team since.

Then there is the pressure of fitting in to a tactical system quite different to most others.

Mathieu has the right attributes for the role, physically.

He is quick, something that sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was equally swift to point out at the press conference.

The Barca chief spoke about how Mathieu will "fit in seamlessly" because he knows the league and his team-mates. Per Sport, he said:

To play for Barca you need to take risks at the back. Mathieu has played for years and knows the game, he knows the pressure and knows the demands of the Camp Nou, he knows the players and will fit in seamlessly. Everybody knows he can speak Spanish.

However, to become the only central defender signed by the club since Dmytro Chygrynskiy in 2009, implies big things.

While countless other players have been bought and sold, many of them top-class players, Barcelona have waited.

It has been obvious for a long while that they needed a new defender but only now have they made their move.

For it to be a 30-year-old, 31 in October, and for him to cost €20 million, has riled some supporters. Especially considering Mathieu does not have a brilliant reputation.

Barcelona last signed a centre-back five years ago.
Barcelona last signed a centre-back five years ago.MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

He has played well for Valencia and was their best defender, but that does not necessarily mean he is of the right calibre for Barcelona.

Because he is quick and clever, Mathieu should be able to play well at Camp Nou, if he can keep the weight off his shoulders.

If Zubizarreta buys another defender then it would help Mathieu, too, sharing the burden. And it is a burden, being asked to help sort out the defensive problems of a side as big as Barcelona.

Mathieu could end up being a good purchase and provided he retains his cool, there will be a lot of humble pie being consumed.

Mathieu could end up being a great success.
Mathieu could end up being a great success.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Particularly by the handful of fans who called for Zubizarreta's resignation outside Camp Nou, while Mathieu was being presented, as a journalist mentioned at the press conference. 

But if things don't go so well, he could be the latest in a long line of players that didn't work out at the back.

Chygrynskiy. Martin Caceres. Henrique. Mathieu?