Barcelona will add to their squad in the January window after the injury suffered by Rafinha against Roma this week, with Celta Vigo’s Nolito and Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli reportedly targeted.
Despite being able to register Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal to play in 2016, according to Xavi Canals of Sport, the Blaugrana have had their plans changed by the injury to the Brazil international, who seems set to miss the majority of the 2015-16 season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
Canals explains the thought process behind Barcelona feeling as though they need to add to their current options:
The unfortunate injury to Rafinha has aggravated the situation and means continuing without adding another player would make life very difficult. Luis Enrique will insist the club adds someone to replace Rafinha in January.
Two of the top options on Luis Enrique and the technical secretary's list are Nolito and Feghouli. The former is a specific request from the Asturian but it has been complicated by his contract renewal. Feghouli, meanwhile, has a contract that expires in June 2016 with Valencia, so he could be extremely affordable in January.
Nolito is a player who knows what Barcelona is all about as a former player. The Celta man left the Camp Nou in search of first-team football, and during his time with Benfica and his current employers, he has blossomed into an extremely effective wide player.
Here’s a closer look at the kind of qualities the 28-year-old would add to this Barcelona side:
Nolito has been superb on the left side for Celta. The Spanish international would be an ideal replacement for a player like Pedro—who moved on to Chelsea in the summer transfer window—with his intricate dribbling, excellent work rate and nose for goals.
As we can see here courtesy of WhoScored.com, Nolito has started this season in excellent form, too:
Feghouli is a player that’d also represent an intriguing acquisition for the Blaugrana. The Algeria international is another wide man, but he’s also capable of coming inside and playing off the front. Feghouli is typically stationed on the right for Valencia, though, providing skill, incision and plenty of industry in that segment of the Los Che team.
As a 25-year-old, Feghouli definitely would be the wiser choice with longevity in mind. In addition, with the player’s contract due to expire next summer, he could be available for a cut-price amount, too. According to Super Deporte (h/t Football Espana) there are “considerable differences” between the player’s demands and what Valencia are willing to offer.
Here’s a look back at how Feghouli and Nolito compared in a variety of key statistical categories in La Liga last season:
|Winger Comparison: Nolito, Feghouli|
|Apps (Sub)||32 (4)||20 (13)|
|Shots per game||2.9||1|
|Key passes per game||2.7||0.8|
|Dribbles per game||2.1||1|
|WhoScored.com (2014-15 season)|
The challenge for both of these players, while undoubtedly talented, would be breaking into a team that contains so many world-class players. After all, in addition to Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi, Barcelona will have Turan joining the squad in 2016, a player who will also be vying to get into the XI.
As we can see here courtesy of Squawka Football, Turan is another determined footballer who would be tough to dislodge from the team once he’d got in:
At this juncture, Feghouli seems the most likely of the two. Not only is he younger and, as such, has a better chance of making a long-term impression at the Camp Nou, but the Algerian’s contract situation would make it much easier to finalise a deal. By contrast, Nolito is in the peak years of his career and needs to be playing every week.
Barcelona’s squad is going to be under major duress between now and January, meaning any players who do come in mid-season will be tasked with making a huge impression. Both Feghouli and Nolito are capable of sparking this team into life in the short-term, but in the grand scheme of things, they would be back-up options to the club’s stellar attacking triumvirate.