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Barcelona Transfer News: Steven Nzonzi Reportedly on the Blaugrana's Radar

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 21:  Steven N'Zonzi of Sevilla FC reacts on prior to the match the Spanish Copa del Rey Final between Barcelona and Sevilla at Wanda Metropolitano on April 21, 2018 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images)
Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Steven Nzonzi has emerged as a target for La Liga giants Barcelona, who are having trouble striking a deal for Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Adrien Rabiot.

Sevilla holding midfielder Nzonzi, who has a release clause of around £35 million, is considered an easier get, according to Mundo Deportivo (h/t George Bond of The Sun).

Bond noted how Barca need midfield help after seeing Andres Iniesta and Paulinho depart the Camp Nou this summer. Even so, Nzonzi is something of a curious target to replace either man.

The France international's physicality and destructive temperament is the polar opposite of Iniesta's way of playing. The latter was Barca's creative maestro for more than a decade—an artful pass-master whose technique defined the Blaugrana's stylish football.

Paulinho and Iniesta leaving has accelerated Barca's need to refresh midfield.
Paulinho and Iniesta leaving has accelerated Barca's need to refresh midfield.Masterpress/Getty Images

Differences between Iniesta and Nzonzi are obvious, but the Sevilla enforcer also shares few similarities with Paulinho. While the Brazil international offered brawn, he also had a keen eye for goal and raided forward more than Nzonzi typically does.

While Paulinho helped himself to nine goals to help Barca win last season's domestic title, Nzonzi scored just once in 33 starts for Sevilla.

Of the two, Rabiot is a more appropriate target for the Blaugrana. Still just 23, he is a cultured passer whose vision and intelligence make him a natural conductor of a game and a prolific provider of chances.

Barca are obviously keen, having recently dispatched sporting director Eric Abidal to talk over a deal with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, according to Sport.

PSG manager Thomas Tuchel has been open about letting Rabiot leave:

Goal @goal

Adrien Rabiot has his future in his own hands! 🤔https://t.co/mLyM9qwE7P https://t.co/WMFgR9ai2Q

If Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde wants a cheaper option, he will find plenty to like about Nzonzi. While the 29-year-old is less progressive than Rabiot, he is still a neat and efficient passer who won't mistakes and plays within the limits of the game.

Nzonzi proved his discipline as a useful change-of-pace substitute for France at this summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia. He made one start and four appearances off the bench for the winners, often being used to slow the pace of a game when Les Bleus had a lead to protect.

For Sevilla, Nzonzi compared favourably to Barca midfield anchor Sergio Busquets for most of last season:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Sergio Busquets vs Steven N'Zonzi Sevilla have failed to win their last 7 competitive matches -- Can N'Zonzi inspired his teammates to lift the Copa Del Rey tonight? https://t.co/hInimy63wW

Valverde may not find another creative player as skilled as Iniesta, so signing Nzonzi would at least let him move Barca toward a different style—one wherein a secure base in midfield protects a resolute defence while the magic is left to forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

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