Ernesto Valverde Talks Barcelona Defensive Options Amid January Transfer Rumours

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2018

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11: Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur at Camp Nou on December 11, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde believes the club will assess its defensive options before deciding whether to buy a new centre-back in January.

While the Blaugrana have Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet and Thomas Vermaelen in their squad, the former could need surgery soon to sort a longstanding knee problem.

When asked about a possible foray into the transfer market to improve their defensive depth, Valverde suggested a decision has not been made, per Sport:

"We will wait and we want to be optimistic We will evaluate things this week or the next how things are, and we will see. We are Barca and we want to have a team that can respond to what is coming. I think about the centre-backs I have and those in Barca B, later we will see what happens in the market."

Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde (L) speaks to Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 20, 2018. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AF
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

As Sport noted, Umtiti is in Qatar, having treatment on his injury in the hope of avoiding surgery. Pique was absent from training recently too.

According Sport (h/t Football Espana), given the worries surrounding Umtiti, Barcelona are looking at Chelsea's Andreas Christensen and Cologne's Jorge Mere as possible January signings. The La Liga side are said to be considering bringing in a centre-back on loan.

Having missed chunks of the previous campaign because of injury issues, Barcelona have had to make do without Umtiti again in the main this term. The France international has only started six games in the Spanish top flight in 2018-19, with Lenglet and Pique the regular partnership.

Rafael Hernandez of Barcelona fansite Grup 14 isn't pleased with the manner in which the club has handled Umtiti's situation:

Barcelona haven't been at their best this season, although they made it through into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with relative ease and are top of La Liga.

With that in mind, they appear set for a busy end to the campaign and a heavy fixture list. As such, it's understandable that Valverde wants options at the back, especially if the team's defensive linchpin is sidelined for a substantial amount of time.

The challenge for Barca is finding the right type of defender in January—a player who also may have to be happy playing a supporting role to Pique, Lenglet and Umtiti, should the former Lyon man return to full fitness before the end of the campaign.

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