The news that FC Barcelona had made a players-plus-cash bid for Manchester United’s Paul Pogba has been one of the more surprising subplots in this summer’s transfer window.
According to reports, Blaugrana president Josep Bartomeu made a €50 million plus Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes offer to the Red Devils.
While the offer was swiftly rejected by the Red Devils’ hierarchy and manager Jose Mourinho, Pogba-to-Barcelona is a very intriguing prospect. On one hand, his passing range, ability to dictate play and physical attributes could certainly add quality to Barca’s midfield.
However, given that midfielders Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo have already been signed, it seems strange that the Blaugrana would pursue such an obviously expensive move. Bearing in mind youth team products Carlos Alena, Sergi Samper, Denis Suarez and Sergio Busquets alongside Ivan Rakitic are already in Ernesto Valverde’s team, the pursuing of Pogba begins to make even less sense.
Barcelona would be better served targeting a younger and cheaper alternative to the French World Cup winner. Here are 5 options the board could look at instead:
One youngster who has been linked many times with a move to Catalunya, the young Dutchman is still very much an under-the-radar prospect.
A graduate of Willem II’s academy, the 21-year-old has in a very short time become integral for the fallen Dutch giants. Operating as a regista (deep-lying playmaker), De Jong is the builder-from-the-back, a highly revered position in Dutch football.
He has the intelligence to know when to carry the ball forward to evade the pressing of the opposition. He is also aware enough to know when to pass conservatively to slow down the tempo to help teammates recover or pass forward to start attacks/counter attacks.
An excellent trait of his which would serve him well is his ability to drop into the centre of the defence and make it a flat back three whenever the fullbacks push on. This makes him the perfect long-term replacement for the magnificent Busquets.
He can also be fielded alongside the Spanish international as he can carry the ball forward like the best of them and possesses a range of passing that could rival those of more experienced central midfielders.
While Barca has made moves to get him to Spain, Ajax has resisted due to its UEFA Champions League qualifiers. The Blaugrana would dearly love to get him into the team now to continue the regeneration work currently happening at the club. However, a rather pricey €50 million has been quoted for the youngster who could represent better long-term value than even a World Cup winner like Pogba.
However, if Barcelona can get an agreement with the Bavarians, the team will be back getting a genuine world-class talent and a natural heir to Xavi’s throne.
Blessed with incredible balance which helps him to skip into space and past a marker, Thiago is also capable of playing the long searching balls either in the air on the ground that are the hallmark of all the world’s best registas.
His ability to retain possession under pressure and dribble past opponents into space in order to create chances for his teammates would be of great benefit for the Catalan side. With him in the team, Philippe Coutinho would be able to play further forward and combine effectively with Messi and other forwards.
Like Pogba, the son of former Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho has the tactical and positional discipline plus ability to dictate the tempo of a match and could serve Barcelona very well especially in the big games against fellow top teams.
He could cost a princely sum but for the emotional value as well as footballing qualities, he would be well worth it.