Barcelona might have maintained a sheer dominance in domestic competitions and on the course of reclaiming the La Liga title remaining unbeaten, their shocking exit from the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals has raised a few questions – particularly regarding their defensive line who failed to defend a 4-1 lead from the first leg and conceded thrice at Stadio Olimpico against the underdogs AS Roma.
Although the Italian outfit must be lauded for their will, grit, and determination, a team of Barcelona’s stature is expected to defend a 3-0 lead irrespective of their opponents. The Catalans have spent billions in the transfer market in recent years, however, it is time to reconstruct the backline that lacks serious depth and discipline needed to handle the pressure and grind out results.
If reports are believed to be true, they are keeping close tabs on French sensation Dayot Upamecano and plotting to offer RB Leipzig, his current employers, a gigantic £87 mil fee to buy the 19-year-old’s services. The Cules have Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti in the ranks as the first-choice central defensive duo whereas veteran Thomas Vermaelen has mostly been used in a sporadic role. Yerri Mina, the €11.8 million winter signing from Brazilian outfit Palmeiras, has not been in manager Ernesto Valverde’s plan so far this season and is yet to get used to the intensity of European football.
French international Umtiti, on the other hand, is linked to a move away from Barcelona amid interest from Manchester United who are willing to strike his €60 mil buyout clause in the summer transfer window. The 24-year-old centre-back is stalling a new contract as his bizarre wage demands have not been met by the La Liga heavyweights. He, therefore, is likely to complete a Premier League move in summer and the Catalans are weighing up options to land his alternative.
Upamecano has been a revelation in RB Leipzig defensive line since completing a winter move last season from Leipzig’s sister club Red Bull Salzburg. The newly promoted Bundesliga outfit finished as the runners-up in their maiden top-flight campaign last year and despite failing to carry the momentum this term, Leipzig are still pretty much in contention of occupying a Champions League berth for the upcoming season.
They, although known as the notorious negotiations, will find it hard to turn down such a big offer. The French youth international is undeniably a huge prospect and holds all the traits to be the ‘next-gen’ superstar, however, Upamecano will not be the solution to Barcelona’s defensive conundrum.
The Catalans need someone who is experienced enough to bring back stability in their defensive line banking on his profound experience in a top European league and even if they acquire Upamecano in summer, it is highly unlikely for the youngster to step up and perform week in week out in the league as well as the prestigious Champions League event with a view to conquering both the silverware to meet the level of expectations of the global supporters. The teenager will be a great recruit in the longer run, but they need someone more experienced right now to cope up with the current crisis.