By: Galchaa Gormu
The end is finally here for Sergio Busquets and his time at FC Barcelona. Some may say he might have over extended his stay, but the impact he has made on the club will be everlasting. After spending 18 seasons with the club, over 700 matches played and netting 18 goals it’s a bittersweet ending between himself and the Catalan club.
FC Barcelona has always avoided the question of who can replace or try and replicate Busquets. This summer transfer window is arguably more significant than last year’s. Mostly it has to do with the changing of the guard with the captains at the club. Jordi Alba has also been rumoured to leave Barca this summer, leaving Barca with holes to fill.
Going through change is a difficult process for any club, but trying to go through it with multiple roadblocks is nearly impossible. An inexperienced manager, huge financial restraints, the director of football leaving and possibly two of the captains who have been mainstays for several years. A lot of things are spiralling out of control for the Catalans, and losing Busquets is going to be another piece of the broken puzzle. For the left-back position, Barca can rest easy since they did not have to look far because Alejandro Balde has had a breakthrough season this year.
For the defensive midfielder position, it is much more difficult to replace, especially the role that Busquets played. Throw out the idea of looking for someone to be Busquets because that is nearly impossible. Finding a player who’d suit the modern game but also fits in with the needs of what Xavi’s team requires is a step in the right direction. Barcelona and Xavi have identified two prepossessing prospects to add to the defensive midfield position at the club.
Sofyan Amrabat is the best-placed option for the Catalan club in terms of taking over from Busquets next season. Amrabat is a lot different from the soon-to-be former captain of Barca, he is much more physically adept for the modern game. Meanwhile, Busquets has never really been a physical player because of his football IQ and how he saw the game. Amrabat is not nearly on the same level of Busquets in terms of intellect, passing, ball retention, and la pausa. As well as a lot more things needed to be a DM at Barca. However, he has certain attributes that would suit Xavi’s box-four midfield, which has worked wonders this season.
Amrabat offers something different to Xavi’s team because of his tenacity and work ethic defensively which is something that has been missing in the midfield. He could also provide some good qualities on the ball since he is a strong ball carrier. However, he lacks a killer ball which Busquets was capable of and Xavi could use Frenkie de Jong to take over that responsibility if Amrabat were to come to the Catalan side.
Martin Zubimendi is an option that is far more unrealistic for the club, because of the €60M release clause in his contract. Xavi has entertained the idea of replacing Busquets directly for Zubimendi because of the similarities in their play style. Zubimendi is someone who when in possession rarely loses the ball or makes mistakes. He is also able to make a killer pass that can lead to a goal. He is a lot more mobile than the current Barca captain and has the intellect of knowing when to make an interception or tackle.
Zubimendi is coming off an excellent season. In which he helped his boyhood club Real Sociedad potentially secure a trip back to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in almost 10 years. As they sit in fourth place in the La Liga standings through Matchday 33. Zubimendi going to Barca could work in favour of Xavi because he’d slot in seamlessly in a double pivot or by being the single pivot in a 4-3-3 formation. The problem with Zubimendi is that he isn't as willing to join Barca as Amarabt and that price tag might scare Barca away for now. Stylistically he’d be a great option for Barca but isn’t the best financially.
FC Barcelona is in a deep reconstruction as a club, whether it is the new Spotify Camp Nou or whether it is finding replacements for long standing legends at the club. They need to make sure every decision is studied carefully because at any point one wrong move could send the club into turmoil. Delicate times come for delicate approaches and replacing the spine of your team in such a sudden way could either be costly or beneficial.