After being held scoreless at the Nou Camp and beaten 3-0 in Turin against Juventus in the Champions League knockout round last season, Barcelona returned the favor in the opening game of the group stage this campaign. With a new manager, a different No. 11 and some familiar tactics from the club’s golden age, Barcelona looked like a totally different side in their 3-0 victory against the Old Lady.
Before Neymar went and flipped Barcelona’s outlook for the summer transfer window upside down, the club’s main objective for this offseason was to strengthen the midfield. PSG star Marco Verratti was the Blaugrana’s top target, and for a brief time it seemed Barcelona had finally managed to recruit a legitimate replacement for Xavi.
Once that dream was crushed, Nice’s Jean-Michael Seri was the only midfielder Barça pursued whose profile is similar to Verrati’s, and at this point the club’s actual interest in him still isn’t clear. What is clear is that Barcelona’s board ran out of ideas after discarding Seri, instead putting all of its eggs in the Philippe Coutinho basket even though he plays a very different position. For many, the failure to secure a deep-lying player was chief among Barcelona’s transfer shortcomings.
But maybe the player Barcelona needs to bridge the gap until the next star signing in midfield arrives (or develops in the case of Carles Aleñá) is already here. Maybe Barcelona already has a player with a diverse skillset well-suited for playing next to Sergio Busquets in a two-man midfield; a player who has the workrate to close down the ball in a high-tempo pressing game and the quality to help control the game with the ball at his feet.