In a summer time of many surprises at Camp Nou, one of many larger surprises was the information that Barcelona had been near signing Actual Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez.
Even earlier than Neymar’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, the Catalan membership had been being linked with midfielders and forwards. As soon as the Brazilian left, everybody anticipated them to go on an attacking spending splurge.
That did occur, with Ousmane Dembele ultimately arriving for a club-record €105 million plus a reported €40m add-ons, however there was additionally a transfer made for Martinez. La Actual’s sporting director Loren Juarros confirmed as a lot.
“It is true, Barca have spoken with us [about Martinez],” Loren mentioned in August. “They have been in touch to point out their curiosity within the participant. However thus far there isn’t any provide on the desk. That is all we will say. La Actual haven’t any intention of facilitating Inigo’s exit to any membership. He’s irreplaceable. We don’t need to promote him.”
Regardless of the Basque aspect’s reluctance to promote, there was little they may have accomplished if Barca had triggered the defender’s €32m launch clause — which that they had briefed some native media they had been set to do. Nonetheless, on the final minute, they ducked out of a transfer for causes which haven’t but been made clear.
It appeared to make sense on the time. New coach Ernesto Valverde was mentioned to be the one that had pushed for Martinez, however his defensive choices appeared well-covered.
They nonetheless appear well-covered now. After conceding 5 occasions in opposition to Actual Madrid within the Tremendous Cup, Barca have launched into a 16-game unbeaten run which has seen them concede simply 5 in 16 video games. Samuel Umtiti and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen have been amongst their greatest gamers. The defence doesn’t appear to be inflicting too many issues.
Barca took 5 centre-backs to the USA on tour and on the face of it, it wasn’t an space they appeared to be urgently looking for to strengthen. However once they got here again, Marlon Santos was allowed to depart on a two-year mortgage deal, which left simply 4. Certainly one of them being the perennially injured Thomas Vermaelen and one other Javier Mascherano, who has been and continues to be very dependable, however he is dropped hints this will probably be his final season on the membership. Vermaelen is unlikely to be round subsequent season, both.
That leaves Valverde dealing with the prospect of getting simply two centre-backs by the top of the season (albeit excellent ones): Umtiti and Gerard Pique, who’s 31 in February. Maybe he was on to one thing along with his pursuit of Martinez.
An exhaustive search of the native media since then suggests 10 central defenders (together with Martinez) have been semi-reliably linked with the membership. In all chance, that quantity might be greater.
In the meantime, there is a deal in place to signal Colombian worldwide Yerry Mina after the World Cup — though Barca have been urged by the defender’s agent to rush up and decide — however Valverde could favor to return in for the extra skilled La Liga choice in Martinez, whose buyout clause stays simply north of €30m.
Elsewhere, Barca have been scouring the German marketplace for bargains and Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah, RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou have come up. Finishing the checklist of gamers are Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Lyon’s Mouctar Diakhaby and Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Nunez.
variety of them could have been written off. variety of them could by no means have been thought of. However the sheer variety of experiences — and from native, well-connected media — would counsel there’s something within the hunt for a brand new centre-back.
And, regardless of the stunning nature of the unique Martinez chase, it does is sensible. To say Barca do not want a brand new centre-back can be ignoring the pretty-near future. That Valverde recognised as a lot so shortly is an indication succession planning could also be about to enhance underneath him — they weren’t fast off the mark to cowl the losses of Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez. And with a variety of gamers within the squad now across the 30 mark, succession planning is one thing which goes to be very a lot wanted within the coming years.
Valverde has urged in latest weeks a centre-back is probably not wanted in January. If Vermaelen leaves, one nearly definitely will probably be wanted. Subsequent summer time, although, if one does not come within the winter, it will not be a shock if (when) Barca strike a deal for a brand new defender to compete with Umtiti and Pique.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Observe him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.