Barcelona Continue Search for Backup Striker

The La Liga Options

Barcelona have spent much of the summer transfer window searching for a striker to back up their MSN trident. As was reported on this blog back in early July president Josep Marie Bartomeu had indicated that the club was looking to sign an additional striker. The names linked at that point included, Kevin Gamiero, Luciano Vietto, Lucas Perez and Gabriel Jesus. Vietto joined Sevilla  on a 3 million euro loan with an option to join permanently at the end of the year following an tug of war for his services with the Blagurana, while Kevin Gamiero moved in the opposite direction for 32 million euros.

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Vietto at his presentation for Sevilla

A Tale of Two Gabis

With Vietto and Gamiero out of the picture, Barcelona looked to Brazil to fill the void for a backup striker. Top of their list were 2 Brazilian players, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa. The president even went so far as to call Gabriel Jesus “a great player”, while Barcelona had the first option of Gabriel Barbosa as part of the Neymar deal. Unfortunately however it seems neither player will be joining Barcelona as Gabriel Jesus agreed a deal to join Manchester City today for 27 million pounds and Gabriel Barbosa’s agent saying he was open to joining Inter Milan or Juventus.

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Gabriel Jesus left and Gabriel Barbosa right

The Remaining Options

With the aforementioned strikers not likely to join there are a few names still linked with Barcelona.

Luan Vieira

Gremio v Toluca - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016
PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL – APRIL 19: Luan of Gremio battles for the ball against Gerardo Flores of Toluca during the match Gremio v Toluca as part of Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016, at Arena do Gremio on April 19, 2016 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

Luan is one of the brightest prospects in Brazilian football right now who plays for Gremio (The same club that produced Ronaldinho). At just 23 years old he has room to develop as a player and eventually become a starter for the Blaugrana. He scored 17 goals last season and can play both on the flanks or centrally. He is currently with the Brazil team taking part in the Olympics with Neymar leading the charge. What’s more his club Gremio reportedly rejected an offer from Liverpool in hopes of recieving one from the Blaugrana. Some of his better plays can be seen here.

Mario Gomez

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during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Northern Ireland and Germany at Parc des Princes on June 21, 2016 in Paris, France.

Mario Gomez at age 31 would represent an experienced forward who has scored goals at the highest level for Germany and Bayern Munich including 2 goals at the recently concluded Euro 2016. He spent last season on loan at Besiktas where he scored 28 goals however he would like to move due to the political situation there currently. A Besiktas spokesman confirmed that he was in talks with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund yesterday.

Andre-Pierre Gignac

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Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrates a goal for Les Bleus

Another experience striker being linked to Barcelona is Andre-Pierre Gignac (30). Currently playing at Tigres in the Mexican league, Gignac has goals in his blood and has scored 32, 23 and 22 goals in his last 3 seasons and was a member of the French National team that were runners up at Euro 2016. Along with Umtiti and Digne he would represent the 3rd member of the French Euro 2016  squad signed this off season by Barcelona. The Tigres coach confirmed yesterday that the club would not stand in the way of a move to Barcelona.

Barcelona vs Leicester City – 3 Talking Points

1. Munir stakes his claim

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Munir celebrates a goal this preseason

 

Much of this off-season has focused on Barcelona finding a backup striker for the Messi, Neymar Suarez trident upfront with the problem being that many strikers would not like to compete for playing time with possibly the greatest forward line in history. Munir however has been quietly proving in the pre-season games thus far that perhaps the solution to the backup striker position is already at Barca. With 2 goals against the English Champions, both of them fine finishes from runs onto through balls, to follow his strike against Celtic last Saturday, Munir seems to finally be living up to the potential that so excited Barca fans.

2. Marlon continues to impress

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Marlon had another impressive outing

The center back on loan from Fluminese continued to demonstrate great poise and reading of the game during this clash. With Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu both being linked with moves away from Barca and Marc Bartra having joined Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona could start the season with only 3 first team center backs in Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti. From the looks of things however Marlon looks to be able to make the leap to the first team if needed.

3. The Right Back position remains a worry

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Aleix Vidal continues to underwhelm at Right Back

Aleix Vidal started his second game running and once again he did his best Dani Alves impression. Pretty decent going forward but exposed at the back. On more than one occasion he was caught out by the Leicester City player bombing down their left hand side of attack and he was very lucky that Barcelona did not concede from one of these raids. At the start of the second half Sergi Roberto was moved to that position with Vidal subbed off to little effect. Roberto was badly beaten for pace on the first Leicester City goal and while he had a couple of crucial interceptions his best position is clearly in the middle of the park. Against higher quality opposition like Real Madrid (Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale) Bayern Munich (Ribery, Robben and Douglas Costa) and Manchester City (Sane, Nolito and Gabriel Jesus) that right back position could be a weak point to be exploited.

Preview: Barcelona vs Leicester City

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Leo Messi and Jamie Vardy prepare to tackle the new season.

Barcelona continue their 2016-2017 pre season with a match against the English Champions Leicester City. Barcelona faced Celtic in their opening encounter with the Scottish outfit providing a good test to start their pre-season. Leicester have been basking in the afterglow of their completely unforeseen league title last season and enjoying their seat at the big clubs table to start the summer. They will use this game to finalize their preparations for the annual start of the English top flight season the Community Shield. Barcelona meanwhile welcomed back several of their players who participated in the European Championships and Copa America however only Sergi Busquets and Javier Mascherano made the squad despite Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Thomas Vermaelen, Claudio Bravo, Douglas and Marc Andre Ter Stegen  having returned to training this week.

Recent Head to Head:

None

 

Key Man Watch

Carles Alena: The youngster showed some very nice touches during the first game against Celtic. With Sergi Samper being rumored to be loaned out to Valencia and Arda Turan constantly being linked with a move away from Barca, Alena make his case for getting some minutes in the current Barcelona midfield. Best known for his amazing solo goal against Roma in the UEFA Youth League game, Alena appears to have a bright future ahead and the first steps could be made in this pre-season.

Ahmed Musa: The Nigerian international striker joined on a deal from CSKA Moscow this summer for a club record 16 million euros. The highly rated striker notched 17 goals last season including 4 in Europe and would love to get his first goal for the Foxes against the Blaugrana.

Possible starting xi:

Masip; Sergi Roberto; Marlon; Mascherano; Mathieu; Busquets; Denis; Arda; Messi; Suarez; Munir

Prediction: Leicester City are a bit further along in their pre-season preparations that Barcelona and should welcome the opportunity to rebound following their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Paris St Germain. Barcelona meanwhile will welcome the opportunity to get some more minutes under their belts for key players. Barcelona 2 Leicester City 2

Result: Barcelona 3 Celtic 1

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Barcelona’s players celebrate a goal versus Celtic

Barcelona took on Celtic in the first game of their pre-season in Ireland and triumphed by 3 goals to 1. Arda Turan opened the scoring with a magnificent curling effort from outside the box in the 11th minute following a piece of brilliant skill by Aleix Vidal on the right wing.

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Arda Turan gives Barcelona the lead

Leigh Griffins then equalized in the 29th minute following a horrific piece of defending by debutante Jose Antonio Martinez. Martinez failed to control a pass from goalkeeper Jordi Masip with his first touch and Griffins pounced to finish.The parity was short lived after Efe Ambrose turned in a cross from Juan Camara in the 31st minute. Munir el Haddadi then put the match beyond reach in the 41st minute with a simple finish following a Luis Suarez cutback.

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Munir el Haddadi seals the win

The game quietened down after halftime with the the substitution of several of the first team players who started and there was no more scoring after the interval.Highlights of the game can be seen here.

Lineup (4-3-3): Jordi Masip: Aleix Vidal; Jose Martinez; Jeremy Mathieu; Camara: Denis Suarez; Sergi Roberto; Arda Turan: Lionel Messi; Luis Suarez; Munir el Haddadi

Substitutes: Subs: J.Suárez (Masip 77), Josep Martínez (Jose Martinez 77), Borja, Gumbau (Munir 77), Samper (Messi 45), Aleñá (Denis Suarez 61), Tello, Carbonell (Arda 61), Marlon (Mathieu 61), Mujica (Sergi Roberto 61), Nili (Camara 77), Alfaro (Suarez 61).

Preview: Barcelona vs Celtic

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Leo Messi in action vs Celtic in a Champions League fixture in 2013

Barcelona kick off their 2016-2017 pre season with a match against one half of the old firm in Ireland. Barcelona have faced Celtic several times in recent memory in the Champions League with the Scottish outfit providing a stern test on a few occasions. But whilst the Blaugrana are generally a settled team with no fewer than 10 starters from last season expected to remain with the club, Celtic are very much a side in transition under new coach Brendon Rodgers. Things have started far from smoothly for the Bhoys with embarrassing away results to Lincoln Red Imps and Astana in the Champions League qualification games thus far.

Recent Head to Head:

2013/2014

UCL Group Stage

Dec 2013 Barcelona 6 Celtic 1

Oct 2013 Celtic 0 Barcelona 1

2012/2013

UCL Group Stage

Nov 2012 Celtic 2 Barcelona 1

Oct 2012 Barcelona 2 Celtic 1

Key Man Watch

Denis Suarez: Having rejoined Barcelona after a successful spell with Villarreal Denis should get an early opportunity to stake his claim on a place in the first team with Rafinha in Brazil for the Olympics and Iniesta, Busquets, Mascherano and Rakitic still on vacation.

Moussa Dembele: The French u-20 striker joined on a deal from Fulham this summer. The highly rated youngster would love to put on a show and score his maiden goal in arguably the biggest game of his career to date.

Possible starting xi:

Masip; Vidal; Marlon; Mathieu; Sergi Roberto; Denis; Samper; Arda; Messi; Suarez; Munir

Prediction: Celtic will have one eye on their midweek return fixture against Astana in the Champions League. Look for Barcelona to stroll to a victory in this one. Barcelona 4 Celtic 1

Barca tie up Samper and Munir contracts

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Munir el Haddadi (left) and Sergi Samper (right) in action for the Blaugrana during the 2014/2015 season

Barcelona have moved swiftly to renew the contracts of two of their most promising young stars by renewing the contracts of midfielder Sergi Samper and Munir el Haddadi. Both players have signed contracts which extend their current deals till 2019 with Samper’s buyout clause being raised to 50 million euros and Munir’s being raised to 60 million euros.

Samper who has constantly been linked with a move to Arsenal has repeatedly demonstrate his willingness to be patient in achieving his dream of playing for the Blaugrana. He turned down the opportunity to leave for Arsenal with team mates Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral and that decision is now bearing fruit. Samper, a defensive midfielder joined the Blaugrana as a 6 year old in 2001 and has made his way steadily through the youth team ranks. He has been called the Pirlo of the youth system and compared to both Xavi and Busquets due to his positioning and ability to read the game. He made his debut for the senior team under coach Luis Enrique during the Champions League game against APOEL in 2014. Last season he played with Barcelona B playing in 29 games. He also made 7 appearances with the senior team with 3 of them coming in the Copa del Rey.

Munir first shot to fame leading Barcelona’s youth team to the inaugural UEFA Youth league title in 2014 topping both the goal-scoring charts (11 goals) as well as the assist charts (5 assists) in just 10 games including this spectacular lob in the final against Benfica. He made his senior team debut in 2014 versus Elche and scored on his debut becoming the third youngest goalscorer in Barcelona history after Lionel Messi and Bojan Krkic. He played 26 games with the first team last season scoring 8 goals including a crucial strike away to Malaga with Neymar out injured that helped secure the la liga title. He also finished as joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey the highlight of which was this lovely finish against Espanol.

Just how many games both players play this season and how much playing time they receive given the signings of Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes and the intent to sign another forward remains to be seen. Samper has also been linked with a loan move away from Barcelona to get more first team games.

Barcelona sign Andre Gomes

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Reports from Spain claim that Barcelona have agreed a deal with Valencia for midfielder Andre Gomes. Barcelona will reportedly pay 35 million euros up front with the possibility of another 20 million euros in add-ons. Martin Montoya will also be a part of the deal although its not yet clear if it is a loan deal or a permanent transfer. Cristian Tello and Sergi Samper could also be loaned to Valencia.

The signing would represent a major coup for Barcelona who would have pipped Real MadridChelsea and Manchester United to the signing at much less than the reported 60 million euro fee.

Gomes (22) joined Valencia from Benfica for a reported 15 million euro fee at the start of last season following an impressive 2014-2015 season on loan at los Che.He played in 41 games total scoring 5 goals most famous of which was this fantastic strike at the Santiago Bernabeu. following which he was a part of the Portugal team that won Euro 2016.

Gomes signing may spell the end of Arda Turan’s time at Barca given that current midfield lineup including Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Rafinha, Denis Suarez, Javier Mascherano, Arda Turan and Sergi Roberto. Turan has been linked with a moves to England, Italy and China over the summer with the latest rumor placing him at Arsenal.