Jordi Alba is a player that divides almost by default. Some feel he is a grossly underrated attacking outlet, who at times has lapses in concentration at the back. Others consider him a competitive disadvantage, in spite of his good offensive numbers.
For the first time since his early days at the club, the former Valencia man has competition at the position in the form of Alejandro Balde. The youngster has exploded into the first team this season, providing pace, dribbling and determination from the left-back spot. Balde has also been solid defensively for the most part, backing up his case for a starting spot with game-influencing performances against Real Madrid and Real Betis in recent weeks.
Alba, for his part, has responded to the competition. Despite starting less than half of Barcelona’s matches on the whole and in La Liga, Alba leads the league in some statistics. Against Sevilla, it was Alba who managed to change the game, scoring the opener with a classic timed run, before setting up Raphinha for the third goal.
In addition to the five assists Jordi Alba has this season, he also leads La Liga for xA per 90 minutes, crosses into the penalty area, and passes into the penalty area. #fcb #fcblive pic.twitter.com/fWxdR13bjm
— Football España (@footballespana_) February 9, 2023
After the match, Xavi praised Alba, highlighting the fact that Barcelona had few players like him in their squad, able to find the final pass. However just a few days later, reports have emerged that Alba is confused as to why his good performances are not being rewarded with more minutes, even if he is meeeting that confusion with silence and hard work.
Fichajes stay that there are still lingering doubts about Alba’s presence. With his salary one of the highest at the club and just a year left on his deal in the summer, they may attempt to put him on the market. Both Xavi Hernandez and Joan Laporta will have a say.
Of course, Balde was not meant to be the competition for Alba this season. Marcos Alonso was supposed to be the alternative to him. The 32-year-old was brought in on a free from Chelsea and has made 21 appearances this season, several of which at centre-back, averaging 53 minutes per appearance.
Yet his use has fallen off in recent weeks. He has only played more than 45 minutes once in 2023, against third tier Ceuta in the Copa del Rey. Barcelona gave him a renewal in January, extending his stay until at least 2025, but there is no argument that he should be winning minutes over either of Alba or Balde.
Financially, if Barcelona are to jettison one of their left-backs, perhaps Alba makes more sense. Xavi appears to like using Alonso for the final 15 minutes of matches to close things out, but this is a luxury in itself and no argument for a player to be kept around.
Having a back-up left-back, they are more likely to feature in ties against more defensive opposition too, in which Alba is clearly ahead of Alonso. If financially it isn’t too much of a burden, and Xavi sees Alba as willing to maintain his level for the final year of his contract even with less football, then he is not the veteran left-back Barcelona should wave goodbye to.
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