Analysis: How should Barcelona approach their pivot problem?

Barcelona’s financial issue could cause problems this summer when it comes to squad management, with the first team’s wage bill needing to be reduced by €200m in order to comply with La Liga’s salary cap.

One area that will be of particular concern will be at defensive midfield, especially if club captain Sergio Busquets decides to leave when his contract expires. The 34-year-old is in the final few months of his current deal, and has expressed a desire to move to the MLS.

Should Busquets leave, Barcelona will need to replace him, but with their finances stretched, it won’t be easy. Free agents are the most likely option, but they are set to miss out on one previous target.

N’Golo Kante appeared to be interested in a move to the Blaugrana earlier in the season, but he now looks set to sign a renewal at Chelsea, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Ilkay Gundogan is also a target, and he could be set to join Barcelona in the summer. Pep Guardiola appeared to open the door for the German international to leave in the summer when his contract expires at the Manchester City. However, there are doubts over his ability to play as a single pivot.

Martin Zubimendi remains in Barcelona’s shortlist, and head coach Xavi Hernandez is a big fan of the 24-year-old, whom he views as Busquets’ long term successor. However, Real Sociedad are likely to demand his full release clause of €60m, which is expected be out of Barca’s price range this summer.

Man City’s Rodri would be the perfect replacement for Busquets, and he would be a sensational signing should it be pulled off. Barcelona are lining up a summer move, according to reports, but again, with an expected fee of at least €90m, Barcelona are unlikely to be able to afford him in the short term.

Perhaps the sensible approach for Barcelona would be to consider a short term replacement for Busquets, with a view to signing an excellent younger player, like Zubimendi, to be a long term successor. Gundogan fits that mould, but as he has little experience of playing as a single pivot, it is a gamble to rely on him in that role.

It is undoubtedly a big dilemma for Barcelona, and it is one that can be avoided if Busquets can be persuaded to stay on a salary that helps ease their financial restraints. Club officials should be viewing this as top priority, with a long term replacement being pursued when Barca are in a better way financially.

Tags Barcelona Chelsea Martin Zubimendi N'Golo Kante Sergio Busquets
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