Barcelona look set to re-address their right-back situation next summer. Joao Cancelo is the only recognised natural option that Xavi Hernandez has in his first team squad, and the Portuguese is only on loan for the season from Manchester City.
The Catalans will almost certainly look to re-sign Cancelo, either on another loan or on a permanent basis – and you can understand why. Although he’s been off his game at times, he’s undoubtedly been excellent overall, and has, at times, won games on his own (see the victory over Porto earlier this week).
However, despite Cancelo’s excellent performances, Barcelona still have problems at right-back. On occasion, like against Porto, Cancelo has been used at left-back, where he has thrived playing very far forward. To balance this out, Xavi has used Ronald Araujo as a right-back, although the Uruguayan does not enjoy playing here, and would much prefer to be played centrally.
This problem, coupled with the lack of depth, could mean that Barcelona look to sign an additional right-back next summer, on top of possibly retaining the services of Cancelo. If they are to do that, one option could be Girona’s Arnau Martinez, who is a former La Masia academy player, and has been linked with Barcelona in the past.
According to Fichajes, Barcelona have set their sights on Martinez, who has not played too regularly at high-flying Girona this season, largely due to the emergence of Yan Couto, who was another right-back to swap Man City for Catalonia during the summer. The report states that the 20-year-old would cost €20m.
In Xavi’s “three centre-back” system, Martinez would be an ideal fit, as he also has the capabilities to play as a right-sided central defender – a role he has been utilised in by Michel Sanchez this season on occasion. This would allow Alejandro Balde/Cancelo to play as further-forward left-back, while maintaining the ability for Martinez to also join the attack when required.
There’s no doubt that Araujo (or Jules Kounde) is not comfortable playing as a full-back, but Martinez would be – he’s an ideal fit for Xavi’s system. What’s more, he will only get better, given that he is still so young, and with so much potential.
It would be a no-brainer for Barcelona to snap up Martinez, although the problem would be whether they can afford to pick him up, given their financial woes. Other clubs are sure to be sniffing around, so they could be running out of time to sign a player that would fit them very well indeed.