Attacking flair is required at Barcelona
One of the more surprising tactical facets of Barcelona’s season under Ernesto Valverde has been the domineering defensive displays on offer, but that has not been for the want of trying to increase the side’s offensive capabilities.
In public, the coach often lauds how he is ‘overrun’ with options in his squad and dismisses any sense that there is a Neymar-shaped hole in his line-up. Behind the scenes, matters are viewed quite differently.
This is a problem that Valverde and his club colleagues want to address, even if there is reduced urgency due to the comfortable nature of their lead in La Liga.
The name that continues to pop up as to who may fill this gap is Philippe Coutinho, and the Brazilian is still the number one target for Barcelona despite Liverpool’s best intentions.
His desire to move to the Camp Nou hasn’t subsided since the summer and he offers experience in both Spanish and top-level European football.
Naturally, the obstacle remains the Reds and their refusal to even negotiate at this time of year. With five years left on his contract, a minimum bid of 120 million euros is thought to be necessary to put the wheels in motion for Coutinho to get out of Anfield.
The transfer department at Barcelona are more than willing to field alternative names in their quest for attacking flair, but the requirements of versatility, experience and affordability continue to be the obstacles.
Mentioned often this season for his great displays in Ligue 1, Nabil Fekir is an option that interests the Azulgrana but the Frenchman cannot boast any kind of a record in the Champions League or the strongest domestic divisions.
Looking across the continent, Schalke 04 duo Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka are admired, as is CSKA Moscow‘s Aleksandr Golovin, however they too are short on top-level experience.
Two players who are not are Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil, both of which are talented creators with LaLiga knowledge, albeit thanks to time at Real Madrid.
While the Argentine was a serious target for Barcelona in the summer, Paris Saint-Germain is not seen as a club willing to sell to their European rivals at this moment in time.
As for Ozil, the playmaker is a tantalising prospect in economic terms as his Arsenal contract expires in the summer, but doubts remain over his ability to consistently deliver at the level required in Catalonia, as reported in Spanish newspaper Marca.