Barcelona may have a transfer ban to contend with but that isn't preventing Luis Enrique from planning for January when his new recruits can finally take to the field.
Reports are surfacing through Sport that the club are looking to sign a new central defender this week. The reported targets are Aymen Abdennour of Monaco and Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen.
It is unlikely that the club will sign both targets but even just one would leave Luis Enrique’s side with six centre-backs of proven pedigree. Barcelona has a long season ahead and the squad will inevitably have to cope with various suspensions and injuries as the fixtures mount up.
But is six players fighting for essentially two positions asking too much when it comes to keeping players happy? The club is already seen to be particularly well equipped in that department given the options already at Enrique’s disposal.
Gerard Pique returned to his very best last season, culminating in a fine performance in the Champions League final victory over Juventus. The 28-year-old Catalan has also found his goalscoring touch, ending as the club's fifth highest scorer with seven goals last term. The Spanish international would seem to be a first choice for Enrique.
Javier Mascherano is also one of the first names on Enrique's team sheet having slipped seamlessly into the centre back role first handed to him by Pep Guardiola. One feels that the Argentine will not be lining up at centre back is if he has to cover one of the midfield positions.
Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu had a slow start to his career at the Camp Nou but grew into his role as the season went on and the versatility he possesses marks him out as a valuable squad member. Mathieu is primarily a central defender but can also play on the left if and when required.
Then there is La Masia graduate Marc Bartra who is surely a player Catalans would love to see established as an established starter at some stage in the future. At the age of 24, Bartra has made 79 appearances but has struggled to hold down a regular first team place. The good news for Bartra and his supporters is that he still has time on his side.
Finally, there is last season's forgotten man Thomas Vermaelen. The former Arsenal skipper didn't make his debut until May after an injury wrecked campaign. Is he good enough to force his way into the first team? The Belgian struggled to hold down a place at The Emirates towards the end of his time in North London so it would be no surprise to see the29-year-old spend yet more time on the Camp Nou bench over the course of the season.
So what can potential new signings Jan Vertonghen or Aymen Abdennour bring to the squad should they arrive in Catalonia?
Tunisian international Abdennour is reportedly the club's first choice and has impressed many with his performances since joining Monaco in 2014 from Toulouse. The 25-year-old has roused the interest of a host of the Europe's biggest clubs but Abdennour has made no secret of his desire to play his football at the Camp Nou.
Abdennour has great pace, possesses fine technical ability and has leadership qualities that can only have a good effect on the team. The only slight question mark over the Tunisian international has been over his discipline but the positives far outweigh the negatives should a deal be made.
Vertonghen, 28, would appear to be a backup choice should a deal for Abdennour not materialise. Since joining Tottenham in 2012, the Belgian has proved himself to be a reliable and talented performer. The Belgian has all the typical centre-back qualities. He is strong, a fine tackler and has a great aerial ability. The Belgian has been accused of being a little too laid-back at times but displays great composure when in possession.
So as with all positions in this Barca side there is intense competition when it comes to breaking into the starting eleven at centre back. It's possible Enrique has a plan in mind to play with three at the back if he feels they need a different approach to certain fixtures.
Should Abdennour or Vertonghen arrive at the Camp Nou, Enrique will have a plethora of options to choose from when he has a full squad to pick from in January. Anybody who does get their chance will not be afforded a settling in period and will need to play to the best of their abilities immediately- and that’s the way it should be at a club of Barcelona’s stature.
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