Barcelona are of course widely considered as the best club side in the world. Despite missing out to Real Madrid for their Spanish crown last season and being defeated by Chelsea in their Champions League pursuit there is no doubting the clubs current pedigree, as their current lofty La Liga standing proves.
However many a question mark has been raised in recent months in relation to the team’s defensive ability. With attacking minded full-backs such as Jordi Alba, Dani Alves and Adriano it makes the job of the central defender role at the Camp Nou a highly important occupation.
The usual central defence pairing of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol have struggled in the past 12 months with injury issues which has seen holding midfielder by trade Javier Mascherano becoming bi-positional to admirable effect in the heart of the Catalan sides defence. Other players such as Sergio Busquets, Alex Song and young Marc Bartra have also stepped in to the void. After conceding four against Deportivo at the weekend speculation is now mounting that Tito Villanova will chase a marquee central defender in January.
So which Premier League teams are in danger of losing their players to Barca?
This was a link mooted in Italy recently and while he is often considered slightly naïve defensively he has pace and passing attributes that could suit Barca’s style.
Another player tentatively linked with an exit this summer and Barcelona could move for the big Dane. Despite his obvious biting qualities he also has the potential to be as poised as the best when he is in the right mood.
An interesting shout and when you consider the variables not a bad option for Villanova. Heitinga is not a regular with Everton and has had a previous spell in Spain with Atletico Madrid. An experienced Dutch international raised in the Ajax youth system he could fit the Barca mould perfectly, and would cost nowhere near the amount of the other options.
Was linked with a move in the summer but Arsenal would be remiss to lose another player to the grasp of Barcelona, especially if that player is their captain.
The sort of attacking minded player that could fit in to Barcelona’s defence however does he lack the tactical awareness and positional maturity to play in such a way?
Regardless Chelsea would be reluctant to sell.
As the signing of Shakhtar defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy proved in 2009, having the talent is not always enough in Barca’s system. While the usual defensive attributes such as marking, positional play and decision making are coveted; players also need to be adept with the ball and happy to go out as wide as the touchline to receive it, if you haven’t been brought up in such a way it can be a fruitless transition.
Not to mention the imminent return to fitness of the highly rated ‘B’ team player Marc Muniesa after his successful rehabilitation from a serious knee injury and Eric Abidal's hopes of recovery from a liver transplant.
So will Barcelona move for a Premier League defender in January?
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