By Tom Gott
Sergio Busquets’ departure from Camp Nou this summer has left Barcelona with a huge hole to fill.
For the past 15 years, Busquets’ metronomic vision and control have been an integral part of Barcelona’s identity. The loss to him is huge, perhaps only surpassed by the exit of Lionel Messi in 2021.
Coach Xavi has spoken candidly about the importance of signing a new defensive midfielder this summer. Ilkay Gundogan has arrived to reinforce other forwards, but doubts remain at the base of the midfield.
While Frenkie de Jong can take on the role, the Dutchman would be wasted in such a position and therefore Barcelona should look to dive into the transfer market, although their woeful financial situation will severely limit their options.
With all that in mind, here are five players Barcelona should be looking at.
Age: 31Club: Girona
An affordable, plug-and-play option would be 31-year-old Oriol Romeu, whose release clause of less than €10m immediately makes him an attractive prospect.
Romeu spent last season shining underpinning a Girona midfield that was among the most exciting in La Liga, and while he may not be a perfect replacement for Busquets, there’s no denying he can do some work at a high level.
At 31 it would be a short term fix but Barcelona might actually prefer it. After all, finding the right player for this role is paramount and there’s no point in rushing that decision if the perfect candidate isn’t currently within reach.
As a former La Masia graduate, Romeu already knows Barcelona’s DNA and is one of the few options that wouldn’t need time to catch up.
Age: 26Club: Florentine
The World Cup was perhaps the best thing to happen to Sofyan Amrabat as the Morocco star used the world stage to raise his profile tenfold.
After impressing in Qatar, Amrabat’s performances continued to receive much praise. He is an excellent passer who loves to sit deep and pull the strings, which is the simplest essence of the Busquets role.
With just 12 months left on his contract and a clear position that he will not renew, Amrabat looks likely to be sold this summer and will likely be available on the cheap as a result.
Reports have suggested that Amrabat is prioritizing a move to Barcelona over interest from a host of other suitors, so the Blaugrana may not even need to work hard to cross that limit.
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Age: 24Club: Royal society
As for Busquets’ replacements, there are few players who seem more suited to the role than Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi.
The 24-year-old is incredibly intelligent and looks like exactly the type of player Barcelona want to build around, and the club officials know this well. They’ve been watching Zubimendi for months, but all that research has brought to light a real problem: his release clause.
Sociedad do not want to let him go and will therefore refer any suitors to his €60m release clause, which is a reasonable fee for one of Zubimendi’s talent but also wildly outside Barcelona’s budget.
If they can sell enough players to raise the money, or maybe even offer those players to Sociedad in exchange, that’s a deal worth pursuing.
Age: 22Club: Boca Juniors
Spanish teams are never afraid to pick up talent from South America, and that courage should get them making a move for Boca’s Alan Varela.
A composed defender who has already mastered the art of scanning, Varela looks like a future superstar in this role. Barcelona could easily put the finishing touches to his game and turn him into an elite midfielder.
It’s obviously a huge risk, having never played outside Argentina, but Varela’s style of play is fascinating and very much echoes what fans have come to love from Busquets.
Numerous teams across Europe have taken note of Varela’s abilities and he may not be on the market for much longer. For a team in Barcelona’s perilous financial situation, this could be the last chance to sign Varela.
Age: 23Club: Valencia
A centre-back by trade, Hugo Guillamon has been pushed into a defensive midfield role in recent years and while his transition hasn’t been perfect, the 23-year-old has proven more than enough to convince Barcelona of his worth.
Intelligent in possession and more than happy to lend a hand in defence, Guillamon is an intriguing option who has often been used defensively on the international stage due to the high level of competition in defensive midfield.
Guillamon is under contract until 2026, but Valencia’s known financial difficulties mean almost any player can be bought on the cheap, so this is a real opportunity for Barcelona to strike a bargain.
Xavi would need to give Guillamon time to adjust to such a high level, but the rewards of doing so could be enormous.
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This article was originally posted on 90min.com as Five defensive midfielders that Barcelona should try to sign this summer.