Barcelona star Jordi Alba has been a loyal servant to the Catalan gaints for almost a decade. The Spanish international has been one of the best in the world in his position for a few years now, and has won 15 major honours with the Blaugrana since moving from the Mestalla.
However, having turned 32 last month, he doesn't have too many seasons at the highest level left in him. In fact, some would even argue that this is the case even in his current state, given that Alba has already missed 14 games this season due to muscle injuries and is no longer the energetic player he was in his prime.
With Barcelona going through a gradual transitional period during which their veterans have begun to be phased out, Alba could potentially be next in line. The Blaugrana already parted ways with club legend Luis Suarez, and it would appear that Gerard Pique is also incapable of playing week in week out.
Should Barcelona choose to bring in an able deputy for Alba this summer or the next to gradually reduce the burden placed on the shoulders of the Spanish full-back, they could find a host of options. Here, we take a look at five ideal ones for Ronald Koeman's side.
#5 Juan Miranda | Real Betis (On loan from Barcelona)
Juan Miranda serves as an in-house option to kick off this list as he's technically on loan from Barcelona. The Spanish full-back was sent out on loan to Schalke 04 last season, but it was a disastrous spell overall given the shambles that the German club were in. Nonetheless, Miranda was brought back to the Nou Camp and then sent to Real Betis, where he's had a much better spell.
The 21-year-old is a La Masia product with an incredibly high ceiling. He's started 14 games this season for Los Verdiblancos and played in 18 league games overall, during which he's impressed both defensively and offensively. It is important to note that he is more of a traditional full-back rather than an offensive-minded full-back.
However, Miranda is certainly more of a long-term option than the others on this list as he still has a fair bit of experience to gain before being thrown into the deep end at Barcelona and filling in for a veteran such as Alba. Miranda's contract is set to expire soon, so it remains to be seen if the club will extend it and whether they see a future for him at the Nou Camp.
#4 Raphael Guerreiro | Borussia Dortmund
Raphael Guerreiro has been linked with a move to Barcelona on numerous occasions in the past. The Portuguese star is a versatile player capable of playing at left-back or wing-back, and has been one of the most important attacking outlets for Borussia Dortmund over the last few years.
With Ronald Koeman deploying a three-man defence that utilises wing-backs on a regular basis, Guerreriro's experience playing in this position could be of great significance. The 27-year-old has managed to rack up some superb attacking numbers this season, having registered five goals and nine assists in over 30 games for BVB.
The 2016 UEFA Euro winner is currently contracted to the Bundesliga club until the summer of 2023, so it remains to be seen if he will be available in the transfer market. However, should Barcelona sign him, he could be a superb player to help phase the ageing Alba out of the side.
#3 Marc Cucurella | Getafe
Marc Cucurella was at La Masia for over five years before being sent out on loan spells to Eibar and Getafe by the Blaugrana. After Eibar signed him, the club purchased him back only to send him out on loan to Getafe just over two weeks later, after which the Madrid-based club signed him permanently.
The 22-year-old has put in some incredible shifts for Getafe this season. Playing as a defensive-minded left-midfielder in a 4-4-2 with Mathias Olivera behind him, Cucurella's defensive numbers make for excellent reading as he puts in 2.17 tackles and two blocks a game. No player in LaLiga has registered more pressures than Cucurella's 654 this year, and he's also made the ninth-highest number of tackles.
The Spaniard's all-action approach down the left-hand side could be a great addition to Koeman's system that demands players to bomb up and down the pitch in wide areas. If Barcelona can convince Cucurella to return to the Nou Camp, he could be a superb option to replace Alba with.
#2 Alejandro Grimaldo | SL Benfica
Spanish full-back Alejandro Grimaldo is another player who was on Barcelona's books for a few years before ultimately departing the club in order to gain valuable minutes in Europe. Grimaldo left for SL Benfica in 2016 and has been one of the best offensive-minded full-backs in Europe since breaking into their first team.
The 25-year-old has appeared just under 200 times for Benfica since leaving Barcelona, racking up 13 goals and 39 assists for them in this period. Grimaldo currently leads Liga NOS' assist charts with eight to his name and averages a stunning 10.84 progressive carries per 90, one of the highest figures for full-backs across Europe.
Grimaldo is contracted to Benfica up until the summer of 2023, but given that the left-back slot at Barcelona could finally be up for grabs, bring Grimaldo back to the Nou Camp could be an excellent option for all parties involved.
#1 Jose Gaya | Valencia
Jose Gaya is, by all accounts, the most ideal player for Barcelona to replace Jordi Alba with. The Spanish international has amassed a wealth of experience playing in LaLiga Santander as he's racked up 205 league appearances for Los Che, scoring five and setting up a further 22.
Gaya has all the tools to succeed as a modern full-back as he's a dependable crosser and has improved the defensive side of his game remarkably over the years. The Valencia captain is a tenacious full-back who chases down wingers on his side of the pitch, endearing himself to the Los Che faithful with his style of play. He averages nearly two tackles per 90 in the league, and only five LaLiga players have managed more crosses than he has.
While Gaya might not be the superstar he was tipped to become when he first broke onto the scene, he is arguably the best option for Barcelona to pursue in the transfer market as a long-term successor to Jordi Alba. He has his best years ahead of him while also boasting of a great amount of experience in Spain, making it an ideal combination. Gaya is contracted to Valencia until the summer of 2023.