When talking about defensive midfielders, Sergio Busquets is one of the first names that come to our minds. The La Masia graduate has been a loyal servant for Barcelona for well over a decade and continues to be one of their best players on the pitch even today.
At 32, Busquets seems to be slowing down, though, and has struggled to perform at a high level in recent times. Though he continues to offer his best services to the club, it is time for Barcelona to find a suitable replacement for the long-serving midfielder.
Replacing one of the best players of this generation will not be an easy task, though. Barcelona may not find a player covering all the facets of Busquets' game. Nonetheless, there are plenty of options available for the La Liga club in this regard. Let's take a look at five of them.
5 players who could replace Sergio Busquets at Barcelona:
#5: Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Well, Declan Rice may not be the ideal successor of Sergio Busquets at the Nou Camp. But his growing reputation at West Ham United as a tough-tackling midfielder makes the Englishman a potential candidate to take over the defensive duties of Busquets.
With Miralem Pjanic set to join Barcelona next season, the onus of creating chances will fall upon him and Ivan Rakitic, leaving the third midfielder to do the dirty work in front of the backline.
Rice, 21, is already a solid deep-lying midfielder who has the technical ability to read the game and time his tackles to perfection, making him an ideal fit for Busquet's role at Barcelona in the upcoming seasons.
This season, Rice ranked fourth in the Premier League for attempted tackles (116), averaging three tackles a game and was only behind Wilfred Ndidi in terms of interceptions (77), making two of those per 90.
He also had an impressive 86% passing accuracy, which was only slightly less than that of Sergio Busquets', but Rice has time on his side and can improve his game under the right guidance.
#4: Bruno Guimaraes (Olympique Lyonnais)
In recent times, Real Madrid have beaten Barcelona to sign some of the best young talents from Brazil. Bruno Guimaraes is one of the players of that ilk whom Barcelona would not like to see going to their arch-rivals as the 22-year-old might be an ideal replacement for Sergio Busquets.
Guimaraes joined Olympique Lyonnais in the winter transfer window, rejecting an offer from Atletico Madrid mainly due to the club's sporting director Juninho. But their seventh-placed finish in Ligue 1 this season has opened up an opportunity for Barcelona to lure the player to Spain.
The midfielder captained Brazil in this year's Pre-Olympic tournament where Brazil were unbeaten in seven matches, and he was named the Player of the Tournament.
Guimaraes displayed his class in Lyon's 1-0 win over Juventus in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash, where he was solid defensively and clinical with his ball distribution.
The young Brazilian is a complete, all-round midfielder blessed with technical skill, an attacking mindset and an aggressive style. His likes to tackle opponents; he can make timely interceptions and play through balls. Gumaraes has all it takes to be a star at Barcelona after Busquets departs.