There is no doubt over Barcelona legend Sergio Busquets' rightful place alongside other greats of modern football. The Spaniard, along with Andres Iniesta and Xavi, formed arguably one of the greatest midfields to have existed in football, helping Barcelona and Spain establish an era of unprecedented dominance across all fronts.
Busquets was never a player who stole the headlines, but helped them assert control over opposition teams playing as the deepest midfielder. His passing range, reading of the game, and positioning to break up play is nearly unparalleled.
While Busquets, set to turn 33 in two months, was never the most athletic player in the world, he relied upon his reading and knowledge of the game to be in the right place at the right time. However, the sheer amount of football he's played over the last 13 years has finally begun to catch up with him as he's slower and noticeably weaker than before, signalling a potential end of an era.
Replacing a player such as Busquets is not going to be an easy task for Barcelona as he's arguably one of the most unique midfield maestros the game has seen in quite some time. However, he can't keep going on forever, and the Blaugrana will eventually have to replace the eight-time LaLiga Santander winner.
On that note, here, we take a look at five potential players for Barcelona to consider should they enter the transfer market.
5 Busquets replacements for Barcelona
#5 Adrien Rabiot | Juventus
Adrien Rabiot is a name that Barcelona have been linked with several times in the past, and with good reason. The Frenchman is blessed with a powerful physique and superb ability on the ball, allowing him to win the ball back in midfield and find his teammates with precise distribution.
Rabiot has averaged just under three tackles for Juventus this season and is excellent in the air, allowing them to dominate aerially in the middle. Juventus signed him on a free in 2019, and although he's played 29 times in Serie A for the champions, Rabiot has been constantly linked with moves away from Turin.
With his contract expiring in the summer of 2023 and Juventus keen to rebuild their midfield, Barcelona could potentially recruit Rabiot for a cut-price fee to anchor their midfield.
#4 Eduardo Camavinga | Rennes
The most long-term option for Barcelona to consider replacing Sergio Busquets with is Eduardo Camavinga of Rennes. The 18-year-old Frenchman broke onto the scene last season as he helped his side qualify for the UEFA Champions League and made his debut for the French national side, attracting interest from Europe's top clubs.
Camavinga is an excellent tackler who keeps things simple on the ball. This year in Ligue 1, the midfielder has averaged just under two successful dribbles a game and 6.57 progressive carries, with only six players making more tackles than him. He averages four tackles per 90, and has completed 84% of his long balls.
While the Rennes star has some way to go if he hopes to emulate someone as gifted as Busquets, there is no doubt that he can eventually grow into a brilliant deep-lying midfielder player for Barcelona.
#3 Fabian Ruiz | SSC Napoli
Fabian Ruiz is another interesting option for Barcelona to consider in their search for Busquets' replacements. Purely in terms of the ability to keep the game ticking in midfield and recycling possession, Ruiz is, perhaps, the most well-equipped player on this list and just turned 25 earlier this month.
The former Real Betis midfielder moved to Naples in 2018 and has impressed profoundly with his displays with the Partonopei playing in various systems and carrying out different roles. Ruiz averages nearly 75 passes per game from the heart of Napoli's midfield and attempts 14 long balls with an 85% completion rate.
Ruiz has been linked with a return to Spain for some time now after a few impressive campaigns in Naples, and Barcelona could capitalise on the situation to bring the Spanish international to the Nou Camp. He has the added advantage of being a left-footed player, which can add a different dimension to their midfield.
#2 Marcelo Brozovic | Internazionale
Internazionale's Marcelo Brozovic is the oldest player on this list, making him a readymade player for Barcelona should they choose to phrase Busquets out in the immediate future. The Croat has been incredible as the lynchpin for Antonio Conte's midfield and is on course to help Inter win their first Scudetto since 2010.
Brozovic usually operates in front of Inter's defence in a sitting role, breaking up opposition attacks and utilising his superb passing range to find his teammates higher up the pitch. Only two midfielders in Serie A have played more passes into the final third and clocked up more touches on the ball than Brozovic, who also averages a sublime 7.31 progressive passes and 12.4 accurate long balls per 90.
Brozovic's experience playing in front of a back three gives the Croat an edge over most others on this list, given that Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has relied upon a three-man defence this season. If Barcelona can manage to get the Nerazzurri man to the Nou Camp, he could prove to be an excellent replacement for Busquets.
#1 Manuel Locatelli | Sassuolo
Heading into the summer transfer window, there is no player who ticks more boxes for Barcelona than Manuel Locatellias they look to phase Busquets out. After a decade at AC Milan, Locatelli moved on to Sassuolo where he's emerged as one of the best deep-lying playmakers or registas in Europe at the moment.
The 23-year-old has been in surreal form during the 2020/21 campaign and has forced his way into Roberto Mancini's plans for the Azzurri as well. Locatelli averages 85 passes per 90 — the highest of anyone on this list — along with 7.7 progressive passes and 5.5 progressive carries. He has been incredible at winning the ball back and keeping control of the possession in the middle.
No Serie A player has registered more touches (2643) or played more passes into the final third (225) than Locatelli this season. The Sassuolo star has already hinted at a potential move abroad, and if Barcelona can manage to fend off Manchester City and Juventus for his signature, they could have a brilliant player on their hands who could arguably be the best replacement for Busquets.