Presenting Mats Hummels: Barcelona’s top transfer target
We are about a month and a half away from the end of the season and the time is ripe for transfer speculation and rumours to start seeping in. All the major leagues have virtually been wrapped up with the leaders maintaining a 10-plus point gap to their nearest competitors, no offence to French Ligue 1 or the Dutch Eredivisie. Even the ultra-competitive Bundesliga has Bayern Munich maintaining a whopping 20-point gap between the first and second positions. Therefore, barring a mutiny in their squads, these teams may have a little free time to think about which new name must be printed on their team kit next season.
Barcelona is no different and they do have a few players in mind that they would really like to add to their squad, thanks to a recent trough in their form-graph which showed that a little fine-tuning is required. Apparently, the top name of the list is Mats Hummels.
Barcelona’s craving for a world-class central defender is a story similar to a boy saving up money for his science project who ultimately ends up spending it on ice-cream. Every year, they have a centre-back high on their transfer shortlist, but they end up with an attacker as their star signing. Thiago Silva was perhaps a bit of a lavish spending at the 42 million euros he cost PSG, but this time the science project looks set to become a reality.
Hummels has a lot of attributes and such a player will not be easily let go by Dortmund where he is virtually a rock in the team, but apparently there is a way to eliminate Dortmund out of the negotiation equation. Hummels has a buy-out clause in his contract for about 37 million euros, which would be activated should Dortmund receive a formal offer before 1st April, which is just a few days away.
It would be quite a story if Barcelona actually went ahead with this plan. But in the meantime, we can do a little digging if he is really worth top-dollar.
Hummels is currently one of Europe’s most-wanted players and a player who fits the Barca profile as he is comfortable with the ball at this feet and can start attacks from the back. This is something that Barca value so much that they prefer defensive midfielders with a good passing foot to a sturdy defender with a good physical presence to defend their goal. Pique does this well and so does Mascherano, who was preferred to Puyol in their epic comeback against Milan, for his pace as well as his ‘passing’ skills.
The second box that Hummels ticks in the Barca checklist is that he is also versatile in that he can play as a defender or a defensive midfielder. Barca have defensive midfielders who can double up as defenders, so why not have someone who can do the job in the opposite way? At 6 feet 4 inches, he can also help defend set-pieces and corners, a recurring weakness in the Barca defense.
Thirdly and most importantly for Barca, he has the pace to catch up with fast opponents and win the ball back. Pique lacks pace and Mascherano lacks strength to out-muscle strong opponents. Hummels is a great combination of pace and strength and with his excellent reading of the game, he can frustrate attackers to no end.
So we can now see why he is rated so highly and why he is so costly, touted to be around 30 million euros. Price can be an issue here because Neymar is most likely coming to Barca, maybe this or next season. If it is this season indeed, he will cost a fortune by himself. He is the ice-cream and the star signing whose jersey will sell millions of shirts. Add to that the funds required for Valdes’ replacement, which can vary depending upon how much money Valdes’ sale results in, Barca may need to sell a player like Ibrahim Afellay to get Hummels.
The other issue is that of Marc Bartra and maybe even Muniesa. Though we haven’t seen much of Muniesa due to his injuries, Bartra has given a good account of himself in the few chances he was given. Signing Hummels is virtually a vote of no confidence in him and Bartra maybe forced to look for greener pastures. ‘So what if he does?’ would be the reply at any other club, but at Barcelona, the youth academy actually means something in the bigger scheme of things where every youngster dreams of playing in the first team one day.
Therefore Hummels or no Hummels may indeed be a tough decision to make for Tito, who has just returned to Barcelona from New York after completing his cancer treatment, and Sandro Rosell, who is always looking to reduce Barca’s debt. That decision may well hinge upon whether Barcelona lifts the Champions League this May and in the event that they don’t, it will depend upon where the fingers are pointed at.