Se Queda (He stays). These were the words that Barca fans were shouting when the news and official signing ceremony for Gerard Pique’s new deal which is extended to 2022 were announced.
While attention has been on the stellar names upfront (old and new), the defense, under manager Ernesto Valverde, has been far better than it was under Luis Enrique as players like Piqué no longer look like deer caught in headlights when faced with opposing attackers.
However, the experienced defender is 31 years of age and will be 35 by the time his contract expires.
Given the fast-paced nature of the game, these days and the fact that young defenders are capable of playing the ball out from the back are rare and generally expensive, the Barcelona board would be acting prudently by seeking a long-term replacement.
Here is a shortlist of five capable youngsters who have shown that they have the potential to fulfill FC Barcelona’s specific demands for defenders.
#5 Rúben Dias (SL Benfica)
One of the highly rated youngsters coming out of the stables at Benfica, young Dias has been spoken of in glowing terms and there are already pundits comparing him to the legendary Portuguese center-back Fernando Couto.
While he shares an innate sense of taking responsibility like the aforementioned Couto, Dias differs from the great man in that his style of play is more aligned to the cultured style of players like Pique’s rather than the thou-shall-not-pass motto of contemporary Portuguese center-backs like Pepe, Bruno Alves, Jose Fonte among others.
The young Dias who just made his first-team debut in Liga NOS this season has shone alongside experienced Brazilian Luisao in the games he has played.
While the team may have been woeful in the UEFA Champions League (losing all six matches), he was one of the few to emerge from this disastrous campaign with some credit as his abilities and dedication shone through the Eagles’ darkness.
Calm and assured with an eye for a pass and good man-marking abilities, Dias’ confidence on the ball will stand him in good stead if he ever makes the short move from Lisbon to Catalunya.