Buying Miralem Pjanic Doesn't Benefit Barcelona Ageing Squad
FC Barcelona have been heading towards a horrendous future for a long time, and the purchase of Miralem Pjanic could very well mean that the club will have moved the furthest from having a full-proof long-term strategy.
After the match against Sevilla in the post-lockdown league fixture, an amazing, yet not-so-surprising stat baffled everyone. The average age of the starting lineup for FC Barcelona for that match was 31.4—which is ridiculous and is the biggest warning sign for what problems the club will face in the near future.
And right when the squad is on the verge of breaking down due to old age, the board yet again wants to sign ageing player in 30-year-old Pjanic.
To make the matter worse, most of the heavyweights of the Catalan team are above the age of 25. Lionel Messi is 33 as of 24th June 2020, Luis Suarez is 33, Gerard Pique is 33, Sergio Busquets is 31, Ivan Rakitic is 32, and Jordi Alba is 31. If that wasn't enough, the board brought in then-28-year-old Antoine Griezmann as a backup for Luis Suarez and 29-year-old Neto as a backup goalkeeper in 2019. Comparatively, the club signed then-28-year-old Martin Braithwaite as an emergency signing this season in early 2020.
For the supporters of the club, the "Barcelona's age dilemma" is more than apparent; but the people running the club seem to have disregarded the fact that the Barcelona is becoming a retirement home or a place for a swan-song for older players past their prime
The trend of turning a blind eye to this complication continues with the club's interest in Miralem Pjanic. The 30-year-old Bosnian, for whom Barcelona have reportedly agreed on a deal with Juventus, is in the twilight of his career. Arguably a more-than-decent player in his prime, he is not a player of Barcelona's standards, not anymore.
FC Barcelona are in active pursuit of Miralem Pjanic and have reportedly agreed on a deal with Juventus for his signature (Photo: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
However, what is Barcelona's standard, anyway? They tend to buy anyone they can get their hands on, without any threshold in terms of stats or a player profile. The purchase of Griezmann, Vidal, Braithwaite, Coutinho, Dembele, and the club's attempts to bring in Willian in the past, and now Pjanic, all seem to suggest that they lack a well-planned transfer strategy.
Either way, even if Pjanic was a player of the profile that Barcelona needed right now, he's still not a good performer or has not been one this season, anyway. With four assists and three goals in 35 games this season for Juventus, he hasn't set the stage alight, per se. Correspondingly, his expected stats aren't great either: he has 0.8 expected goals and 1.7 expected assists this season in Serie A.
Remember, we saw a similar sign when Barcelona bought Griezman for €120 million just because he had a respectable but not world-class record of 0.5 goals per game. Take Dembele as an example. He was bought for €105 million when he had only 10 goals in 50 games for Dortmund.
All of the players the club seem to buy look promising at first. But when we dig in a little, we find out that they are either not consistent performers or prone to declination in performance because of old age and injury.
That's the reason why the Catalan giant should learn from its past mistakes and opt-out from signing Pjanic. If by anyway, he is signed, there will be less game time for the promising youngsters in the club. Already, there are reports that state Pjanic would join Camp Nou on a swap deal involving their young midfielder Arthur Melo.
If the reports are to be believed, the deal involves Pjanic and Melo heading towards the opposite aisle with Barcelona getting a transfer fee around €70 million.
However, Barcelona are failing to realize that Melo would be the better option for the future since he is just 23 and is arguably similar in terms of his playing style with Pjanic. Still, one could argue about the experience and proven quality Pjanic could bring, but there's no way possible that an aging player like him would be able to play most of the games for 90 minutes in two years.
His purchase would be a panic buy at best, which is a strategy the current board has been practicing for years. The hierarchy is targeting immediate results, and that would be just fine if they weren't ready to sacrifice Arthur for the sake of it. Bringing in Pjanic, either in a straight swap or a player-plus-cash deal involving Melo, is ridiculous from a sporting point of view.
Pjanic is not a world-class player worth losing Melo over. His arrival and Melo's departure will only be a nail in the coffin for Barcelona's long-term future. It would make already-old squad older, convey a message to the youngsters that they are not necessary, and take away minutes from the club's young prospects such as Riqui Puig.
But the sad thing is that Barcelona are only trying to sell Melo to balance the books. They are just looking to sell promising youngsters for the right price. They haven't created a proper transfer strategy and kept a competitive environment for both mature and young players to prosper at the same time.