Why on earth have Barca signed Andre Gomes.

In the past few days (former) Valencia attacking midfielder Andre Gomes on a long term contract. The question on most people’s mind in why.

Gomes has primarily played up till now as a number 10 – and with Barca almost always playing 433 there is no natural fit for him. Granted he has played in a pivot before so would likely be comfortable in the midfield 3 for Barca, and sometimes has played wide as well. So he can fit in with a little compromise.

But It isn’t like Barcelona actually need anyone of that mould – swap Gomes for Rafinha Alcantara and its all still true. Turan can also play the offensive midfield roles, so can Denis Suarez and Sergi Roberto. Even Busquets and Sergi Samper are capable there, even if the holding role is a more natural fit.

So thats 6 capable BACKUPS! Because the starting offensive midfielders (Iniesta and Rakitic) haven’t even been mentioned yet!

Out wide the situation isn’t much better – Turan, Rafinha, Denis Suarez, Munir and Sergi can all play wide, with the immovable objects of Messi and Neymar having both wide roles locked down.

Gomes isn’t going to take a starting spot from any of Rakitic, Iniesta, Messi or Neymar. Rafinha and Turan are both better centrally, Suarez and Turan (again) better wide. Gomes joining really doesn’t add up.

Then question then takes another turn – he’s 22. Maybe he’s a signing for the future. Possible in a round-about way, but he cost £45 million! Backups for youth development aren’t even close to that expensive – 22 isn’t even that young in football terms.

 

It’s also not like recent form is on his side either, Valencia (Gomes included) were largely awful last season. Going through 4 managers in quick succession and finishing as low as 12th after flirting with a relegation fight. Then you compare him to his competition at Barca next season (based on La Liga):

Screenshot from 2016-07-22 19-38-15.png

Summed up: worst, best, worst, worst, second worst, third worst, third worst, second worst.

In fact if you add up on a points system (best = 5, worst = 1)

the ranking ends up like this:

  • 1. Rafinha (32 points)
  • =2. Turan (25 points)
  • =2. Roberto (25 points)
  • 4. Suarez (20 points)
  • 5. Gomes (18 points)

 

So that makes Andre Gomes statistically Barcelona’s WORST attacking midfielder. It’s even worse than it sounds as well – two of the times he came bottom are total score and possession score. Total score speaks for itself – all things considered he played badly (not unlike the rest of Valencia). But the fact the possession score is (very) bad as well, yet he pitched up at Barca of all places is baffling. Admittedly Barca are now more direct than they were under Pep and Tito but they still dominate possession in almost every single game.

The story in the recent EURO 2016 is similar – expected to be the driving force in the midfield alongside players like Joao Mario, Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho, instead he drifted off into obscurity and everyone forgot about him.

 

Frankly I could go on for pages about why Gomes isn’t close to being good enough for £45 million but that isn’t the question. The question is why did he sign – now I will put forward my suggestion:

So Real Madrid Couldn’t.

Real Madrid had been linked to Andre Gomes for weeks, with even Zidane himself talking him up. Suddenly though, after almost no speculation or links, he’s announced as a Barcelona player.

Look back to 31 March 2015. Danilo was announced as a Real Madrid played in March after months of speculation he would be the replacement for the (assumed leaving at that point) Dani Alves.

The circumstances were odd – Announcing a transfer in late march, about as far from a transfer window as possible, for an exorbitant fee after little indication of interest from either party. Real Madrid didn’t need a RB – Carvajal is one of the best in the world, Arbeloa was a good backup and Nacho could easily slide across.

Instead Real Madrid signed a unneeded player for huge money largely because it would be a blow to Barcelona. Now Barcelona have signed a unneeded player for huge money largely because it would be a blow to Real Madrid.

 

Do Barca need Andre Gomes? No, but stopping Real Madrid from strengthening appears reason enough for Barca.

 

All stats per Squawka.com

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What happens to international football if Catalunya gains independence? Part 1.

For those of you who don’t know Catalunya is a very industrial area of Spain containing most notably Barcelona which has been attempting to gain independence from Spain for years now. Catalan flags hang from most windows and petitions are regularly on the street. What is less well known is that they actually have a separate football team from Spain (though for tournaments they come together) – The question I pose here is what would happen if they gained independence today? How would the Spanish team suffer and how well would the Catalan team compete?

First lets build a squad:

Squad number Name Club Position(s)
1 Kiko Casilla Real Madrid GK
2 Martin Montoya Barcelona RB
3 Gerard Pique Barcelona CB
4 Jordi Amat Swansea CB/DM
5 Sergio Busquets Barcelona DM/CM
6 Joan Verdu Released from Levante RW/AM/LW/CM
7 Bojan Krkic Stoke AM/ST/RW/LW
8 Victor Sanchez Espanyol CM/DM
9 Sergio Garcia Al-Raayan ST
10 Cesc Fabregas Chelsea CM/AM
11 Jonathan Soriano RB Salzburg ST
12 Alberto de la Bella Soceidad LB
13 Pau Lopez Espanyol GK
14 Piti Rayo Vallecano LW/RW
15 Marc Bartra Borussia Dortmund CB
16 Sergi Samper Barcelona DM/CM
17 Andreu Fontas Celta Vigo CB/DM
18 Jordi Alba Barcelona LB/LW
19 Gerard Deulofeu Everton RW
20 Sergi Roberto Barcelona CM/DM/RB/LB/RW
21 Marc Muniesa Stoke CB/LB/DM
22 Aleix Vidal Barcelona RB/RW
23 Jordi Masip Barcelona GK

Totalling:

3 goalkeepers,

5 centre backs,

4 full backs,

2 defensive midfielders,

4 offensive midfielders,

3 wide players,

2 strikers.

Plus of course of positional versatility – especially in players like Bojan and Sergi.

 

From this we can make a team:

Screenshot from 2016-07-04 10-00-49

Unsurprisingly, the Barcelona connection is strong – every outfield player spent time in La Masia and 5 of them play for the first team today.

Largely this would play out like Barcelona play anyway – Alba and Vidal as offensive fullbacks, Fabregas being creative and free like Iniesta, Sergi the box-to-box runner in the role Rakitic plays, Bartra playing as he did prior to leaving and obviously Busquets and Pique playing the roles of Busquets and Pique. The Front 3 would work a little different – Bojan being the closest this team has to Messi except playing on the left and Deulofeu a true winger unlike Neymar.

Overall, this team would be a pretty impressive force on international stage – Pique, Alba, Busquets and Fabregas are all starters on the Spainsh national team, with Bartra, Vidal and Sergi having been in the squad in the last year (Bartra at EURO 2016).

The biggest issues this team would have would likely be at striker – Soriano and Garcia (though prolific) play in weaker leagues. If they fail to have an impact Bojan has spent a significant portion of the season for Stoke playing as a roaming centre forward, dropping deep at collecting the ball to run at the defence. And if that doesn’t work Fabregas played as a false nine for Spain (and sometimes Barca) for many years – its not preferable, but if needs must.

The only other issues that could be faced are the squad being slightly unbalanced – as many players are defensive leaving few CFs and wingers present, but that is largely caused by the other issue – depth. With players playing in leagues such as the Qatar star league and the La Liga Segunda B many of the backups are not to the standard of the starters. For example, as much as they are good players, Victor Sanchez, Andreu Fontas and Alberto de la Bella are a big step down from Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.

However the formation of this team may not even be the biggest fallout should these teams split – what happens to the Spanish team? That will be part 2.