Barcelona have been very quiet in the January transfer window. Given that the Catalans could’ve foraged like kids in a candy store for winter bargains after an 18-month transfer hiatus, their tactics have come as something of a surprise.
However, they’re not doing too badly at this juncture. Three points ahead in La Liga, six if they win their game in hand, semi finals of the Copa del Rey and favourites to retain the Champions League. Still a long, long way to go but if Saturday’s epic home win against Atletico Madrid is anything to go by, la Blaugrana will take some stopping.
In any event, post 2015/16 there will be some new faces arriving.
Don’t be surprised to see Paul Pogba swap the black and white of Juventus for the blue and garnet of Barca.
Talks have been ongoing at a high level for an age now and if the ex-Manchester United player is going to leave last year’s beaten Champions League finalists, then Barca have the biggest of head starts on anyone else.
But it’s the recent links to another Red Devils player that has come straight out of left field. Juan Mata to Barca makes sense, even if at this stage it’s a slightly tenuous link with reported chats between representatives of player and club not having move passed the small talk stage.
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If Barca were to make a move however, what would they be getting and why would they be interested? Well, for a start, Mata is still only 27 years of age, the supposed golden age for a footballer.
Andres Iniesta who matches Mata’s skill set most accurately will be 32 by the start of next season. Even taking into account just how good “El Ilusionista” remains, he isn’t going to be around for ever and Barca have to plan for the future.
Poorly utilised by Louis Van Gaal at United, doubtless Mata will jump at the chance to go back to his homeland.
And where better than to a club that is, by popular decree, the best in the world right now. But what would the Catalans be getting for their money though? The Squawka comparison graphic below sets the scene.
Mata has played nine more league games than his contemporary, so one might expect his figures to be far in excess of Iniesta’s. Defensively however, Barca’s captain comes out on top; 24 tackles won compared to just 13 for Mata is a key indicator of the major area of improvement required from the Man Utd man.
If there’s one thing that Luis Enrique looks for in his staff, it is a penchant for hard work and sacrifice; 13 tackles in 23 games isn’t anywhere close to the level required. Both have intercepted on 14 occasions, again evidencing that Iniesta is happy to do his fair share of the donkey work.
From an attacking perspective, Mata readdresses the balance a little.
Four goals scored isn’t a fabulous return but much healthier than a solitary strike from the Barca man.
No doubt the same has come about because of Mata’s ability to arrive late and unmarked into the box. Iniesta prefers to sit back and away from the danger area allowing “MSN” to go foraging.
Mata’s 31 chances compares to 19 in 14 games for Iniesta; on a par with each other, Mata perhaps shading it a little. Just 51 passes separate the two, and anyone with a passing interest in the game would know that if Iniesta had played the same amount of games, his excellence in this regard would far exceed the man from Old Trafford.
Looking at those numbers, Mata wouldn’t be the worst signing in the world for Barca. But he wouldn’t be the best either.
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