A few days before the transfer market closed, Ronald Koeman was asked which
he would clone for his Barcelona squad.
The Dutchman, without thinking too much, resolved: "To myself."
And, although modesty is not exactly what defines him best, the Barça coach qualified.
“But it seems like a criticism of our centrals ... and I don't want to do it.
I don't think you can compare the game today with that of 20 or 30 years ago, ”he said.
His explanation was not too clear.
It was clear, in any case, that Koeman was not satisfied with his roster of centrals.
“Only with Piqué, Lenglet and Araujo is it short.
He is weak for the season we are going to play ”, insisted the Barcelona coach.
Koeman was right.
Araujo injured, the Barça team travels to Vitoria to play this Saturday (9:00 pm, Movistar LaLiga) with only two centrals in the expedition: Lenglet and Piqué.
In the last five seasons, Barcelona has invested 1,024 million euros in 22 signings.
The area in which the most players has been incorporated has been that of the central defender: five.
Umtiti (25 million), in the 2016-2017 season;
Marlon (five) and Yerri Mina (11.8), in 2017-2018;
Lenglet (35.9) and Todibo (one), in 2018-2019, arrived at the Camp Nou.
With Marlon (six million to Sassuolo) and Mina (30 to Everton), the Barça team made money, and Todibo jumps from loan to loan.
While in the last two campaigns the technical secretariat did not add any defender.
This summer, at least, he tried.
“We want to have Eric García here because we have the right centrals.
We know that economically, on the part of the club, it is complicated.
I don't know if we can do it, ”Koeman clarified.
Barça could not repatriate the central Manchester City.
And the fears of the Dutch coach were not long in coming.
Piqué sanctioned (he was sent off against Ferencváros), Araujo arrived touched last Wednesday's duel against Juventus.
The Uruguayan forced to play in Turin and only lasted 45 minutes on the field.
"Barça could improve the central pair by putting De Jong there," Louis Van Gaal had advised in March.
And his compatriot Koeman took note.
When Araujo said enough at halftime, the Barça coach placed Busquets on the double pivot with Pjanic and sent De Jong to play alongside Lenglet.
A new dance partner for the Frenchman, who in the eight games he has played this season has
with Piqué, Araujo and De Jong.
“Lenglet is very smart.
And he adapts well to different game situations ”, praise the Frenchman at the Ciudad Deportiva.
A low-profile fundamentalist (his first son Mael was born in May and he preferred not to post any images on social media), the Frenchman is a very disciplined guy.
"When I get home after games, I look for him on television to see what I can improve on," explains the Barça defender.
“He is very, very professional.
He takes care of himself in eating, in breaks ... He is always pending to review his mistakes, on how to improve.
Very obsessive, he only thinks about football.
It looks like a computer ”, the same sources insist in Sant Joan Despí.
Three weeks without Araujo
Lenglet is Koeman's reliable card at the rear.
In addition to Piqué, of course.
But the Catalan has more things on his mind.
"I assure you that what he achieved at Davis is a bloody past," Nadal praised Piqué on the program
"It is not easy to be in Gerard's place and have all his activities, but even so and everything continues to compete very well, especially on match days," defines one of his teammates to the central defender.
To the experience of Piqué (33 years) and the solvency of Lenglet (25), Koeman is joined by Araujo (21).
"Ronald has a lot of future and has defensive qualities that are very important: he is very fast, strong and has a good head ... He has to improve in building from behind, in the first touch", analyzes Koeman to the Uruguayan center-back, who will be three weeks off.
And it doesn't have anything else Koeman.
At least what you can trust.
Umtiti is in the process of recovery - "he needs more to be well," explained the coach - but the Frenchman does not count for Koeman.
In fact, he was on the transferable list along with Luis Suárez, Arturo Vidal and Rakitic.
But the market for Umtiti is turned off, after spending 348 days in the infirmary in the last two seasons.
Koeman already said it: as it cannot be cloned, it only has three centrals.
With Araujo off, Piqué and Lenglet and nothing else.