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I remember baulking at Dani Alves’ £30 million transfer fee when he joined Barcelona from Sevilla in 2008. Not privy to a future in which we would often see tens of millions spent on defenders (Hummels, Otamendi, Mangala, Thiago Silva and David Luiz) I was quite stunned.
How could it possibly make sense to pay so much for a player that was essentially going to play as a right-back?Well, it didn’t take too long to understand why Barcelona thought the fee, even though exorbitant at the time would be considered a massive bargain, 8 phenomenally successful seasons later. Dani Alves wasn’t just a phenomenal right-back for Barcelona, he pretty much redefined what we thought a right-back could do.
Over the years we’ve got used to the sight of Alves bursting up the right flank, looking to get on the end of Messi’s beautifully timed passes and putting in balls that have terrorized opposition defenses to no end. He’s gone past players with ease, like a skillful right winger and picked out his clinical Barcelona teammates time and time again. He’s been an irreplaceable cog of the Barcelona machine and has been imperative in the dazzling football they’ve played over the years.The likes of David Villa, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho have been replaced by Barcelona over the years.
All absolute geniuses but the Blaugrana have managed to find the next superstars of world football to replace them. Barcelona have even learnt to cope without Xavi, the eternal maestro in recent times. Finding a replacement for Dani Alves though could possibly be even harder. Aleix Vidal is a player that can fill in of course, but Barcelona will need to sign a more suitable replacement.Here are the possible players that Barcelona could sign to replace the departing Brazilian:
#1 Elseid Hysaj – Napoli
Barcelona have already been linked with the Albanian full-back, who is gearing up for Euro 2016 on the back off a storming season with Napoli. The right-back can do it all, defend and attack in equal measure and while being only 22-years of age, even a significant transfer fee for his services would be a shrewd investment from the Blaugrana. Napoli have played some sparkling football this season and Hysaj has repeatedly shown he’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet.The 22-year-old has made the most of working with Maurizio Sarri, the brilliant and enigmatic Napoli manager and has shown the ability to constantly improve and is not fazed by the big occasion. He would certainly be a shrewd acquisition for Barcelona.
#2 Hector Bellerin – Arsenal
Another young and remarkably promising defender who’s cemented a place in the first team of a big club, Bellerin is a Catalan who was lured away by Arsenal in 2011 and they would surely welcome him back with open arms. Bellerin has been an immensely reliable defender and can take a lot of the credit for the 16 clean sheets the Gunners have kept this season. Barcelona’s sporting director did recently call Bellerin ‘a magnificent player’ but he also stated that they won’t be pursuing him. One would imagine that he wouldn’t be easy to prize away from Arsenal in any case, but the lure of returning home might be too hard to resist though.
#3 Juanfran – Atletico Madrid
Juanfran isn’t young, he’s just turned 31 years old and Atletico won’t be too keen on giving him up either. But he would surely settle in immediately and would be a consistent and reliable option. A significant transfer fee could tempt Atletico in to cashing in as they did with Joao Miranda, another magnificent defender who was let go by the Los Rajiblancos.Juanfran has been a fixture in Diego Simeone’s lineup for a while and is excellent at one on one’s and gets forward with ease as well. It was his cross that led to Atletico’s equalizer in the Champions League final and despite the heartbreak of his penalty miss, his character and temperament are cannot be questioned.
#4 Sime Vrsaljko – Sassuolo
Napoli are supposedly in advanced talks with the 24-year-old Sassuolo right-back, with Manchester City and Atletico also said to be monitoring the situation but one would imagine Barcelona would blow away the competition if they were to swoop in. His price tag is believed to be between 15 and 20 million euros and a good performance at Euro 2016 could convince the Blaugrana that he is the right man for them, but only if another club hasn’t sealed up his transfer by then.With the third most crosses in Serie A in the recently concluded season, his attacking impetus certainly isn’t in any doubt.
#5 Lukasz Piszczek – Borussia Dortmund
The Polish stalwart has enjoyed six successful seasons with Borussia Dortmund and has been a consistent fixture in their lineup, which has endured significant changes in recent years.He wouldn’t be a long term option, but at 30, the defender should be available at a reasonable price and could fill in for a few years. He’s had significant issues with injuries of late though and might have to alternate with Aleix Vidal, which could prove to be a viable option. Piszczek has always turned up in the big games and at Barcelona that would be a huge asset. A new challenge might be just what he needs.