After securing most of their targets in the attacking positions of the field, Barcelona appear to be concentrating on strengthening the defence. The club recently confirmed that they had made an offer for Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu. At 30 years of age, Mathieu will be able to instantly slot into the centre back position alongside Javier Mascherano or Gerard Pique. He has the experience of playing in the Spanish league, while his overall experience will also be crucial in helping the club overcome the loss of Carlos Puyol.
Central defence has been a position where Barcelona have been struggling over the last few years. Puyol’s absence did not happen all of a sudden. Barcelona’s failure to recognise the weakness in this area was exposed in the worst possible fashion last season, as they failed to lift any title for the first time in more than five years. La Liga odds from Betfair, though, still places Barcelona as second favourites for the title at 11/10. Real Madrid still reign supreme with odds of 5/6.
Mathieu will be joining the team that has been reinforced by the signings of Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic. While Rakitic cost only around €20 million, Suarez has become the third most expensive player in the world after his £75 million transfer. A front three of Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Neymar sounds mouth-watering, as it has the potential to destroy opponents in the blink of an eye. This forward line-up is valued at more than £300 million – the value of the ENTIRE starting line-up even for some top clubs like Liverpool.
Mathieu will be a player to complement this irresistible attacking force with his no-nonsense style of defending. The 30-year-old has been playing in Spain since 2009 after signing from Marseille. It is understood that Barcelona have made a €20 million offer for the player. Valencia will find it hard to turn down this offer for a player who is approaching the end of his career. Barcelona, though, believed that they will be able to get at least four years out of the French international.
The signing of Mathieu also seems to strengthen the long-standing belief that Barcelona do not fancy Marc Bartra. Since making his debut for the first-team in 2010, Bartra has played only 32 league matches. The 23-year-old could be set for a move away from the Camp Nou, as he targets regular first-team football.
Bartra would have been hoping that the retirement of Puyol would provide him with opportunities to impress at Barcelona. However, his hopes were dealt a huge blow especially in the Copa del Rey final when he was exposed in the cruellest manner by the pace of Gareth Bale.
Barcelona failed to secure many of their defensive targets like David Luiz and Thiago Silva. The club’s sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta accepted that there are few top-quality central defenders left the market and this may have escalated the price of Mathieu. Luiz joined his Brazilian teammate Silva at PSG for £40 million.