Barcelona have reportedly set their sights on Cadiz’s Uruguayan full-back, Pacha Espino, as they look for a reliable backup for Jordi Alba.
According to a report from Fichajes, Barcelona are eyeing Cadiz defender Alfonso Espino, commonly known as Pacha Espino, as a backup option to provide cover for incumbent left-back Jordi Alba.
Espino spent the early phases of his footballing career at Danubio, Huracan Buceo and Miramar in his homeland, Uruguay, before graduating to first-team football at Nacional, for whom he went on to make 167 appearances. The 29-year-old joined Cadiz in January 2019 and has been a regular in the side ever since, registering three goals and seven assists from 86 matches to date.
Despite Cadiz’s struggles, Espino has been one of the best-performing left-backs in La Liga in the ongoing campaign, having scored two goals from 13 matches while also impressing with his defensive acumen. And, it seems like his performances for the minnows have put the Uruguayan on the radars of Barcelona.
The Catalans sold Junior Firpo earlier this year, leaving Jordi Alba as the only senior left-back in the squad. Youngster Alejandro Balde was given opportunities with the first team but picked up an injury. Even though he is back fit now, the teenager lacks the requisite experience to compete with Alba for a starting berth.
Furthermore, with the Spanish international not getting any younger, Barcelona will also need to secure a long-term replacement for him in the near future. A move for Valencia captain Jose Gaya has been touted for a long while, but with Real Madrid also entering the race for the Spaniard coupled with his valuation could prove to be a stumbling block for the Blaugrana.
Someone like Espino could, thus, be a more affordable alternative to act as a stop-gap solution before the Catalans are financially stable to go after an elite defender to replace Alba in the long run.
As per the report, the 29-year-old has a release clause worth €25 million. However, Cadiz could be forced to sell him for as little as €12-15 million next summer if he does not renew his contract, which expires in the summer of 2023. That sum should not be out of reach for Barcelona despite their financial woes. So, it will be interesting to see if they go after Espino in the summer or look at other options.