The Hard Tackle lists three players Barcelona should target as alternatives for Jules Kounde, who will likely join Chelsea this summer.
The summer transfer window has brought a sense of hope and optimism for Barcelona. Joan Laporta has been working overtime to put Barcelona’s financial woes behind them and make them appear like a bad dream.
The Catalan giants have already activated two economic levers to ease the burden on the books, pumping in some much-needed money and stabilising the club. The latest developments have enabled Barcelona to pursue some of the most highly sought-after players this summer, signing Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski in big-money deals, even though it beggars belief.
At the same time, Laporta and Xavi Hernandez have been keen to address the defensive frailties in the first-team squad. As a result, Jules Kounde had emerged as a viable target for Barcelona, even though they had already secured the services of former Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen in a Bosman move.
The French international has been one of the best defenders in La Liga since joining Sevilla from Bordeaux three years ago. Kounde’s skyrocketing stock has captured the attention of several high-profile clubs in Europe, including Barcelona and Chelsea.
But as per recent reports, the 23-year-old is on the verge of joining Chelsea, forcing Barcelona to go back to the drawing board and identify alternatives. And with that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three defenders who could be alternatives to Jules Kounde for Barcelona. The caveat is that we have selected three left-footed centre-backs instead of a like-for-like candidate as they might better settle in Xavi Hernandez’s system.
The first name on the list might throw a few people off, considering this player is not a big name in the market. But Josko Gvardiol has done enough to capture the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, and one of his prospective suitors should be Barcelona.
The 20-year-old has spent most of his professional career thus far with Dinamo Zagreb. And while he joined RB Leipzig nearly two years ago, he had to wait until the 2021/22 season to make his breakthrough at RB Leipzig. And Gvardiol has popped up on the radars of several clubs across Europe, including Chelsea.
But with Chelsea on the verge of signing Kounde, Gvardiol will unlikely remain a target unless the Blues sell Levi Colwill this summer. Barcelona will thus have the chance to pounce and prise the Croatian international away from the Red Bull Arena. However, Leipzig might put up a fight for the services of Gvardiol after recently asserting that he is not for sale.
The youngster is superb with the ball at his feet and is adept at reading the game brilliantly. At the same time, Gvardiol can play as a left-back, a quality that should make him attractive for Barcelona, considering they are in the market for a left-sided full-back. All in all, Gvardiol is a viable alternative for Kounde as the Catalan giants go back to the drawing board ahead of the 23-year-old’s move to Chelsea.
The next player to feature on our list is someone who has been on Barcelona’s radar for much of the last half a decade, if not longer. During this period, the defender in question has gone from being a prospective French international to representing the Spanish national side. We are talking about Aymeric Laporte.
Laporte was once one of the best young defenders in La Liga during his days at Athletic Club, and his exploits had piqued the interest of Barcelona. But the 28-year-old opted to join Manchester City in January 2018 and has come leaps and bounds since then.
While Laporte has not always been the first-choice centre-back for Pep Guardiola, his performance levels have been high more often than not. And playing under the tutelage of Guardiola will have prepared him to settle down seamlessly in Xavi Hernandez’s system at FC Barcelona.
Laporte is one of the best ball-playing defenders in the world, making him the perfect long-term partner for Ronald Araujo. At the same time, the Spanish international is a threat inside the box, which would help him fill the void that Gerard Pique will leave following his inevitable departure in the coming years.
However, Laporte is the least approachable of the three centre-back candidates that we have listed as Manchester City will likely charge a premium to part ways with the 28-year-old. So while Barcelona will likely pursue Laporte after Kounde joins Chelsea, it is unclear if they will be able to afford to sign him.
The last name on our list is a player who, sort of, falls into the same category as Aymeric Laporte. That is because Pau Torres, like Laporte during his days at Athletic Club, has established himself as one of the best defenders in La Liga much before reaching his peak years, although he is no closer to sealing an exit from Villarreal yet.
While Torres features on Barcelona’s wishlist, he has also captured the attention of several other European bigwigs. Recent reports had also suggested that intermediaries offered Manchester City and Chelsea the chance to sign the Spanish international in the summer transfer window.
But with Chelsea on the verge of signing Jules Kounde, Barcelona might have a much clearer run at Torres if they decide to prioritise a move for the 25-year-old. And with widespread reports claiming that Torres is ready to embark on a new adventure, Barcelona might fancy the prospects of luring him by offering UEFA Champions League football.
As for how Torres might fit in Xavi Hernandez’s system, the Spaniard is potentially the perfect foil for Ronald Araujo with his qualities on the ball. Torres also possesses a quick burst of pace, making him the ideal replacement for the out-of-favour Samuel Umtiti. But, like Laporte, the Villarreal defender will not come cheap as he reportedly has a price tag of around €60 million, making his chase somewhat complicated.