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Barcelona have enjoyed an almost perfect season. A long unbeaten run in La Liga sees them marching to domestic success alongside progress in cup competitions. Neymar might have left the club but, instead of hindering its transition under new coach Ernesto Valverde, the world’s most expensive player’s loss has galvanised the team.
Messi and Suarez might be scoring the bulk of the goals but a direct style of play under Valverde’s often favoured 4-4-2 formation has taken pressure off its star names. Indeed, while the new coach’s approach may be more defensive-minded than his predecessors, there is far more emphasis on teamplay over a recent reliance on its much-vaunted frontline.
Yet, no matter how much success Barcelona are enjoying in the 2017-2018 season, there’s talk of major signings to improve an almost perfect season. One of the names being talked about is Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid hitman who’s seen as a possible long-term replacement for Lionel Messi.
He’s a consistent goalscorer and knows the Spanish league. His career has been played entirely in Spain and over the last few years he has established his credentials with an impressive goals-to-games ratio. He knows what it’s like to play at the top level and has established himself with France on the international stage.
Griezmann’s versatility would prove a good fit for the Camp Nou club. If he signs it’ll be interesting to see the impact on La Liga betting markets, particularly whether or not rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid can mount a title challenge. He’s a quick, left-footed, team player who can operate anywhere in the frontline as well as offer a solution on the left or right side of midfield. His eye for goal will complement Barcelona’s current qualities and offer coach Valverde options in squad rotation.
qGriezmann’s pace will also bring another dimension to the club’s more direct approach under Valverde. But who could join him next season? Bayern Munich’s defender David Alaba is on the club’s radar as are other defensive acquisitions such as Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso and Toulouse defender Issa Diop. Other rumours suggest Valverde also has his eye on Schalke’s Thilo Kehrer and Sevilla’s Clement Lenglet.
Robert Lewandowski could be an alternative to Griezmann. The Polish striker has put himself in the shop window and seems eager for a move away from Bayern Munich. He’d be somewhat cheaper than the younger Griezmann too. Neymar could even return if the rumours that he’s unhappy at new club Paris St. Germain are true. But that does seem unlikely.
In midfield, with Barcelona great Andreas Iniesta enjoying less and less playing time, Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen has been talked about as a possible replacement while Griezmann’s fellow Atletico Madrid teammate Koke is another player mentioned by insiders.
One thing is for sure. Whoever Barcelona sign, it’s going to take something very special from its rivals to stop it marching on. The heritage of the club demands success on the pitch and after a short-lived blip which saw Real Madrid take the La Liga crown, Spain’s footballing magicians look like they’re prepped for another year of dominance under Valverde.