#360view: Barca search for Suarez deputy could end at home

Andy West 03:49 04/08/2016
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A homegrown solution: Munir.

With Andre-Pierre Gignac the latest centre-forward to be linked with Barcelona it seems every striker in world football can consider themselves in with a chance of moving to the Nou Camp this summer.

Kevin Gameiro, Luciano Vietto, Carlos Bacca and Nolito and now Gignac have all supposedly been heading to Catalonia according to media gossip over the last few weeks, with manager Luis Enrique admitting that he wants to recruit cover for Luis Suarez before the season starts on August 20.

But there’s the problem: any player who is approached by Barca knows they will only ever be a backup to Suarez, condemned to start no more than a dozen games as well as occasional thankless run-outs in the last 15 minutes of matches which have already been well won.

For established forwards Gameiro and Bacca, or rising stars such as Vietto, that is hardly an appealing prospect.

Even at great clubs like Barca, top players want to play, and very few will be prepared to accept a role as a perennial No. 2, knowing their chances of starting important games are practically zero.

In that context, journeyman Gignac would be the most logical fit to Barca’s squad, but there have to be serious question marks over whether the veteran Frenchman meets the necessary standards to become a viable member of Enrique’s plans – his performances in the European Championships, where he appeared in a similar back-up role behind Olivier Giroud, would suggest not.

In any case, it’s worth asking the question whether Barca really need another forward at all.

Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar are undisputed starters, and the reinforcements already made by the club already this summer have provided a solid range of options.

Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes are capable of playing on either flank or as central attacking midfielders, while Arda Turan will be hoping to reassert his credentials after a disappointing first season at the club and Rafinha has recovered from injury to resume his challenge for a regular starting place.

True, none of them are centre forwards, but there is another serious option in that position in the shape of Munir El Haddadi, who could be poised for a breakthrough season after only performing in fits and starts during his first two years.

He will soon celebrate his 21st birthday and can’t continue to rely on the ‘one for the future’ tag for much longer. He’s done well enough so far to merit his place in the squad, but needs to step up to the next level and fulfil his unquestioned talent on a regular basis.

In terms of squad harmony, that would be the best option for Enrique. Rather than importing a costly, experienced international on a sizeable salary and with expectations for regular playing time, a homegrown talent would present no problems to the dressing room’s hierarchical pecking order.

Assuming he played often enough to feel important, Munir would not cause problems for Enrique by demanding more starts, content to continue to develop his game as the first-choice deputy to the MSN.

If Enrique has any faith Munir is ready to make the breakthrough, he would be best served not signing another striker at all.

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