Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez isn’t getting any younger. At 33 years of age, the Spanish international is coming towards the end of his playing career, and it's likely he'll retire before too long.
Therefore, Barcelona need to begin to look for a star, who will be maturing at the time of Xavi’s departure, so the playmaker reigns can be passed over with relative ease.
This article looks for one player from the top five leagues in Europe that Barcelona could look into the possibility of signing, discussing the positives and negatives about each of the candidates. But do you agree with my selection? Get in touch and put forward your own suggestions.
Premier League: Jack Wilshere | Arsenal
Wilshere has shown he can cut it with the best, notably against Barcelona in 2010/11 in the Champions League and more recently for England against Brazil.
He loves to have the ball at his feet, stride past defenders and play a killer ball. The only issue is, due to his desire to win he commits challenges which may not be tolerated in the Spanish league.
I feel he could learn to curb these tackles and could be tempted to join the growing number of ex-Arsenal stars at the Nou Camp, with Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas plying their trade in La Liga.
Bundesliga: İlkay Gundogan | Borussia Dortmund
This choice may come of a surprise to some, due to the fact a certain individual of Toni Kroos plays in this league and is currently in top form. However, I am unsure if Kroos would be tempted by Barcelona, whereas I feel Gundogan certainly would be.
His performances this year have been exceptional, especially in the Champions League group of death containing Ajax, Real Madrid and Manchester City. He is the link between the back four and the attacking line. In addition to this, he is able to control a game and dictate the pace are certainly characteristics associated with a Xavi prodigy.
His only issue is he hasn't been tested enough. Gundogan finds it difficult to gain a starting place for Germany due to players such as Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but he also lack experience of Champions League football.
Ligue 1: Marco Verratti | Paris Saint-Germain
Another player with limited experience in the Champions League but again will gain more in the next few years as PSG become a more dominant force.
He is also managing to earn rave reviews in his own country of Italy, which has accumulated in being recognised as 'the next Andrea Pirlo'. This accolade is a fair reflection of his game, although the fact that he plays a little deeper than Xavi means Verratti would have to adapt his game to fit into the current Barcelona set-up.
His range of passing is his main attribute - he's able to ping a pass across the pitch with relative ease. He doesn't necessarily have the flair of a typical Barcelona player, however this could be an advantage in that he may add a bit more steal to their midfield and protect the back four.
Serie A: Miralem Pjanic | AS Roma
Pjanic, who has been linked with Manchester City in recent weeks, is the most similar to Xavi in terms of positional sense. He doesn't need to hold midfield, as he is supported by Daniele De Rossi at AS Roma, but at the same time he isn't part of their attacking front three.
His game isn't based on pace or beating defenders, he gets his head up and plays the defence-splitting pass before other players even see it. It's this sharpness of the mind which is what Barcelona are renowned for.
However, his negatives are he has never played a single Champions League game or won any silverware. In addition to this, the pace of Serie A is significantly slower than La Liga, therefore he may struggle with this element and not be able to adapt his game.
La Liga: Isco | Malaga
Isco is currently one of the hottest properties on the transfer market with a quoted price of £30m, according to reports. He is yet another diminutive Spanish midfielder with technical ability and the ability to maintain possession. This has recently earned him a call-up to the Spanish national sidemaking his debut against Uruguay.
Isco has filled the void left by Santi Cazorla at the beginning of the year and for a club in financial crisis, he is churning out performances to the highest standard.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has been an integral part in Malaga’s journey to reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League and with him in their side, they will be a good match for the ever impressive Borussia Dortmund.
Barcelona should buy this player this summer and then look at loaning him out to ensure his development continues. This can work to great affect, as Chelsea have demonstrated with Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea who is enjoying a fruitful loan spell in La Liga with Atletico Madrid.
Isco is probably the most likely transfer target for Barcelona, due to him being Spanish and having already played and proven himself in La Liga.
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