Barcelona have made their first centre-back purchase in five years, signing Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu for €20million.
Not since the failed capture of Dmytro Chygrynskiy in 2009 have Barca signed a centre-back, and they could be onto another dud.
Overpriced and overrated
Despite the careless, free-spending nature of many top European sides, €20 million is still a sizeable amount of cash. The fee matches that which Barcelona paid for Ivan Rakitic, who enjoyed a stellar season at Sevilla.
At 30-years-old, Mathieu may only have a few years of top-flight football left in him, before he goes the way of Carles Puyol. Spending such an amount for 30+ defender with little resale value is risky should Mathieu fail to perform during his first season at the Camp Nou.
And with only two international friendly appearances for France under his belt, the 30-year-old doesn’t have pedigree at the highest level.
Mathieu would probably be an adequate defender during typical La Liga matches, but his ability may come into question when pitted against the continent’s best, where Barcelona have struggled in the past two seasons.
It is also worth noting that until last season, Mathieu played the majority of his football at left-back, meaning he has less experience in the position than Javier Mascherano.
By no means is he a terrible defender. At 30, Mathieu is far more experienced than many, which is an underrated quality. The Frenchman can pass on nuggets of wisdom to younger Barcelona players such as Marc Bartra.
Mathieu does have some favourable attributes. He fits the bill as a far as Luis Enrique's search for physically imposing players goes, standing at a lofty 6ft 3in tall. Having played at left-back for the majority of his career, the Frenchman adds a good deal of pace. Moreover, he does have La Liga experience, having spent five years in Spain with Valencia.
The signing does seem slightly askew considering some of the centre-backs Barca have been linked with in the past. Marquinhos, Aymeric Laporte and Inigo Martinez are all young options, with the latter two well versed in La Liga football.
Jan Vertonghen, another defender sounded out as a possible recruit can bring both experience and comfortability in possession. The Belgian is also capable of playing at left-back if required.
Even former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez has spoken out in objection to the transfer. The 35-year-old Mexico international believes Mathieu is not a big enough player for Barcelona:
"I don't think he has the profile to play for Barcelona and even less so for this price," Marquez said in an interview with RAC1.
"Hopefully they'll think well about this and if they're going to splash out like that, it's for someone who is actually worthwhile."