Gone are the days when Romario, Ronaldo Nazario or Rivaldo were banging in the goals for the Blaugranas. Gone are the days when Ronaldinho was enthralling Barcelona’s crowd with his magical trickery, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o were cleaning up defences. Even gone are the days of Barcelona boasting arguably the best-attacking triplet upfront consisting of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (MSN). Currently, the attacking onus of the Camp Nou faithful’s lies on the shoulders of ever magical Lionel Messi, supported by Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Paco Alcacer: Barcelona’s Next Potential Number Nine
Though on paper the names are heavyweights, the actual situation is a bit different. If the trend of last season and this is anything to go by, Luis Suarez is on a downhill journey. At almost 32 years of age, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Ousmane Dembele (21) is still the bright young boy in class, brimming with potential and on occasions stunning the world with his masterstroke movement and astounding goals. Yet, he is still to harness his full capabilities and master the art of consistency. More matches and training alongside the G.O.A.T, Suarez and other established teammates are sure to help his development. While Philippe Coutinho seems more of a player envisioned for the midfield than the attack, he is looked at as the solution to the gaping hole left by Andrés Iniesta.
A close evaluation would reveal that the situation is much better than what the last paragraph has portrayed it to be, and maybe it can hold Barcelona’s quality stable, even without any new transfers in the recent future, especially when you consider the man who is leading Barcelona’s front-line, Lionel Messi. On the other hand, Luis Suarez, though, is on the way. He still has a huge lot to contribute on the pitch and off the pitch, with his sackful of experience and magical understanding of the game and mythic coordination with Messi, this may, in fact, serve as a boon to young talents like Ousmane Dembele and Munir El Haddadi.
A Lost Name
Among all these world-renowned big money names, comes a name that has often got lost, especially since the last two seasons: Paco Alcacer. He joined Barcelona during the tutelage of Luis Enrique during the 2016-17 season, as a young backup to the dangerous MSN, for a not so cheap price of €30 million from Valencia
At Valencia, he was given the captain’s armband at the young age of 20. He had even managed to rack up 13 international call-ups for the Spanish national team and found the net six times by his 22nd birthday. But, what followed was far from ideal. The already established, gruesome MSN could barely be budged from their starting roles. And after Neymar’s departure, Alcacer was bogged down with a couple of bad niggling injuries and the big money branded arrivals in the transfer market.
Though he did more than a decent job when called upon or afforded an opportunity, seven goals from 23 appearances, out of which nine were starts and 14 where from the bench, is very respectable. He deputized wherever the coach needed him to, be it as a central striker or left winger, or even his unfamiliar position in the right side of attack, and banged in some important goals.
Even the managers seem to have a lot of confidence in Alcacer. Ernesto Valverde handed him the captain’s armband last season during the Copa Catalunya final against Espanyol when certain first-choice players were rested. It is also evident that Valverde still has plans for Alcacer, by the fact that he was loaned out this season instead of being sold straight away.
His loan to Borussia Dortmund has been nothing short of sensational for his career. He has already scored seven goals in just four appearances, which seems like a Messi-esque statistic. This short-term move will ensure he gets a load of playing time and is able to fight his confidence back, which he had lost sitting on the bench the last two years. It also bides time for Suarez grow old enough to accept more of a supporting role on the bench when Alcacer returns to Barcelona.
And the fact that at Dortmund he would be privy to a variety of passing philosophy gameplay just adds to Alcacer’s case. It will enable him to impress the crowd and the bosses of Barcelona, to earn his spot back in the squad, when he dons Spanish jersey, as his displays for Dortmund had warranted a place in Luis Enrique’s La Furia Roja for the upcoming international break.
In conclusion, maybe Valverde and Bartomeu are better off focusing their energy on enriching Barcelona’s attack for the future and not going on mad chases after players like Antoine Griezmann and Paulo Dybala. Providing opportunities to already existing talents in the club like Alcacer will enable to re-establish its strong Spanish base and the identity it has lost.