In times like these it’s completely understandable for nonsensical transfer rumours to be churned out at a canter.
And that’s what I first thought when I saw Barcelona and Juventus were reportedly discussing a potential swap deal which involved Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic moving in opposite directions; this was merely a rumour splurged online as a result of a slow news day.
‘Excuse me? What?! These two are actually going to go do this thing?!?!?!’
OFFICIAL: Barcelona have agreed to sign Arthur Melo from Gremio. The player will officially sign July 2018 for €30m plus €9m in variable amounts. pic.twitter.com/KO7zHrFAG7
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 11, 2018
Mundo Deportivo, along with numerous Italian media outlets, have reported that an agreement is in place between the two clubs, with the only obstacle believed to be Arthur; who isn’t keen on departing the Camp Nou after arriving from Gremio in 2018.
And please, Mr Melo, stand firm because Barcelona would be making a huge mistake.
If this deal was to go through, the Bianconeri would be acquiring a fantastic footballer who genuinely has the scope to be one of the finest in his position in the form of the Barca man.
The Brazilian announced himself to a broader audience against Tottenham in a Champions League clash on a worse for wear Wembley pitch back in October 2018 with a majestic display. In a showing full of body feints, swift turns and sharp one and two touch combinations, the 23-year-old taught Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks a lesson in midfield play through simplicity and efficiency.
It was a bit of a shame, however, that Lionel Messi rocked up all GOAT-y and completely overshadowed Arthur’s performance, mesmerising in a 4-2 victory.
Nevertheless, he proved just how talented he was and despite enduring a frustrating campaign due to injury thus far this season, he’s still shone when he’s been available; with his 90.4% pass completion rate ranking in the top ten among La Liga players.
The 23-year-old’s ability to manipulate the ball in tight spaces and ride opposition pressure makes him one of the most press-resistant midfielders around. Combine this with his impressive ball retention skills and masterful movement off-the-ball and you have an incredibly effective number eight in the first and second phases. One of the best around, in fact.
In terms of penetration – something Juve have desperately been devoid of this season – Arthur’s numbers are pretty impressive as well; his 4.38 progressive passes isn’t exactly spellbinding but nonetheless superior to the Bianconeri’s current number eight options – Adrien Rabiot (2.20), Aaron Ramsey (2.70) and Blaise Matuidi (2.89).
Arthur’s six goal contributions in barely 1,000 La Liga minutes is also a fine return, especially after he racked up just one assist the season prior.
His defensive output, meanwhile, has been pretty poor since he moved to Spain. But this is hardly surprising for a diminutive Brazilian who plays in a side who enjoy 97% possession on a typical day out.
Overall, this is a ‘bite your hand off’ kind of deal from a Juve perspective. They’d be adding a player who would not only thrive in Maurizio Sarri’s ‘Sarriball’ based around quick combination play, but Arthur would also provide the Bianconeri midfield with a little more variation, innovation and ultimately penetration.
Sure, he might not be as dynamic as Houssem Aouar, as unpredicatable as Tanguy Ndombele or as well-rounded as Thomas Partey, but Arthur represents a significant upgrade on Sarri’s current number eight options and also boasts a sky-high ceiling.
As for Barca, well, this would be just another example of woeful recruitment and planning. Whether it be the whole Martin Braithwaite ordeal or their dealing of the incredibly talented Jean-Clair Todibo, La Blaugrana have let themselves down in a big way on this front in recent times.
In Arthur they’d be losing a player who fits the ‘Barca way’ philosophy like a glove and someone who was born to play in Quique Setien’s positional play system at Camp Nou. Arthur, along with Frenkie de Jong, were meant to be the cornerstones of the Barcelona midfield for the next decade – the foreign second coming of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
But at the expense of the Brazilian, Barca would be signing a 30-year-old regista who endured a pretty rough time of it in Turin before the universal suspension.
After enjoying a fast start to life under Sarri, Pjanic’s impact on the Juve side started to dwindle as the season wore on. The safe option was often favoured over a vertical, line-breaking pass, while he provided little to no cover in defensive transition as a result of his shoddy ability in one-v-one situations.
And it was no surprise that Juve proved to be a more efficient side without the Bosnian ‘ticking things over’ at the base of midfield in their imperative 2-0 victory over Inter in the Derby d’Italia back in March.
The dynamic and athletic Rodrigo Bentancur was deployed in the number six role with Ramsey and Matuidi the box-to-box eights. And for the first time in months, Juve’s midfield was one which provided balance, dynamism and a little bit of productivity with Ramsey getting on the score sheet.
This victory came just over week after Pjanic and co. were overwhelmed by Lyon’s superb midfield triumvirate in a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie – the Bosnian’s 16th game on the spin without a goal contribution.
In a post-possession era, players like Pjanic and Sergio Busquets are waning in significance, the need for athleticism and dynamism at the base of midfield is pivotal.
And Barcelona have that in Dutchman De Jong, who despite playing further forward in his debut campaign in Catalonia, is the rightful heir to Busquets’ throne as La Blaugrana’s number six. What’s the need to bring in Pjanic?
This is a player in obvious decline and would surely only provide a mere short-term fix in the post-Busquets era. Yet they’re willing to give up a player of Arthur’s talent in order to secure his services and potentially stunt the development of De Jong in his favoured role?
I have no idea what you’re up to – again – Barcelona and you better hope the Brazilian is mightily stubborn in his refusal to depart Catalonia because this would be a fatal error.