The FC Barcelona board have been desperate to make moves to put their club in a better position to contend in European competition. As a result, they came to an agreement this past weekend with Italian juggernauts, Juventus, over a swap deal for DM Miralem Pjanic in exchange for CM Arthur.
Arthur, who is currently only 23 years old, was seen by many as arguably the cornerstone midfielder for Barca’s near future given his continuing growth as a playmaker, and natural fit for their style of soccer. He slots in perfectly as one of the featured attacking midfielders for a side that has many aging players in those positions.
In addition, Barcelona’s two most consistent midfielders, Sergio Busquets and Ajax product Frenkie de Jong, do play further back, hence the obvious need for greater depth and youth injection at the “center attacking mid” position.
Despite his going public about wanting to stay for the club of his dreams, the controversial Barcelona board figured it made sense to let him go to Juventus and bring in a veteran in Miralem Pjanic.
Pjanic, who is 30 years old, has had a very strong and respectable career with clubs of the likes of Lyon, Roma, and Juventus, of course. He is known for being the anchor of the midfield for his teams by jumpstarting most of the buildup play and also having a knack for scoring from long distance. Pjanic is cherished as an essential part for all the teams he has played for but has frankly dropped off a tad in play this past season.
For example, in 36 appearances across all competitions, he has managed to score 3 times and have 4 total assists. To compare, in 2017/18 he scored 5 times with 8 assists and in 2018/19, he scored 2 times with 6 assists.
For those unfamiliar with soccer, those numbers might seem a bit pedestrian, but it is important to note that defensive midfielders are valued for doing the “small things,” such as winning 50/50 balls and orchestrating the attack from the back (like I mentioned earlier). My point is that these numbers do show a bit of a drop off in play, which I believe comes in part with his older age.
I feel as if this transfer was unnecessary and lop-sided for various reasons. “Juve” clearly won here, as they got themselves an attacking midfielder that should serve them well for many years to come in Arthur. Also, with the aging Cristiano Ronaldo in the front of the attack, he is going to need all the creativity he can get from his midfielders to keep producing scoring chances for him.
The Italian club managed to solve one of their biggest problems on the offense, while also managing to offload one of their older players.
From the Barcelona perspective, it again makes no sense at all. They are now adding another primarily defensive midfielder to a club filled with them and have also managed to make their side even older. Fans across the globe have voiced their disgust with the board on all forms of social media for what they argue is a power move by Barcelona Chair of the Board, Josep Bartomeu.
Many are convinced Bartomeu is intentionally sabotaging the club, in an effort to “get back” at Barcelona amid the upcoming club chair elections, which is looking unlikely for him to win.
So, what’s my rating for this transfer swap? From a Juventus perspective it is a clear 9/10, as it fills a major need and injects much needed youth for this older group of players. For Barcelona on the other hand, it gets a 5/10, as sure, Pjanic is a world class player, but he is aging and plays a position that already holds much depth within the club.
The one positive out of this for both Arthur and Pjanic are that they will join an exclusive club of players that can say they have played with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, how cool is that?
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