Understatements don’t come much bigger than stating Sergio Busquets’ successor will have big shoes to fill at Barcelona.
As if to hammer that point home, Busquets has just posed for a photoshoot alongside every trophy he lifted with his boyhood club. Thirty-one pieces of silverware in total. Only Lionel Messi is more decorated, and only Messi and Xavi made more appearances for the club.
There were a confluence of factors, but the midfielder’s promotion from Pep Guardiola’s B Team in the summer of 2008 coincided with the most successful period in the club’s entire history.
Busquets won the treble in his debut season and the league title in eight of his first 11 seasons as Barcelona’s era-defining pivot.
Xavi did not mince his words when stressing the importance of replacing the 34-year-old – finding the right fit as Busquets’ heir at the base of Barcelona’s midfield is everything.
“We have to find this piece, if we want to compete well next year, we have to find it,” Xavi told reporters ahead of Busquets’ final home game.
“For me it’s fundamental as a coach. Busquets has been fundamental for us, and very important in winning the Spanish Super Cup and La Liga this year.
“A player who has been so important for us, on and off the pitch, is leaving, so we have to find a very important player to replace Busquets.
“For me, it’s the key to competing next year.”
No pressure, then.
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Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad is reportedly Xavi’s No.1 choice. The 24-year-old has over 100 La Liga appearances and was recently outstanding for La Real as they went to the newly-crowned La Liga champions and came away from the Camp Nou with a 2-1 victory.
His ability to pull the strings suggests a player with the immense potential to dictate the tempo for elite possession sides for years to come.
The problem is that Zubimendi remains contracted at Anoeta until 2027 and Real Sociedad aren’t known for letting their prized assets go on the cheap. Barcelona’s financial difficulties remain ongoing and Zubimendi doesn’t appear in any rush to leave his boyhood club.
And so Barcelona will be in a position whereby they have to think more imaginatively about the signing that could well define their immediate future.
Their failure to adequately replace Andres Iniesta and Neymar led to the club’s worst slump in two decades and they can’t afford to repeat those mistakes.
Fabricio Diaz, a 20-year-old Uruguayan at Liverpool Montevideo, is a youngster the club have closely been linked with.
Bielsistas and keen-eyed Barcelona obsessives alike might’ve watched La Celeste’s next generation of youngsters at the Under-20 World Cup to get a glimpse of the highly-rated rising star.
But Diaz isn’t the only potential candidate to catch the eye at the youth tournament out in Argentina. Say hello to Federico Redondo.
He plays like busi , runs like busi too and moves like busi too. We should definitely go all out for Federico Redondo pic.twitter.com/c8hLKlu14W
— Culers Media (@lewyball) May 27, 2023
Son of Real Madrid icon Fernando Redondo, young Federico actually looks more reminiscent in style to Busquets than his old man, who lifted two Champions Leagues with Madrid.
Still, the genes of one of La Liga’s other all-time great defensive midfielders is surely no bad thing.
“We are very different players, even though we play in the same position. Different times. He is a very complete player, who dribbles the ball forward a lot, and maybe, in today’s football, it’s not something I do often,” said Federico of the stylistic differences with his father.
Redondo Junior was born in the Spanish capital while his father was still representing Los Blancos back in 2003. His full name – Federico Redondo Solari – also bears the name of another Madrid great, with his mother the cousin of former stalwart and later head coach Santiago Solari.
The 20-year-old midfielder was raised in Buenos Aires and has developed his skills in the academy of Argentinos Juniors.
He’s since broken through into the first team and is now featuring under Gabriel Milito, although he’s still relatively inexperienced – with just 17 starts for the club at senior level.
Federico Redondo Solari 🤌🏽
in a game where many of the Argentines struggled with Nigeria’s athleticism — Redondo was fine. pic.twitter.com/Fmfjqaj6VT
— alarcón🇦🇷 (@Juanin1Oi) June 1, 2023
As such, it would be a stretch to suggest that Redondo definitively has what it takes to succeed a player that brought a whole new dimension to the role of a Pivote.
A more ideal scenario for Barcelona would be to bring in the starlet as a squad option, an understudy to a more proven, experienced option.
But watching Redondo make his breakthrough for Javier Mascherano’s Under-20s as they host the World Cup and it’s difficult not to be seduced by the potential he’s shown – particularly that sense of unhurriedness that’s so eerily evocative of Busquets’ most irresistible quality.
Coached by two former Barcelona defenders, Milito and Mascherano, is an invaluable footballing education. They both see Redondo as a focal point in progressing the ball and stopping the opposition in transition, recognising the attributes required for such a vital role.
Mascherano’s young guns suffered a disappointing Round of 16 elimination to Nigeria, but they won all three group-stage games and Redondo used the platform to make his case as one to watch for scouts.
Time will tell where Redondo’s career will take him. But we can’t wait to see.
By Nestor Waatch