Lionel Messi’s departure to Paris Saint Germain left the captain’s spot vacant for someone to succeed him after 3 years of captaincy. Sergio Busquets was announced as the new club captain for the 2021/22 season. Since his debut in 2008, Sergio Busquets has always been a crucial part of Barcelona’s first team. Sergio Busquets was one of those individuals who made their debut during Pep Guardiola’s era.
Regarded as one of the most underrated and intelligent players of the game, Sergio Busquets has played an influential role in Barcelona’s glory years. His trophy cabinet of three Champions league, three FIFA Club World Cup, eight La Liga titles, three UEFA Supercup, seven Copa del Rey and eight Spanish Super Cups speaks for itself. The Octopus of Badia, as he is called, is a special player with extraordinary qualities.
He is a very hard-working player, he excels at intercepting loose balls and breaking down opposition plays by his positioning sense, tackling, tactical intelligence, and ability to read the game, despite his lack of pace. With his vision, ball control, accurate passing, he rarely relinquishes possession. Many pundits, coaches and former teammates have applauded his role in whichever team he plays for. Despite being at the age of 33, he dictates the gameplay and controls the tempo of the game.
His contribution and excellent performances for Spain in the UEFA Nations League were acknowledged and was rewarded with the Player of the Tournament award. Busquets had made up his mind regarding retirement from international football after the 2022 World Cup but after qualifying for the World Cup as Spain beat Sweden last weekend, he has kept his options open and could represent and captain the nation beyond 2022.
However, we haven’t seen the same Busquets for Barcelona in recent years. Frequent change in management and lack of support from his teammates has led to his downfall in the modern game of football. After Xavi’s arrival, we could be witnessing the revival of the old Barcelona style of play. Busquets thrives in such a system and will be a huge part of this game plan as Xavi wants to bring the best out of his players. Busquets still has fuel in his tank and can play a huge role in the team’s success for a couple of seasons effectively.
But as time goes on, Barcelona will need to replace the old guard of Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba someday. Ronald Araujo has already replaced Pique as a number one centre-back at the club. People around the club like his attitude and devotion to Barca. If Jose Gaya doesn’t sign a new contract, then Barcelona will sign him on a free transfer in the summer of 2023. However, Barcelona has struggled to find a replacement for Busquets in recent years. Frenkie De Jong was signed to replace the veteran but has failed to reach his true potential in the past 2 years.
The replacement for Busquets must be someone who understands the core principles and philosophy of Barca. In order to return to the summit of Spanish football, Barca should be looking at their La Masia academy. It has produced players such as Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and now Ansu Fati and Gavi. But it seems that they have new another gem in the form of Nico Gonzalez.
The 19-year-old was introduced by Koeman and gained playing time after injuries to Pedri and Frenkie de Jong. He’s been nothing but impressive this season. He is adept with both feet and has great positioning sense like Busquets. His raw pace helps him to break into opposing defences and create opportunities. His large stature also helps him to deal with the physicality of his opponents.
Barcelona doesn’t even need to pay a single penny to other clubs if they have such talent in their ranks. In 2008, a young academy graduate was given the opportunity to rise and became one of the best midfielders in the 21st century. Whether Nico can emulate the same remains to be seen.