Barcelona: Ranking the Club’s 7 Transfer Targets Who Could Succeed Luis Suárez Next Season

?Barcelona have been at the centre of transfer speculation over the last few weeks as they look to find a long-term alternative to Luis Suárez, whose time at the Camp Nou appears to be coming to a gradual end.

The Uruguay international been directly involved in 279 goals in just 255 appearances for the Blaugrana, but Suárez has scored just four goals in the Champions League since the end of the 2016/17 season and doesn’t look like the striker who can lead Barça to European glory once again…despite his fine domestic form this season.

Media publications in Spain have been in overdrive and a seven-man shortlist has been drawn up of targets which could replace Suárez over the next 12 months, ranging from unknown talents to household names.

So with the help of valuations from CIES Football Observatory, here’s a closer look at Barcelona’s list of transfer targets and exactly which order they should prioritise them at the end of the season.


7. Rafael Leão

FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019"Portugal U20 v Argentina U20"

CIES Valuation: €30m-€40m

Barcelona might be looking for a household name to eventually take on their infamous number nine shirt once Suárez’s time is up, but the club could be hard-pressed to find a better deal than signing AC Milan’s Rafael Leão.

The Portugal Under-21 international has only just moved to San Siro after an impressive season with French side Lille, but Leão would find it difficult to turn down the chance to follow in the footsteps of Barça’s Portuguese legends Deco and Luís Figo.

Leão hasn’t shown too much to suggest that the step up to Barcelona would be seamless but the 20-year-old’s career is still in its infancy and he could still benefit from the chance to learn from Suárez before becoming a starter at the Camp Nou.


6. Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

CIES Valuation: €120m-€150m

It’s been a season to forget for Marcus Rashford, with the England international scoring just one goal since the opening day of the season, but the 21-year-old is still one of Manchester United’s most highly rated players.

Knowing that Rahsford comes with a premium price tag as a young English player, Barcelona would still be getting a versatile forward who can cause problems for any team on the planet thanks to his pace alone.

It’s still largely unknown if the United academy graduate is better suited down the middle or out wide, a problem Barcelona already have trying to fit Antoine Griezmann into their starting lineup, and Rashford could prove to be too much of a gamble in what would likely be a club-record deal.


5. Donyell Malen

Donyell Malen

CIES Valuation: N/A

Former Arsenal academy star Donyell Malen has been linked with a move back to England over the last few weeks in a €60m transfer, but Barcelona have most recently entered the conversation as they look for a new centre-forward.

Similarly to Rashford, Malen hasn’t always been a natural striker, but the 20-year-old has been directly involved in 22 goals across all competitions already this season, while he’s also had more shots than any other player in the Eredivisie.

Barcelona have a long history of signing Dutch players throughout their history, and while Malen would need some time to get used to life at one of the biggest clubs on the planet, he could become the face of their next generation of superstars. 


4. Lautaro Martínez

FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-INTER

CIES Valuation: €50m-€70m

If Barcelona are looking for a halfway house between dishing out a club-record fee for a new striker or signing one for the future, Inter’s Lautaro Martínez would be their go-to player when the transfer window opens next summer.

He’s only spent just over one year in Europe after leaving Racing Club, but Martínez has already made 44 appearances for Inter, scoring 12 goals across all competitions for the Nerazzurri.

The 22-year-old is still developing into a top-level striker, but Martínez has already shown Barcelona that he can make the step up during their meeting earlier this season, while he’s also picked up nine goals in 14 appearances for Argentina.


3. Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino

CIES Valuation: €120m-€150m

If Barcelona are looking for a striker who can bring the perfect balance of goals and build-up play, Roberto Firmino will be at the top of their list of targets.

The 28-year-old has transitioned from an attacking midfielder at Hoffenheim into one of the best centre-forwards on the planet under Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, where he’s been directly involved in 123 goals in 204 games across all competitions.

Firmino isn’t a long-term option but could be exactly what Barcelona need to bring the best out of their other attacking outlets, although as things stand the club’s key decision-makers still haven’t reached a consensus over a move for the Brazil international, according to the gossip.


2. Harry Kane

FBL-EURO-2020-QUALIFYING-ENG-BUL

CIES Valuation: €120m-€150m

Firmly in the conversation over who is the best striker on the planet, Harry Kane could be tempted to move away at the end of the season unless Tottenham’s current form undergoes a massive U-turn.

He’s among a select group of players in Premier League history to reach 100 goals in the top flight in less than 200 appearances, alongside the likes of Alan Shearer, Sergio Agüero and former Barça striker Thierry Henry.

Kane isn’t just one of the best goalscorers on the planet as he’s already shown off his ability to contribute assists, but Barcelona know they’d be getting much more of a one-dimensional striker who might not suit their slower build-up play, especially compared to some of their best throughout history.


1. Kylian Mbappé

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CIES Valuation: €200m-€250m

Barcelona aren’t just looking for a replacement for Suárez next season, as they’ll also be in the hunt for a player who can carry the club as Lionel Messi edges closer the end of his career in Catalonia.

 It might cost them a world-record fee to tempt Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain, especially as he still has a contract at the Parc des Prince until 2022, but Barcelona would be getting their hands on a player who looks certain eventually take the mantle as the best player on the planet.

It’s easy to forget that the World Cup winner is only 20, but Mbappé already has over 100 senior goals for club and country, winning seven major honours at Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco.

Mbappé doesn’t just bring guaranteed goals and bucket loads of potential either, as he’s shown enough versatility already to show that he could fill the boots of Suárez, Messi, or even both over the next decade at Barcelona.


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Alexis Sanchez Set for Spell on Sidelines as On-Loan Inter Star Sustains Ankle Injury With Chile

?Alexis Sanchez has been dealt a major blow after it was confirmed the on-loan Inter forward sustained dislocated ankle tendons while on international duty with Chile.

The 30-year-old was forced to withdraw from his side’s goalless draw with Colombia at the Estadio José Rico Pérez on Saturday after 88 minutes, in what was his first match since the Nerazzurri’s Champions League defeat against former club Barcelona.


A heated contest, that saw a red card branded to one of Colombia’s staff, ended just before full-time for Sanchez in what will be crushing news for both ?Inter and the player himself. The Chilean had earned his spot in Antonio Conte’s starting XI in recent weeks, a run that was only halted by the red card he received on his goalscoring full debut against Sampdoria.

It now appears as if he will be out for the remainder of the year, however, as confirmed on Chile’s ?official website.

The statement reads: The Medical Team of the Chilean National Team confirms that the player Alexis Sánchez dislocated his peroneal tendons of his left ankle with retinal compromise in the second half of the match with Colombia… he is released from the Chilean National Team camp and returns to Milan, where studies with magnetic resonance imaging and dynamic ecotomography will be carried out to make the best therapeutic decision.”

Chile’s head coach Reinaldo Rueda discussed the injury on Radio Cooperativa (via ?The Sun) after the match: “Alexis seems to have a suffered a small blow to the ankle. Tomorrow we will evaluate all aspects more thoroughly. We played against an opponent with different physical qualities.”

Alexis Sanchez

No date has been set for his return, but fears are that he may miss the remainder of the calendar year.

?Sanchez had hoped to revive his stuttering career at the San Siro outfit, after a miserable 18 months with ?United resulted in just five goals in all competitions. Despite being the highest earner at the club, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it clear the former Arsenal player was not in his plans, and was duly sent to Inter on a season-long loan.

It now appears as though Sanchez will miss crucial games for his new club, both in the Champions League and ?Serie A, as they bid to lift a first league title since 2010 and secure passage to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition.

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Italy 2-0 Greece: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Azzurri Secure Euro 2020 Qualification

Italy hosted Greece on Saturday night in another Euro 2020 qualifier, and had the chance to secure their place in next summer’s competition with three points.

Donning a silky, special edition green kit to symbolise the ‘renaissance’ of the Italy team and the inclusion of a number of young players, Roberto Mancini’s men struggled to create any significant chances in the opening 45 minutes, summing up a pretty dreadful first half.

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Italy started the second half with more purpose, but still failed to carve open anything concrete. However, the increased pressure finally paid off in the 61st minute, when they won a penalty following a handball from Andreas Bouchalakis. Jorginho stepped up, and put away the penalty as nonchalantly as always.

Federico Bernardeschi then doubled Italy’s lead soon after with a strike from long range that caught the keeper cold. In all honesty, Alexandros Paschalakis should have done a lot better. 

2-0 was the final score, meaning Italy secured their place in Euro 2020 despite an unconvincing performance. Greece however, now need a miracle if they want to finish in the top two.


ITALY

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Key Talking Point 

The Azzurri have been in formidable form under the management of Roberto Mancini, with six wins from six in their group, and seven from seven in all competitions. As well as having eyes on next year’s competition, Italy would have had a sneaky look at their record for most consecutive wins, which dates all the way back to 1938 and stands at nine.

FBL-EURO-2020-ITA-GRE-QUALIFIER

?This game proved to be tricky for the Italians, and they really struggled to find a way past a resolute Greek defence. However, the most important thing for them is that they got the win to claim their place at Euro 2020, and also stretch their winning run to eight games.

With Liechtenstein and Bosnia and Herzegovina to come, the players will be extremely confident of breaking the record, and putting their names in the history books. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Donnarumma (7); D’Ambrosio (6), Bonucci (6), Acerbi (6), Spinazzola (6); Barella (6), Jorginho (7*) Verratti (6); Chiesa (6), Immobile (5), Insigne (6)

Subs: Bernardeschi (7), Belotti (6), Zaniolo (N/A)


STAR MAN

In a game with very little quality, Chelsea man Jorginho showed his class with a very good display.

The midfielder ran the game in the middle of the park, and attempted to progress the play on multiple occasions with some impressive through balls and forward thinking.

It wasn’t an incredible display, but he was most certainly the best player in an otherwise underwhelming performance. A goal from the penalty spot also capped off his night nicely.


GREECE

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Paschalakis (5); Bakakis (6), Chatzidiakos (7), Siovas (7), Stafylidis (6); Zeca (6), Kourbelis (6) Bouchalakis (5), Bakasetas (7); Limnios (6), Koulouris (6)

Subs: Donis (6), Giannoulis (6), Mantalos (6)?


Looking Ahead

With Italy now qualified, their aim will be to carry on their incredible momentum and – as mentioned earlier – break their winning record. ?With two relatively simple fixtures to come, this should be well within their reach. 

However, it was a far from impressive performance from the Italians, and Mancini will know that they have a lot of work to do if they are to make a mark at the European Championships.

Greece can still mathematically qualify. Realistically…they have no chance. They will have to win their final three games against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Finland, then hope other results go for them. Not happening, folks. 

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Jose Mourinho Names the Greatest Footballer He Has Ever Seen

Jose Mourinho has claimed ?Brazil icon Ronaldo is the greatest player he has ever witnessed on the field of play.

Often dubbed ‘O Fenomeno’ by supporters, the striker twice broke the world-record transfer fee before his 21st birthday, having initially moved to Europe in 1994 after agreeing to join PSV Eindhoven from Cruzeiro. He swiftly moved on, switching to Barcelona two years later in a £16m deal, only to leave Catalonia for Inter after just a single season at the Nou Camp.

Foot : Final / Germany - Brazil / Wc 2002

Aside from Ronaldo’s tally of 13 trophies with various clubs – including ?Real Madrid and the aforementioned trio – the forward collected numerous individual honours, with a brace of Ballon d’Or victories standing as one of his finest achievements in the game.

During an interview with LiveScore, Mourinho took time to discuss the best footballers he’d seen in his lifetime. Asked which of them stood out amongst the rest, the 56-year-old replied (as quoted by ?Marca): “Ronaldo, the phenomenon. 

?Cristiano Ronaldo and ?Lionel Messi have had longer careers, they have remained at the top every day for 15 years. But, if we talk strictly about talent and skill, nobody surpasses Ronaldo. 

“When he was in ?Barcelona with Bobby Robson, I realised that he was the strongest player ever seen on the field.”

Real Madrid's Brazilian Ronaldo (down) l

Ronaldo reached over 400 career goals, despite his career being hampered by injuries. Knee issues began to plague the double world champion during his time at ?Inter in 1999, with fitness problems seeing him miss the entirety of the 2000/01 campaign.

Mourinho took those struggles into account when making his decision, explaining: “The injuries killed a race that could have been even more incredible.

“But, the talent that this 19-year-old boy had was something incredible. In 1997 there is a Barcelona final against Paris Saint-Germain in Rotterdam and goal of Ronaldo, 1-0. Awesome.”


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Under-17 World Cup: 11 Players From 11 Different Countries You Need to Know This Autumn

?The FIFA Under-17 World Cup might be turning into an adult with its 18th instalment later this year in Brazil, but the competition remains the go-to destination for scouts across the globe to catch a glimpse of the latest batch of wonderkids.

It’s a platform which has already seen the likes of Cesc Fàbregas, Toni Kroos, Landon Donovan and most recently Phil Foden shine as players of the tournament since its inception in 1985.

England won’t have a chance to defend their title after failing to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil, but fans might still want to tune in to catch a glimpse of the biggest stars of tomorrow.

And just in case you do, here’s 11 players from 11 different counties who are bound to leave their mark on the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.


11. Lucien Agoumé

France U17 v Slovakia U17 - UEFA U17 Elite Round

Age: 17

Club: Inter

Country: France

It’s been an unbelievable year for Lucien Agoumé, who made his senior debut at Sochaux as well as reached new heights with the French youth teams before securing a £4m move to join Serie A giants Inter.

Even though he’s already being promoted into France Under-18 side, Agoumé is still eligible to compete at the Under-17 World Cup and he’ll even be one of the oldest players in Brazil later this month.

Did you know? France are the only side to ever win an Under-17 World Cup final by more than two goals (3-0 vs Nigeria in 2001).


10. Marcelo Flores


Age: 15

Club: Arsenal

Country: Mexico

At the other end of the age spectrum at the World Cup will be Mexico’s Marcelo Flores, who joined Arsenal’s famous academy system earlier this year from Ipswich Town.

He’s joined in north London by his two sisters Silvana and Tatiana, and crucially for fans he already has experienced football above his normal age group so could have a staring role for El Tri at the Under-17 World Cup.

Did you know? Mexico conceded just three goals during qualification for the Under-17 World Cup – one every 210 minutes.


9. Alexander Aravena

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Age: 17

Club: CD Universidad Católica

Country: Chile

He’s not the only player on this list who still doesn’t have any senior minutes under his belt at club level, but Alexander Aravena could be fast-tracked into the top flight of Chilean football if he continues to provide goals and assists at youth level.

Aravena finished as the third top goalscorer at the recent Under-17 South American championships and he’ll be looking to replicate that form alongside Luis Rojas.

Did you know? Chile scored more goals (17) than any other South American qualifier. But they also conceded the most (nine).


8. Etienne Eto’o Pineda


Age: 17

Club: RCD Mallorca

Country: Cameroon

While the likes of Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone and Justin Kluivert have already broken through youth football being compared to their fathers, the son of former Barcelona and Inter striker Samuel Eto’o is about to go through the same.

Having only recently been selected for Under-17 duty with Cameroon, Etienne Eto’o Pineda could be in action for Les Lions Indomptables sooner rather than later.

Coming through the ranks with Spanish side Mallorca – where his dad scored 66 goals in 154 games – Eto’o Pineda has already been named in Cameroon’s provisional squad for the Under-17 World Cup.

Did you know? Eto’o Pineda’s teammate Steve Mvoue, who was named Player of the Tournament at this year’s Under-17 Cup of Nations, is the son of former Cameroon women’s international Regine Mvoue.


7. Noah Botic


Age: 17

Club: TSG Hoffenheim

Country: Australia

The cousin of Australia international Tomi Juric, teenager Noah Botic has already taken his first steps in European football after swapping his native side Rockdale City Suns for TSG Hoffenheim in Germany.

He’s already made three appearances in Germany’s Under-19 league this season, playing out of position in midfield on the opening day, then again on the left wing the next week, before scoring in his preferred place as a centre-forward against Ingolstadt.

Did you know? Australia came close to winning the Under-17 World Cup in 1999, but ultimately lost 8-7 in a penalty shootout to three-time champions Brazil.


6. Sebastiano Esposito

Sebastiano Esposito

Age: 17

Club: Inter

Country: Italy

Italy striker Sebastian Esposito will be one of the oldest players at the Under-17 World Cup, with an outstanding record in the Azzurri’s youth sides already under his belt.

He’ll also be one of the most experienced at a senior level, as although Esposito has only ever made one senior appearance for Inter, he was included in their matchday squad which travelled to Barcelona in the Champions League earlier this season.

Esposito has also made the bench three times in Serie A under Antonio Conte, but he hasn’t made an appearance for Inter since he came off the bench in last season’s Europa League clash against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Did you know? At the age of 16 years and eight months, Esposito became the third-youngest player in Inter’s 111-year history in March.


5. Matías Palacios


Age: 17

Club: San Lorenzo

Country: Argentina

If you can do enough to make Lionel Messi smile during a training session, then you’ve got to be doing something right.

Matías Palacios has had a lot of hype around him for quite some time, having made his first-team debut for Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro at just 16 years, four months and 11 days – making him the club’s youngest ever player.

He’s spent time training with Argentina’s senior squad and is already making appearances with their youth teams that are above his age range.

Did you know? Argentina goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo went five games without conceding a goal during the South American Championships.


4. Giovanni Reyna


Age: 16

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Country: United States

The United States have never reached a final of the Under-17 World Cup, with their best place finish currently coming from their star-studded squad which included the likes of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, who finished fourth in 1999.

At the heart of this year’s challenge will be Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna, who moved to Germany during the summer transfer window after coming through New York City FC’s academy system.

He hasn’t featured for Lucien Favre’s first-team this season, but Reyna has already taken the Under-19 Bundesliga by storm, scoring two goals and picking up six assists in just seven appearances.

Did you know? Midfielder Gianluca Busio is the second-youngest player to sign for a Major League Soccer club, joining Sporting Kansas at the age of just 15. In August 2018, aged 16, he became the third-youngest player to start an MLS match.


3. Xavi Simons

U16 Netherlands v U16 Germany - Algarve Cup

Age: 16

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Country: Netherlands

Xavi Simons, whose father Regillio made over 100 appearances in the Eredivise, is still in his first season at Paris Saint-Germain but he’s already made two appearances in the UEFA Youth League – an Under-19 competition.

He spent nine years being nurtured in Barcelona’s La Masia academy and even qualified for Spanish citizenship, but Dutch football’s next big thing has already assured the Netherlands he won’t switch his allegiances. 

Did you know? Ajax’s Naci Ünüvar, who became the youngest player to score in the UEFA Youth League in 2018, was also the first 15-year-old to net in a UEFA Under-17 Championship final.


2. Reinier


Age: 17

Club: Flamengo

Country: Brazil

Eligible for the Under-17 World Cup by just over two weeks, Reinier is already a regular in first-team football with Brazilian Série A side Flamengo, having already featured in the top flight and Copa Libertadores.

Brazil Under-17’s captain might be an attacking midfielder by trade but he’s already proven he can be a threat in front of goal, scoring five in ten with the international team’s youth side.

Did you know? Brazil legends Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Geovanni (both 1997) and Adriano (1999) have all lifted the Under-17 World Cup, while Marcelo was a runner-up in 2005.


1. Pedri

Pedro Gonzalez Lopez ''Pedri''

Age: 16

Club: UD Las Palmas 

Country: Spain

The most recognisable player at the Under-17 World Cup could have been Barcelona’s Ansu Fati, but it’s already been confirmed that the 16-year-old will instead stay in Catalunya, where he could feature in El Clásico.

Instead, Spain could look towards Las Palmas midfielder Pedri to guide them through the competition in Brazil, with the 16-year-old already playing (and scoring) for La Roja’s Under-18 squad.

Pedri has missed just one match this season due to commitments with the national team, but in nine appearances he’s scored three goals and picked up one assist in Spain’s second division, helping Las Palmas to within three points of the top two – Cádiz are already 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Did you know? Seven of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010 – Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres – are also graduates of the Under-17 World Cup.


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