Time and again we are told of Barcelona’s dependance on Lionel Messi and how they wouldn’t be close to the same team without his influence.
That is ostensibly true of course, but there are other players in the team that are coming to the end of their professional careers and for whom the Catalans will find just as hard to replace.
One of those is their central defender, Gerard Pique.A lot has been written about the elegant Catalan of late, and much of it not complimentary.
As intelligent a footballer as they come, Pique has many other interests away from the sport, and the accusation that he doesn’t devote enough focus to Barca has dogged him over the last couple of years.
Much of it without foundation it has to be said.
His company, Kosmos, was behind the video to announce Antoine Griezmann’s decision to stay at Atletico Madrid – though he would ultimately end up at Barca of course – and that went down like a lead balloon with board and fans alike.
Many of them also disagree with Kosmos being in charge of tennis’ Davis Cup, meaning a raft of transatlantic flights during the season for the defender.
Whilst their ire is somewhat understandable, there hasn’t been a single occasion to date where Pique has dipped in terms of form on the pitch.
In fact, he has been the standout player in Barca’s back four for some while, along with Jordi Alba.
Clement Lenglet has been steady without being spectacular, whilst Samuel Umtiti won’t win his place back just yet and Jean-Clair Todibo is still a little raw for this level.
The conclusion that can easily be drawn is how, and more importantly when, do they replace him?
There’s still a couple of season’s in him yet, but Barca can’t leave it until one or two transfer windows before they start looking at Pique’s replacement.
If anything, the club’s scouts need to be looking around now, pinpointing European football’s finest centre-backs and start making in-roads in terms of tentative negotiations.
It’s accepted that Messi is a one-off, but with the right people in place to procure talent, there will be a replacement for Pique out there.
Cost will be a factor, but every title winning side is built on a solid defence. Barcelona can’t go shopping in the bargain basement for one of their most important positions, and decent centre-backs aren’t ten a penny.
They should therefore do their groundwork immediately and make acquiring Pique’s successor their priority.