Barcelona have shortlist of targets to replace Luis Suarez

VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on December 16, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images)
VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on December 16, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images) /

The Catalans have a list of targets they are scouting as potential replacements for Luis Suarez.

Barcelona are preparing for the future as Luis Suarez is starting his decline due to being the wrong side of 30, so they are looking around Europe for targets who can fill the role. It requires a lot to be able to play in that position for Barca due to how involved the striker is in combination play and being the first line of defence in terms of pressing as well as the usual requirements.

According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have a seven-man shortlist of players who could potentially replace the Uruguayan: Kasper Dolberg, Timo Werner, Nicolas Pepe, Luka Jovic, Krzysztof Piatek, Maxi Gomez and Andre Silva. These are all realistic targets due to them not being at one of the top clubs in Europe, so the appeal of playing for Barcelona is a powerful tool. However, some of them such as Werner and Silva are likely to require large fees.

Dolberg has been sharing the centre-forward role at Ajax with experienced striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, so his playing time has been limited, but he has started to find the form which helped Ajax reach the 2016/17 Europa League final. He has made little impact in the Champions League, though, and there is a big gap in quality between La Liga and the Eredivisie. Therefore, other targets are more suitable.

Werner has been a key player since he joined RB Leipzig in 2016 with two consecutive seasons as top scorer and the current campaign is unlikely to be any different. He suffered a dip last season as he only scored 13 league goals, but just looking at his contributions neglects a large part of his game as Leipzig’s style requires all the players to contribute to the defensive shape and he acts as the first line of the high press.

His dynamism allows him to occupy positions all along the front line in order to exploit gaps and Ralf Rangnick has encouraged him to move across to the left-wing from where he can make runs between the full-back and centre-back. He could fit in at Barcelona due to being comfortable out wide so he could accommodate Lionel Messi playing centrally from the start or as an in-game tweak. His varied skillset means he would be a good fit for Barcelona.

Pepe has spearheaded Lille’s strong start to the league campaign with his 12 league goals, even though he plays on the right-wing, as well as five assists. He will often make diagonal runs as well as roaming into central positions due to the fluidity of the front three. His movement off-the-ball, expert finishing, trickery, pace and quick footwork make him a tough opponent to deal with as he can hurt an opposition defence in multiple ways. He is a promising talent, but he needs to prove himself over a longer time span.

Eintracht Frankfurt have been one of the surprises of the season in the Bundesliga due to Adi Hutter having an instant impact after joining the club from Young Boys in the summer. Forward trio Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller have been a crucial part of that. The young Serbian striker is having a remarkable season because he has already surpassed last season’s tally with 15 goals in just 1195 minutes, although five of them came in one match.

Jovic is certainly one to watch for the rest of the season and if he keeps up his current rate then he could be worth making a move for. However, it’s currently unclear how well he would be able to contribute to link-up play which is a key part of a striker’s role at Barcelona.

Piatek is having a breakthrough season with Genoa in Serie A after joining the club in the summer from Polish side Cracovia. He is currently top of the goalscorer standings in the league with 12 goals in just 1324 minutes as well as six goals in the Coppa Italia. The quality of his finishing can be seen by the fact that he is overperforming xG by 3.76, per Understat, although that does mean his scoring rate is likely to diminish. Signing the 23-year-old would be a huge risk as this season could just be an anomaly.

Celta Vigo have had a topsy-turvy season so far due to Antonio Mohamed’s unsuccessful tenure and a new manager in Miguel Cardoso. However, Gomez has been a reliable performer for the team with eight goals and four assists in 1153 minutes. The Uruguayan is an excellent focal point for the attack due to his physicality and aerial ability, but his defensive contributions and link-up play needs to improve significantly if he is to replace his international teammate at Barca.

Silva has been a changed player since he joined Sevilla on loan with an option to buy in the summer because he has refound the form which made him a sought-after prospect while at Porto after a hugely disappointing season at AC Milan. Eight goals and one assist in 1293 minutes is an impressive return, although he is underperforming xG by 0.93, according to Understat.

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Sevilla are equally capable of breaking down teams patiently or catching them in transition due to Pablo Machin’s ambitious midfield trio in his 3-5-2 system, but this is reliant on the intelligence of Silva, Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia in terms of the positions they take up. Silva will often shift out wide based on the runs his teammates are making as well as gaps in the opposition’s defensive shape. Therefore, he can wokr in a fluid front three comfortably.

Werner and Silva are the best options for the Catalans based on their consistency as well as what else they can offer the team aside from just goals.