- FC Barcelona is linked with Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Marcus Rashford, according to Mundo Deportivo.
- Barcelona wants one of those players to replace veteran striker Luis Suarez, whose contract expires in 2021.
- But only one of the three linked is suitable to Barça. That player is Mbappe.
- Read more of our soccer stories here.
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FC Barcelona has a shortlist of players to replace its veteran striker Luis Suarez, according to the daily Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Suarez’s contract at Camp Nou expires in 2021, when he’ll be 34. Though he is still performing at a high level now, his effectiveness at the top will abate with age.
But Barça seemingly has a succession plan already as the Spanish champion is reportedly considering signing Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, or Marcus Rashford.
Kane and Rashford are worth $US160 million according to their CIES market valuations, while Mbappe could cost as much as $US275 million.
Two of those players would prove costly errors for Barça
Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane, 26, is further along in his career than Rashford, with 130 Premier League goals. But Manchester United’s 21-year-old forward has already established himself as one of the planet’s brightest young talents since he burst onto the scene at Old Trafford in 2016.
Talent aside, each presents their own problems which would see them fail at Barcelona, should the La Liga heavyweight prise them from England.
Kane is simply not a good fit for Ernesto Valverde’s side.
In Suarez, Barcelona has a striker who is happy to play anywhere across the front three, acting as a provider and a goalscorer. Since joining the club in 2014, Suarez has scored 157 goals in the Spanish league and Europe combined while also tallying 75 assists.
Kane’s goalscoring record is similar to Suarez’s across that same period but his assist record is far inferior, managing only 23 – fewer than a third of Suarez’s total.
At Tottenham, Kane is given licence to shoot on sight. At Barcelona, that same freedom would not apply. He’d be expected to drop deep, collect the ball, take on players, and feed teammates just as he would be expected to drift wide in a fluid attacking line, just as Suarez does at the Camp Nou presently, and others have before him.
As good as Kane is, that just isn’t his game. His game is built on staying central, and either holding it up or hitting the target at the earliest opportunity.
Rashford has more promise but still poses problems.
Rashford is as almost as prolific at supplying the final ball as he is finishing the move himself, with 39 career goals and 23 assists in Premier League and UEFA competitions.
Rashford was excellent as a teenager, thriving as Manchester United’s sole striker, a responsibility bestowed upon him at the time by the former manager Louis Van Gaal.
But after the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford, Rashford’s form dipped when he was pushed to a wider role.
When Ole Gunnar Solsjaer became manager around Christmas, 2018, shunning striker Romelu Lukaku in favour of Rashford, the young Englishman returned eight goals in a 13 game period. When Lukaku returned to the team in March and Rashford was moved back out wide, he managed just three for the rest of the season.
It is clear where Rashford plays his most effective soccer, but to play effectively at Barcelona he must play wherever Messi doesn’t want to play – that could be out wide, or up front.
Any player who moves to the Camp Nou is expected to accommodate the world’s best player. Suarez had to do it, and talented attackers before like David Villa and Thierry Henry had to do it before him.
Even Ibrahimovic had to do it, much to his own distaste.
“[Messi] went to [club manager Pep] Guardiola and said, ‘I don’t want to be on the right wing any more, I want to play in the centre,'” the Swede said in his 2014 autobiography “I Am Zlatan.”
He added: “I was the striker. Guardiola didn’t give a damn about that, though. He changed the tactical formation. Guardiola had to listen to him.”
Rashford will be no exception. Part of Suarez, Villa, and Henry’s success at the club was because of their willingness to play secondary to Messi.
It’s for the opposite reason why Ibrahimovic, and Alexis Sanchez struggled in Spain, and were ultimately offloaded.
Despite Rashford’s talent, his inflexibility would see him suffer the same fate as Sanchez.
Barça needs someone who can play multiple positions when needed, in a a fluid front three. That someone just isn’t Rashford.
$US275 million Mbappe is the one Barcelona should sign
Barcelona wants a proven goalscorer who is equally capable of providing for its teammates, and happy to vacate a central role for a position further wide. That proven player is Mbappe.
“He’s a phenomenon. He’s clearly going to be the best player in the world in the future,” former Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said of Mbappe in September, according to Goal.
“If I had him in front of me I’d be giving him assists all the time because he’s so fast, explosive, but he’s also very clever in slipping his markers.”
Mbappe has only played three seasons as a professional but he has delivered something more than the 77 goals and 35 assists he has provided in Ligue 1 and UEFA competitions.
Throughout his time at the Parc des Princes with PSG he has proven he can play both out wide and also centrally in a fluid front three – just as he would be expected to do at Barcelona.
Mbappe’s relationship with Edinson Cavani and Neymar has yielded great success for PSG with the trio, nicknamed “MCN,” tallying a combined 161 goals in the past two seasons, whilst swapping positions at ease in a fluid frontline.
The triumvirate’s relationship is not so different to Barcelona’s own famous “MSN” trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, who enjoyed a similar symbiosis between 2014-2017, managing an extraordinary 364 combined goals in all competitions at the time.
“They are certainly the best frontline that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Oliver Kay, formerly of The Times, speaking about “MSN.”
“No other combination comes close. It’s not just the number of goals they score. It’s the beguiling, beautiful, almost telepathic brilliance of their interplay.”
The one constant in all of Barcelona’s front threes over the years has been “M” – Messi.
The Argentine is showing no signs of slowing down, however at 32 years old, he is approaching the twilight of his career.
Mbappe may be eyed as a replacement for Suarez in the short term, but in the long run, it could be Messi he ends up replacing, in turn becoming the Spanish club’s new “M”, and the focal point of their attacking trio in the years that follow.
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