Looking for a Larsson – Klose, Lewandowski & the strikers who could move to Barcelona in January
Coach Gerardo Martino is keen to recruit a frontman prepared to play a support role at Camp Nou, much like the Swede did in his time at the Catalan club between 2004 and 2006
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
For the first season in memory, Barcelona do not have a recognised centre-forward in their first-team squad. Even though Lionel Messi has largely been used in the ‘false nine’ role in recent seasons, the Catalans could count on David Villa as an alternative, as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o in previous seasons.
Barca boast excellent options among their fantastic forwards, of course, with Cesc Fabregas, Neymar and even Alexis Sanchez suited to a central role in addition to Messi. None of them, however, are out-and-out strikers – and coach Gerardo Martino is keen to boost his front line by bringing in a recognised centre-forward.
There is one condition, though: the player who comes in must be prepared to bide his time on the bench and wait for opportunities, much like Henrik Larsson did during his time at Camp Nou between 2004 and 2006. Barca hope to identify a ‘new Larsson’ – a player who can come on and make an impact, and probably one who is in the twilight of his career.
Here, Goal looks at the players under consideration by Barca to fulfil such a role as the Catalan club look to recruit a striker either in January or – as seems more likely at this stage – next summer.
Martino has already coached Cardozo for Paraguay between 2007 and 2011 and considered a move for the Benfica forward in the summer. Cardozo, 30, has just nine goals in 46 games for his country but boasts an excellent scoring record at club level.
However, the former Newell’s striker would not come cheap. Cardozo’s contract runs until 2016 and Benfica have no need to sell one of their prized players, who is valued at around €12 million.
His agent, Pedro Aldave, last week hinted at a possible summer switch to Camp Nou for his client. “Barca do not have a number nine and therefore it is a possibility when the current championship ends,” he said.
|NELSON HAEDO VALDEZ (AL JAZIRA)
Another Paraguayan who could make the move to Barcelona is Nelson Heado Valdez, who is currently playing for Al Jazira in UAE but who would arrive with Liga experience following his time at Hercules and Valencia.
Haedo Valdez, who is 30 next month, shocked Camp Nou by scoring both goals as then-promoted team Hercules beat Barcelona on the Catalan national day, La Diada, on September 11, 2010. However, the forward was unable to build on his dream debut, scoring just eight in 26 games as Hercules were relegated. Last term, he hit just nine in 40 for Valencia.
“To be on their list, I must have done something right,” Haedo Valdez tweeted earlier this month after he was linked with a move by Catalan daily El Mundo Deportivo.
Miroslav Klose has long been considered by Barcelona as a player who can come in and fill the ‘Larsson role’, but the Germany striker chose Lazio after leaving Bayern Munich in 2011 as he wanted first-team football and he has continued his impressive scoring form in Italy.
However, the all-time top scorer for Germany is out of contract in the summer and could be tempted to see out his career as an impact player for the Catalan club.
Klose is the preferred option of many Barca fans to fill the position. His height and all-round ability make him an attractive alternative for Martino and the only concern for the Catalans will be his age – Miroslav will be 36 when his current contract expires next summer.
|ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)
Barca are also monitoring Robert Lewandowski, who is also out of contract in the summer and could be tempted to move to Camp Nou.
However, the Poland striker is just 25 and is considered to be one of the world’s finest forwards, and is therefore unlikely to accept a bit-part role behind Messi et al and seems certain to choose a club where he will be the first-choice centre-forward.
Lewandowski still seems set to join Borussia Dortmund’s big rivals Bayern Munich in the summer, but denied last week that a deal was already done for the switch to Pep Guardiola’s side.
|GEORGIOS SAMARAS (CELTIC)
Georgios Samaras and Barcelona may seem an unlikely match, but the Catalan club have been impressed with the Greek striker’s work-rate and commitment in recent clashes between the two teams and he is on their list of possible targets.
Samaras, 28, would bring pace and aerial ability to a Catalan attack lacking in height and is a popular choice among the supporters – even if he has scored just 69 goals in 228 games for the Scottish side.
Larsson, by comparison, netted an astonishing 242 times in 313 games for Celtic before moving to Barca in 2004.
|ROQUE SANTA CRUZ (MALAGA)
Another Paraguayan, Roque Santa Cruz, is among the names on Barca’s list. Currently at Malaga, the 32-year-old scored 12 times in 45 games for the Andalusians last term and managed to stay relatively free from injury following several troublesome campaigns.
Santa Cruz, like Cardozo and Haedo Valdez, has played under Martino at international level with Paraguay. The striker has scored 28 in 95 games for his country.
His height and goalscoring ability make him an intriguing option for the Catalan club and, at this stage of his career, he is likely to be content with a role on the bench.
|DAVID TREZEGUET (NEWELL’S)
David Trezeguet is also on Barcelona’s radar. The former France striker is currently at Martino’s ex-team Newell’s in Argentina (on loan from River Plate) and could complete a cut-price move to Spain either in January or in the summer.
Trezeguet played previously in La Liga with Hercules in 2010-11, scoring 12 times in 31 games in a season which started well but which ended in poor form, off-the-field issues with the club and finally, relegation. He is now separated and currently divorcing his Spanish wife of 13 years, Beatriz Villalba.
The 1998 World Cup winner turned 36 last week, however, and his age may be a deterrent. However, Martino is likely to ask his contacts at Newell’s about the Frenchman’s form and, if positive, may make a move for the former Juventus striker.