Barcelona may rue decision not to strengthen defence, says Nadal

The Catalan club made bids for Chelsea’s David Luiz and Liverpool’s Daniel Agger in the summer but finally opted against signing a centre-back as only Neymar arrived in the window

EXCLUSIVE
By Ben Hayward

Former Barcelona defender Miguel Angel Nadal believes the Catalan club made a mistake by failing to recruit a central defender in the summer transfer window.

Barca bid for Chelsea’s David Luiz and Liverpool’s Daniel Agger in July, while the Spanish champions were also left frustrated as top target Thiago Silva committed his future to Paris Saint-Germain.

In the end, new coach Gerardo Martino opted to stick with the squad at his disposal, with captain Carles Puyol closing in on a return following knee surgery on a persistent problem in June,

“Puyol is our signing,” sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said on Tuesday. “We were unable to achieve the objective of signing a centre-back so, with ‘Tata’ Martino, we decided to stay as we are. Puyol’s recovery has been very good.”

But the Catalan defender is 35, increasingly prone to injury and cannot cope with the demands of a long season at this stage of his career, while Zubizarreta and president Sandro Rosell have come under fire this summer for their inability to attract a defender after signing Neymar back in May.

And Nadal, who played as a centre-back under Johan Cruyff in Barca’s legendary Dream Team, claims the Catalans could regret their failure to improve their backline this summer.

“Everybody could see Barcelona needed to sign a centre-back,” the former Spain international told Goal. “If you look at where Barcelona needed to strengthen, it was in defence.

Out of reach | Barca have tried – and failed – to sign Thiago Silva for the last two summers

“If you are talking about urgencies then perhaps you have to pay more, but you can maybe sign a player to cover several positions, like [Javier] Mascherano, who started off in midfield. But either way, it’s an area where Barcelona needed to strengthen.”

However, the Blaugrana sought such a solution last summer by signing midfielder Alex Song from Arsenal and the Cameroonian has been used sparingly in defence ever since a nightmare display in Seville early last season.

Meanwhile, it is often said that Barca struggle to identify suitable centre-backs because the Catalans seek a player who possesses sound technique, plus the ability to operate high up the pitch.

“I think that is naturally required,” Nadal added. “But I don’t think it’s everything. If a player is technically gifted then all the better; playing for Barcelona is never easy but I think they can find the profile [of player] they are looking for.

“It’s a position in which I don’t feel it is necessary to shine with so much technique because Barcelona have great technique all over the pitch.”

Gerard Pique and Mascherano are currently the first-choice pairing for Barca, with Puyol on the road to recovery and youngster Marc Bartra another alternative. Sergio Busquets has also deputised at the back in recent seasons, although the Catalans have encountered problems against strong sides such as Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich when forced to use midfielders at the back.

Barca have also changed coach, with Martino moving to Camp Nou after Tito Vilanova stepped down to continue treatment for cancer earlier in the summer. And Nadal claims the current campaign could prove complicated for his former club,

“Every time there is a change of coach, there are other changes,” he explained. “Barcelona have a very defined style, but there hasn’t been much time [for Martino to settle in].

“I think the team could find it difficult this year to reach the level and the style of recent seasons.”

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'I decided to stay at Chelsea' – David Luiz claims he rejected Barcelona offer

The Primera Division holders had made a €25.5 million bid for the Brazilian, with the Blues demanding double, but the centre-back did not want to leave Stamford Bridge

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David Luiz claims that he turned down a move to Barcelona during the summer transfer window because he is happy to stay at Chelsea.

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The Catalan giants made an initial €25.5 million offer to Jose Mourinho’s side but were told that it would take closer to €50m for the Blues to sanction a sale.

“There was an official offer [from Barcelona] but I decided to stay at Chelsea,” Luiz told reporters while away on international duty.

“I am happy to play for a big club and be in the national team to represent my country.”

Barca eventually turned their attentions to Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger after negotiations with Chelsea, but were shot down on that front as well.

Coach Gerardo Martino eventually declared himself “happy with the team I have” and no defender made the move to Camp Nou.

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Transfer mix-up leaves Moyes under pressure

Rumblings of discontent can be heard at Old Trafford after a strange summer of transfer recruitment left Manchester United seemingly trailing behind Chelsea and Manchester City.

Despite being linked with a host of players, David Moyes’s only significant signing was Everton’s MarouaneFellaini while the likes of Leighton Baines, Fabio Coentrao, Sami Khedira, Ander Herrera and CescFabregas all slipped through the club’s fingers.

Fabregas had appeared to be Moyes’s main target but the former Arsenal star opted to stay at Barcelona, while the stories that have been published in the Unibet betting news since the transfer window closed on Monday evening appear to suggest there was an element of panic in United’s last-gasp dealings.

While Arsenal were sealing a major coup by enticing MesutOzil to join them from Real Madrid, his Germany international team-mate Khedira has revealed that Real rejected a £33.9million bid from United to secure his services.

“The club turned down the offer and that was it. We didn’t really have the chance to discuss it. I had a longer chat with Carlo Ancelotti a few weeks ago and it was relatively clear to me that I’d stay at Real,” revealed Khedira.

Meanwhile, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Herrera appeared to be on his way to Old Trafford on Monday amid reports that a release clause of around £31million had been activated in his contract.

However, no transfer was finalised although it is believed Moyes may revive his interest in the player in January.

United failed to match Everton’s valuation of Baines so no deal was finalised for the left-back although bizarrely they were willing to pay £27.5million to sign Fellaini when they could have snapped up the Belgium international for £4million less last month.

A late attempt to sign Fabio Coentrao also fell through which left many United fans contemplating whether such a disorganised recruitment policy would have been allowed to develop on Sir Alex Ferguson’s watch.

Atletico Madrid new-boy Alderweireld reveals Liverpool snub

The former Ajax man says Brendan Rodgers’ approach came too late as he has already decided to move to La Liga and sign a four-year deal with Atleti

Toby Alderweireld has revealed he turned down an approach from Liverpool before joining Atletico Madrid on Monday.

The 24-year-old had been linked with a number of sides during the close-season but opted to swap the Eredivisie for La Liga at the last minute and signed a four-year deal with Atletico.

Liverpool, though, secured defensive additions in the shape of Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho, leaving the Belgian content with his decision.

“The club have been following me now for two or three weeks, and you could see they really wanted me,” he told reporters.

“That is why I turned down approaches from other teams. Liverpool, for example, appeared in the last few days, but I had already made my decision.

“The truth is that Atletico made a huge effort to convince me.”

Ilori and Sakho, who arrived from Sporting Lisbon and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, helped to bring Brendan Rodgers’ tally of new additions up to nine – with Chelsea star Victor Moses also completing a late loan move.

Low: Madrid selling Ozil is "incomprehensible"

The 24-year-old joined Arsenal for a club record fee of €50m on Monday in a deal that has caused widespread surprise in his homeland and across Europe

Germany head coach Joachim Low says Real Madrid’s sale of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal is “incomprehensible”.

The 24-year-old joined the north London club for a club record fee of €50m, and Low simply cannot understand why los Blancos chose to get rid of him.

“For me, it is a bit incomprehensible that Real Madrid would get rid of one of their best players, who is of a high quality and looked more decisive than ever last season,” Low told reporters.

“Mesut still needs to feel as though he has complete confidence from his coach.

“From what I heard from Madrid ahead of the transfer, you could feel that the trust was no longer there 100 per cent. Arsenal tried hard to sign him. That did him good.

“Ozil’s Arsenal move will be a good transfer for the national team because he will play for a team which has an overall great technique – that is good for him.”

Ozil moved to the Santiago Bernabeu from Werder Bremen in 2010, having impressed hugely at the World Cup in South Africa that summer.

The attacking midfielder went on to make 159 appearances for the club, scoring 27 times.