Xavi insists Barcelona were looking for a different kind of striker to Vitor Roque as he declined to introduce the young Brazilian off the bench in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Club.
The match ended 2-2 after 90 minutes, with Robert Lewandowski scoring early on before being replaced late in regular time. After the first period of extra time was goalless, Xavi looked to his bench and introduced 18-year-old academy product Marc Guiu to try and change the game, leaving Roque on the bench.
The gamble ultimately did not pay off, with Guiu powerless to prevent his side from falling to a 4-2 defeat, and questions were quickly asked over Xavi’s reluctance to use a striker who arrived for an initial £26m and could cost as much as £52m when all is said and done.
“Vitor Roque entered the last match and today came Marc Guiu. We intended to look for a more direct option,” said Xavi as he sought to justify his decision.
Despite this high-profile snub, Xavi was adamant he remains supportive of Roque and promised further opportunities to the 18-year-old in future.
“Vitor is very young, he will have minutes and will continue to be important,” he said. “I believe he is a player who has qualities that can help us a lot.”
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Competing with Lewandowski for minutes was always going to be a challenge for Roque upon his arrival in Catalonia. He has managed four appearances off the bench so far this month, two of which came in the previous two rounds of the Copa del Rey.
Roque did replace Lewandowski on the hour mark of the recent 4-2 win over Real Betis, when Barcelona were searching for a goal, and it appeared as though Xavi was prepared to put his faith in the January recruit.
Finding a reliable striker remains a dilemma for Xavi, who has watched 35-year-old Lewandowski struggle in front of goal in recent months.
The iconic marksman has scored in just two La Liga matches since September and managed just one goal in the Champions League group stages, although he has flirted with a resurgence this month after bagging four goals across five games in various cup competitions.
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