The veteran Spanish defender has reached the twilight of his career.
The name of Gerard Pique will surely be mentioned among the greats at FC Barcelona. The Spaniard has won everything at club and international level and has been one of the best centre-backs in Europe. Pique was the best not only because of his performances, but also his leadership and passion for the shirt.
With the veteran defender in his twilight years, the Blaugrana faithful are preparing themselves for a life without their superstar. Given Barcelona’s financial woes, replacing a legendary figure like Pique will be a difficult task. But, given the club’s stature it doesn’t seem impossible.
Here is the list of top five centre-backs that would be the ideal replacement for Gerard Pique:
5. Jules Kounde
The 22-year-old Jules Kounde was set to join Chelsea until Sevilla pulled the plug on the transfer. Kounde is not amongst the tallest of defenders. But, what he lacks in height he certainly makes up for it with positioning. Kounde’s reading of the game is exceptional and he’s composed at the back. His pace and ability on the ball may be key to the way Barcelona play. The Frenchman completed the most dribbles per match as a defender in La Liga last season, with 0.9 per 90.
Should Barcelona take advantage of Chelsea’s failure to capture him, he would certainly be a long-term replacement for Gerard Pique.
4. Pau Torres
Pau Torres had an exceptional 2020/21 season which saw him replace Gerard Pique in the Spain squad. He was a cornerstone of Villarreal’s Europa League triumph last term. Torres was linked with a move away in the summer transfer window. The likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona were all interested in his services.
At just 24, he is regarded as the next mainstay of the Spanish defence. Talking about his defensive prowess, he is as tall as Pique and is a no-nonsense defender. He is good with short passes, clearances and tackles. His height also makes him an aerial threat. Barcelona would be keen to get their man next summer and if the move is to go through, Torres would fit in perfectly at the left centre-back slot in the playing XI.
3. Diego Carlos
When Ivan Rakitic left for Sevilla, Barcelona insisted on a swap deal for Diego Carlos, but were unable to make it happen. The Catalans gained interest in him due to his marvellous performances. He was once among the list of top 10 defenders in La Liga.
Diego Carlos is known for his composure and reading of the game. He is a sensible centre-back and does not dive into tackles. For a defender his passing stats are exceptional and he can also play as a defensive midfielder. At 28, with his experience, he could be the ideal replacement for Gerard Pique.
2. Aymeric Laporte
Under Pep Guardiola , Aymeric Laporte became one of the best centre-backs in Europe. Before the arrival of Ruben Dias, he was considered untouchable at Manchester City and rightfully so. Laporte is exceptional with the ball at his feet and has averaged 83.02 passes per match. He can easily evade the high press and move forward with the ball.
Laporte has the Barcelona identity engraved in him. The tall and physical French defender is a serial winner and could slot easily into the starting lineup of any elite European team. But, due to his untimely injury and with John Stones finding his feet. Laporte just made 16 appearances in the 2020/21 season. There were reports of him being unhappy, and wanting a move away from Manchester City. If Barcelona were to enter the frame, Laporte could be an ideal Gerard Pique replacement.
1. Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt’s great 2018/19 season at Ajax earned him interest from Barcelona. But, Juventus beat the Blaugrana to his signature. De Ligt later admitted that he nearly signed for Barca, but felt he could grow faster at Juventus. Two years since his move to Turin, De Ligt has struggled to adapt to the team’s playing style. He has been in and out of the team. Given Juventus’ financial crisis, they would be willing to let the 22-year-old leave for the right amount.
De Ligt has a release clause of €160m. If Barcelona were to negotiate a deal for the Dutch defender, he would be re-united with Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Koeman. De Ligt is a proper old school centre-back. His swiftness on the ball and leadership skills on the field is what is needed for Barcelona as the replacement for Gerard Pique.