Andoni Zubizarreta – Fit For Barcelona’s Director of Football?
Andoni Zubizarreta was named Barcelona’s Director of Football on 2 July 2010. He came to replace Txiki Begiristain, who joined Manchester City. After the successful Guardiola period, many experts questioned Barcelona’s transfer policy. But who must be blamed for the transfer policy: Rossel for not making funds available or Andoni Zubizarreta for making some poor deals?
In his first year as Barcelona’s Director of Football, Andoni Zubizarreta signed Adriano and Javier Mascherano. Those 2 players proved to be vital for Barcelona due to their ability to play on multiple positions. Adriano was very versatile, playing on every position (except as goalkeeper) for Barcelona, while Mascherano became the perfect replacement for Carles Puyol. Maybe many considered that Adriano was only a cover for the first team regulars, but I would say that the Brazilian was probably the most important asset that Barcelona had (behind Messi of course). Adriano Correia played well as striker, winger, central midfielder, full back or central defender, proving that he can be a solution wherever he was needed. The first sign that Andoni Zubizarreta is not fit for Director of Football is the signing of Afellay. It is true that Barcelona signed one of the most in-form Dutch players of that time, but Afellay was injury-prone. Did Andoni Zubizarreta got the best deal by selling the unsettled Ibrahimovic to AC Millan? Most definitely not, Barcelona could have get a lot more for one of the best strikers in the world. Barcelona’s Director of Football signed 2 stars in August 2011: Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. If the former was a tireless player that fought to become a regular, the latter was dubbed as the new Xavi. Fabregas was overall a poor signing, never being able to justify his transfer fee and showing that he is not fit for Barcelona’s style of play. Andoni Zubizarreta should have taken into consideration why Barcelona sold Fabregas to Arsenal in the first place. It is clear that Fabregas likes to play a more direct football, as the one played in England, and that is why he never managed to become a key player for Barcelona. Andoni Zubizarreta did a very good job by selling Fabregas to Chelsea, but he did this to fix his prior mistake of signing Cesc in the first place.
Zubizarreta did a great job by signing Jordi Alba and Neymar. The latter is not playing yet at his full potential, but he definitely became a more mature and complete player. Andoni Zubizarreta’s goalkeeping experience helped him spotting two great goalkeepers: the rising star Ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo. Claudio Bravo was one of the most constant goalkeepers in La Liga, being instrumental for Sociedad’s success. Moreover, Claudio Bravo continued his good form and shattered some of Barcelona’s records (754 minutes without conceding a goal).
Despite signing big names like Neymar and Luis Suarez in the last two years, Andoni Zubizarreta showed his limits. He was unable to prevent Thiago Alcantara’s transfer to Bayern Munich, the signing of Alex Song was an absurdity, while the Mathieu, Vermaelen and Douglas are not the best players that could have been bought for € 42 million. Mathieu is not a bad player, but € 20 million is a bit too much for a 30 years old defender. If Andoni Zubizarreta wanted an experienced defender he could have gone for Daniel Agger, or for Martin Skrtel (a defender that reminds of Puyol). Why the injured Vermaelen? Vermaeles is indeed a world class defender, but he is injury prone (played 21 matches in all competitions for Arsenal in last season and missed the entire 2010/2011 season due to an injury). Moreover, Barcelona’s Director of Football payed around €19 million for Vermaelen that had a contract with Arsenal until July 2015. Why pay so much for a player that Barcelona could have got for free next year? Is Douglas better than Montoya? In my opinion, Andoni Zubizarreta signed Douglas as a cover for Montoya, not for Dani Alves. Why Andoni Zubizarreta did not sign any Bilbao’s players? Barcelona needed a strong striker and Llorente could have been a cheap solution. He could have been signed as a backup for the first team, but in the second half when more long balls are thrown into the box Llorente could have made the difference. Why did Andoni Zubizarreta sold David Villa for only € 5 million to Atletico Madrid? Only because he wanted to get rid of his high salary?
Furthermore, Andoni Zubizarreta should consider replacing the players that have no desire to win something with Barcelona. Unfortunately, legends like Iniesta and Xavi are underperforming, while Busquests is no longer as efficient as he used to be (he no longer recovers balls as often as he used to do and misses a lot of simple passes). Barcelona’s main problem is not the defense, but the creative midfield. Bartra and Pique would do fine if the midfield would be able to create more chances for the strikers (obviously the ball is in the other half of the pitch, so no worries for the defenders). Xavi is no longer decisive for Barcelona, while Iniesta is no longer the as efficient and creative as he used to be. Andoni Zubizarreta should look for replacements for these players because without a creative midfield Barcelona can not play tiki taka. Players like Strootman, Verratti, Matuidi, Pogba or Pjanic would probably be perfect replacements for Don Andreas and Xavi. Also, Andoni Zubizarreta should look for a real replacement for Dani Alves. A player like Marquinhos can play both as a central defender or full back.
Andoni Zubizarreta has a difficult mission as Barcelona’s Director of Football. In my opinion he is not fit for this job and Barcelona should look elsewhere because the Catalans are looking to build a team. Zubizarreta was not able to build a new squad believing that Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and Dani Alves will be decisive for another decade. No, Barcelona needs a Director of Football that looks to rebuild the team, not patching it; a Director of Football who has the courage to sell Xavi and buy some one else in his place; a Director of Football that does not wait until Dani Alves decides to leave Barcelona.