As Barcelona unveiled the latest addition to their squad in the form of Paco Alcacer, another of their La Masia prospects is on the move. After shipping out Marc Bartra, Sergi Samper, Sandro and Alen Halilovic this summer, it wasn’t hard to tell Munir’s days at the club were numbered.
Despite Munir signing a contract extension in July that raised his release clause to €60 million, the youngster ended up joining Valencia before the closing of the summer transfer deadline.
Munir's transfer can be attributed to Alcacer’s move in the opposite direction, but paints a picture that the current crop of Barca’s young prospects aren’t yet at the same level as their first team stars, or at the level manager Luis Enrique expects his fringe players to be.
While Munir’s numbers at Barca -- 0.68 goals and assists per 90 minutes -- are acceptable at the top level, the fact a significant majority of his playing time came in cup games against lowly opposition or games of academic interest meant that he never really threatened to usurp the otherworldly MSN trio, or was even thought of as a reliable alternative when the MSN was beset by injuries and fatigue.
Still only 20, Munir’s biggest advantage at this stage of his career is his age. While success will be harder to come by at Valencia, the scope for development there is immense. The youngster heads into a club struggling in the wake of recent managerial instability, ownership issues, supporter discontent and a failed transfer window that has resulted in back-to-back losses to start the new season off.
The duties expected of Munir at Valencia would also be similar to what he was used to, albeit sporadically, at Barca. Los Che manager Pako Ayesteran deploys an offensive 4-3-3 formation. Considering the inconsistencies of fellow attackers like Rodrigo, Santi Mina and Zakaria Bakkali, Munir has a chance to nail his place at the Mestalla even though the mercurial Nani, as expected, claims one of those three attacking places his own.
What is perplexing though is that Munir was allowed to leave for peanuts in a market where player valuations are at an all-time high. The loan deal that takes him to the Mestalla has an option for Valencia to buy the Spanish starlet for €12 million next summer. The only perk for Barca here is a sell-on clause, which will make the club eligible for a percentage of the fee Valencia receive for any future sale of Munir.
Of course Alcacer is a sweetener and Munir wouldn’t progress as expected by playing back-up to MSN at Barca, hence looking at the bigger picture suggests the player will be better served for his decision to leave Barca. Munir has a high ceiling for a player his age, and should he blossom as expected and blows the league off with performances reminiscent of those that fast-tracked his Barca career, both Luis Enrique and Robert Fernandez would rue their decision.
However, Barca being Barca can always bring Munir back sometime in the future, and a better version of him at that. And aside the financial kickback that the Blaugrana received, Munir’s move to Valencia appears to suit all parties; the player because he’ll get more time to play, Valencia because they’ve got themselves an exciting replacement for Alcacer, and Barca because it had become harder to afford Munir enough playing time to satisfy both the club’s sporting interests as well as the player’s personal interests of playing regularly.
For what it's worth, I strongly believe Valencia have had a steal. To be able to wait just one year to buy a player whose release clause was only this summer set at €60 million is an absolute bargain.
All the best for the future, Munir -- You deserve to succeed!