At the start of the summer, Josep Bartomeu and company hinted that reinforcements were on the way. After adding talent at left-back, centre-back and midfield through Lucas Digne, Samuel Umtiti, Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes respectively, the only glaring need is the one that has bled over from the winter transfer window, a top class forward.
As evidenced last season, there is great pressure on Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar to carry the full brunt of the scoring load, with little help. Due to occasional injury and a lengthy season, the final few matches of the year may have had different outcomes if the three forwards had help throughout the campaign. Finding a fourth forward to supplant MSN was a priority for the summer, but signing a striker with enough quality for a reasonable price is easier said than done.
Kevin Gameiro and Luciano Vietto are the two names to dominate the headlines, and a lengthy dance between Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid commenced.
When comparing Gameiro and Vietto, the 29-year-old Gameiro certainly fits the profile of the type of forward that Barcelona wish to add. Last season for Sevilla, he tallied 16 goals and four assists in 31 appearances across all competitions. According to whoscored.com he also completed 74% of his passes. This is always the important statistic that Barcelona highlight in transfer targets. To this end, his skillset includes clean short passing and hold-up play, and a substitute forward with the ability to play with his back to goal is certainly something the Blaugrana has not had for quite a few years.
While the Frenchman is criticised for his play in the air, he has still proven himself as a threat on set-pieces as an indirect threat on rebounds and with dummy runs. Truthfully, the ability to finish expertly through the air is usually not a trait that characterises Barcelona’s forwards, as short corners and Lionel Messi direct kicks are much more common than lofting the ball into the box towards heads.
Another aspect of Gameiro’s game that would easily translate to Barcelona is his ability to perform in high-stakes matches. In 2011, he moved from FC Lorient to Paris Saint-Germain, where he often won the league and played in a squad that reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Once at Sevilla in 2013, Gameiro continued to add to his trophy case, winning the Europa League on three occasions, culminating in last year’s 3-1 win over Liverpool
The simple answer to the question of Gameiro challenging Messi, Suarez and Neymar for the their spot in the starting lineup is a reasonable “Sorry, no.” After last season, one would think that the only one of the three susceptible to a loss in form that would allow another forward to overtake them is Neymar. Yet, coupling his new contract with all of the ways that the Brazilian affects the game off the scoresheet are grounds enough to keep him firmly in place as a starter, no matter how out-of-form he may be in front of net.
As mentioned previously, injury is the only way that any other forward would hope to get a string of starts, though the whole point of signing a fourth forward of high quality is that they will be able to make multiple starts over the course of the campaign to give the usual suspects proper rest and prepare them for a deep Champions League and Copa del Rey run.
The trouble of signing Kevin Gameiro of course lies with the amount of money that Barcelona would need to fork over. While Gameiro is valued at €20 million, Sevilla’s asking price is unreasonably higher -- a scenario the Catalans are all too familiar with.
The market values of players are oftentimes not comparable to how much it costs to pry them away from their clubs. AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy all have similar valuations, around €20 million, but their current clubs would certainly ask for a far greater fee to be paid for the players’ services.
Even if Barcelona were able to agree personal terms with the forward, they would still need to strike any agreement with his club. For as welcome an addition that Gameiro would be on the field, a transfer is difficult due to these circumstances.
It has long been clear that Barcelona want an experienced forward, something that Vietto, Santos’ Gabrigol and Palmeiras’ Gabriel Jesus certainly aren’t, but Bartomeu and company must make sure to turn over every stone, particularly in the case of a player that will either continue to suit up for Sevilla or may even join fellow title-contender Atletico Madrid.
The search continues.