It is no longer news that FC Barcelona will be in the hunt for a new striker next summer. While Luis Suarez has been sensational since he joined from Liverpool in 2014, he is 32 and will need supplementing and eventual replacement.
The Blaugrana‘s unique style of play emphasizes goals from all over the pitch. The presence of the otherworldy Lionel Messi has meant that the club has gotten by (at least in La Liga) without having at least 2 very good strikers.
Good strikers like Paco Alcacer have come in but have been unable to stake a permanent claim. Even promising young talent like Kerrison and Bojan Kirkic have failed to make the grade.
Given the demands that being a striker for Barca entails and the need to begin to plan for life post-Messi, a good-going-on-great striker has become a priority for manager Ernesto Valverde and the board.
With the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Harry Kane way too expensive to pursue, the club will have to be smart in its pursuit of the ideal target.
Here is a look at 5 players the club might want to take a look at:
#5 Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)
A player very much in the mould of Argentina’s famous breadbox strikers i.e forward players whose height is under 6 feet (Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Ezequiel Lavezzi among others).
The young Argentine has been on the radar of the big clubs for a while now. In his first season playing for Inter Milan, he has begun to show signs of his potential.
Following his €22.7m move to Serie A last summer, manager Luciano Spalletti has taken his time easing the 21-year-old into the team. Despite his limited playing time, he has hit 7 goals and made 2 assists for the Nerazzurri.
Blessed with pace, amazing aerial ability (for a 1.74m player), dribbling and excellent technique, Martínez is great at holding the ball and moving into vacant spaces to make room for wingers/midfielders to run into.
This makes him perfect for Barca’s setup where the emphasis is on shared responsibility for goals from everyone. It is unclear if Inter will be willing to let their prodigy go especially if the issues with Icardi are not resolved soon.
#4 Richarlison (Everton)
The Brazilian is still finding his feet in the central striking having played most of his career as a winger. He has impressed in fits and starts for the Toffees as the main man through the middle but has not been helped by the team’s flakiness.
Cules still have fond memories of the one season Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima spent at the Camp Nou in 1997. Richarlison could be the closest that they would get to re-living that experience.
The youngster is blessed with similar traits as his idol; intelligence, strength, speed, and agility. He has shown this season in the Premier League how good he is in the air and positioning
His tendency to go missing for weeks can be frustrating as is his occasional displays of petulance. However, aged just 22, Barca could be getting the long term answer to their striking issues.
His intelligence means he could combine well with the likes of Messi while getting in position to put away chances created.
The Toffees just paid £40m for his services in the summer, so if Josep Bartomeu wants to get him to switch, he may have to double what the club paid Watford for his services.
#3 Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
Quick, intelligent and deadly in front of goal, the young German has the makings of a very good strike. His movement and ability to create space is great. This allows him to get an extra yard to get ahead of opposing defenders or create space for teammates.
His blistering speed means he is comfortable playing as a winger if need be. Given how Barca‘s front three are always expected to dovetail, his pace and ability to drift makes him perfect for the role. Messi and the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Malcolm would love playing alongside him.
Given his early beginnings as a winger, he could also complement Suarez perfectly, working in tandem with the man he would eventually replace.
Werner’s over-reliance on his pace to get past defenders has been an issue. He has not developed his all-round game as much as he should have.
Perhaps moving out of the comfort of the Bundesliga could do that for him.
Playing alongside Barca’s exceptional midfield and Messi makes this a moot point as the German would have the perfect platform to add more to his repertoire.
#2 Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo)
The 22-year-old will suffer the burden of being compared to his more illustrious countryman for the nearest future.
The trajectory of the young Uruguayan has continued to soar upwards since he joined the Galician side from Defensor Sporting for €4.3m in 2017.
Since then, he has established a fearsome reputation as one of the strikers to watch in La Liga. Like Suarez, Gomez is deadly in the box with an unerring eye for a finish. Like his other great countryman; Edinson Cavani, he shares a hustling spirit uncommon in modern days strikers.
However, in general gameplay, Gomez differs greatly from the man he could replace at the Camp Nou. While Suarez is effective all over the place with his dribbling, passing, and intelligence, Gomez is more of a penalty-box finisher.
He does not get involved in build-up play as much. This is an aspect of his game he is getting better at as shown by the 5 assists he has already recorded this season.
Of all the players on this list, he could be the most readily available with rumours estimating his transfer fee to be £35m.
#1 Luka Jovic (SL Benfica but on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt)
The Serbian hitman has had an amazing campaign so far. Loaned out to Eintracht Frankfurt at the beginning of last season by parent club; SL Benfica, he took a while to find his feet.
He has been like a house on fire in both the Bundesliga and the Europa League alongside Frenchman Sebastian Haller and Croatian Ante Rebic.
Jovic hit 8 goals in 22 games for Die Adler (The Eagles) as Frankfurt are known last season. However, most of his appearances came off the bench.
This term, he has repaid abundantly the faith that manager, Adi Hütter has shown in him. A willing runner/worker, his hold-up play, improvisation, and positioning are as good as the world’s best marksmen. Aged just 21, he is still learning his trade and could become an amazing value-for-money signing for the Blaugrana.
Frankfurt has made it clear that they will exercise the option to sign Jovic on a permanent transfer for €12m at the end of the season.
The team have high hopes of making the UCL next season and may resist any attempt to get their newly-minted goal getter out of the Commerzbank-Arena.
However, it is believed that the German side will be willing to do a deal to the tune of €50m once they secure his signature on a permanent deal.