Arthur-Pjanic swap: What next for Rakitic, De Jong, Vidal and Barcelona's midfield cast?

By Sports Desk June 29, 2020

After weeks of speculation, Barcelona have agreed a deal to sign Miralem Pjanic from Juventus, with the sale of Arthur in the other direction having also been sanctioned.

It has been one of the more head-scratching transfer stories to have emerged in recent times, given at the age of 30 Pjanic has seven years on Brazil midfielder Arthur – a star whose talent is still burgeoning.

Barca will fork out an initial €60million to Juve, who have in turn agreed to stump up €72million for Arthur's services.

There is a general consensus that Juve have the better part of the agreement, due mainly to Pjanic's age.

The deal is sure to impact several of Barcelona's midfield too. We take a look at what the arrival of Pjanic may mean for the Blaugrana's current options.


IVAN RAKITIC

Croatia international Rakitic has been a mainstay of Barca's midfield since joining from Sevilla in 2014, winning four LaLiga titles, as many Copas del Rey and the Champions League during a trophy-laden stint. But Rakitic has not always been universally loved by the Camp Nou faithful, perhaps his only crime being he is simply not club legends Xavi or Andres Iniesta, and has at times been subjected to jeers from the crowd. With his contract up in 2021 there have been plenty of rumours Barca could cash in and Atletico Madrid have been strongly linked with his signature. The player himself said this month he is not heading for the exit door, but this rumour is unlikely to go away anytime soon.


SERGIO BUSQUETS

Busquets is heading for the sort of legendary status the aforementioned Xavi and Iniesta achieved at Camp Nou. Since breaking into the first team from the club's legendary La Masia academy 12 years ago, there has been no player in world football more consistently brilliant in the defensive pivot role and his influence on Barcelona for over a decade can never be understated. But the World Cup winner turns 32 next month and Father Time does not slow down even for the world's best. Such is Busquets' enduring quality, he likely has a couple more years left at the elite level, yet Barca will need to start contemplating life after this club great. Pjanic may have been brought in to help bridge the gap between generations.


RIQUI PUIG

Widely considered as a player to carry Barca into the next generation, Puig has made six LaLiga appearances this term – the only start among those outings only came in last weekend's 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo. With doubts over the long-term futures of Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, it looked as though a breakthrough to becoming a more regular and influential part of the first team was on the cards for the 20-year-old. But the arrival of Pjanic may mean that particular path is blocked once again for one of Barca's greatest hopes. With fellow academy graduate Carles Alena having departed for Real Betis on loan in search of regular football in January, and the possibility that move gets made permanent, Barca will need to assuage any concerns over a lack of minutes or risk their talented youngster getting itchy feet.


ARTURO VIDAL

The arrival of Vidal from Bayern Munich on a three-year deal in August 2018 was met with a similar lack of fanfare to Pjanic's. The fact the Chile midfielder was 31 when he moved to Camp Nou only adds to the similarities. Much like Rakitic, Vidal's future at Barca has been the subject of regular debate, with a return to Serie A – where he formerly represented Juventus – to link up with Antonio Conte at Inter frequently mooted. Vidal recently said he is happy to stay at Barcelona so long as he feels important. He turned 33 last month, though, and the arrival of Pjanic may complicate his desire to be utilised in the trophy-defining matches. With Vidal there is very much a watch-this-space feel.


FRENKIE DE JONG

to agreeing his big-money move to Barcelona from Ajax last year, at least if the newspapers are to believed. De Jong has made 27 LaLiga appearances, including 24 starts, in a debut campaign that has shown flashes of brilliance but never truly ignited. Lofty expectations and ruthlessness are common at a club the stature of Barca, Arthur himself can pay testament to that, and more will be expected of De Jong moving forward. Still, he remains just 23 and Barca will surely build around De Jong for the next decade – perhaps flanked by Pjanic for a decent chunk of that time.

Related items

  • Diego Maradona dies: Argentina great died of natural causes as authorities await autopsy – lawyer Diego Maradona dies: Argentina great died of natural causes as authorities await autopsy – lawyer

    San Isidro attorney general John Broyad said Diego Maradona died of natural causes as authorities await an autopsy following the Argentina and Napoli great's death.

    Maradona died at the age of 60 after a suspected heart attack, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed on Wednesday.

    Regarded as one of the greatest's ever footballers, Maradona was discharged from hospital a fortnight ago following brain surgery, having undergone a routine operation for a subdural haematoma after being admitted to hospital due to concerns over anaemia and dehydration.

    As the football and sporting world mourns the passing of one of the finest athletes to grace the planet, Broyad addressed the media outside the residence where Maradona died midweek.

    "We can confirm, with great sadness, that affects the country and the entire world, the passing of Diego Armando Maradona, at approximately 12 noon today," Broyad said.

    "The work of the forensic police got underway at 16:00 with investigators arriving at his residence and commencing their procedures.

    "The personnel of forensic police departments of San Martin, San Isidro and La Plata, the most qualified departments overseeing procedures at private residences, inspected the body of Diego Armando Maradona.

    "An autopsy will be carried out at the morgue of the San Fernando Hospital starting at 18:00. No sign of any foul play was noted, no sign of any violence was noted.

    "The autopsy will be carried out in order to officially confirm the cause of death. At the moment, ahead of the autopsy and all the formalities, we can inform you that the death was a result of natural causes, without any, please wait, please wait, without any signs of violence. The autopsy will establish the cause of the death."

    Maradona, the captain and inspiration behind Argentina's World Cup success in 1986 before going on to coach his country at the 2010 showpiece, had been hospitalised just days after turning 60.

    He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata side played a match on the evening of his birthday last month.

    Maradona won 91 caps for Argentina between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

    He started his career with Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors and went on to play for Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys before returning to Boca in 1995.

    Maradona had the best years of his club career in Italy, playing a massive part in Napoli winning the Serie A title in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons.

    Playmaker Maradona also lifted the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989 and he won three trophies during his time at Barca – including the Copa del Rey in 1983.

    Maradona also had stints in charge of Textil Mandiyu, Racing Club, Al-Wasl, Fujairah and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico before being appointed by Gimnasia last year.

  • Diego Maradona dies: The Golden Boy leaves an eternal legacy Diego Maradona dies: The Golden Boy leaves an eternal legacy

    Football has produced few more divisive figures than Diego Maradona.

    The Argentina great died on Wednesday at the age of 60 following a cardiac arrest and, while opinions on his legacy may differ depending on where you live, his remarkable impression on the game is undoubted.

    The abiding image of Maradona for most likely stems from the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England.

    For so many in England, he will forever be remembered for arguably the most controversial goal in the history of football, which saw the diminutive Maradona somehow rise above the comparatively towering figure of Peter Shilton and divert a sliced clearance from Steve Hodge into the empty net with his hand.

    But that act of what can at best be considered deceit did not take away from the majesty of his ultimately decisive second goal, dubbed the Goal of the Century, with the balletic grace with which he weaved past the helpless England defenders before rounding Shilton and slotting home the defining memory of Maradona for his adoring fans in his home country and scores of fans around the world.

    That game perhaps encapsulated the man known as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy). As England striker Gary Lineker, who scored the goal overshadowed by Maradona's brace at Estadio Azteca, said in a tweet paying tribute following news of his death, the Albiceleste legend led a "blessed but troubled life".

    Raised in a poor family in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona's blessings were evident from an early age. At just eight years old, his promise was discovered by a scout, Francisco Cornejo, and he was signed to the youth team of Argentinos Juniors.

    "He did things that I have never seen anyone else do," Cornejo, who died in 2008, later said of Maradona.

    Maradona made his Argentinos debut 10 days before turning 16 and marked it in fitting fashion by nutmegging an opponent within minutes of entering the pitch.

    One hundred and sixteen goals in 166 games for Argentinos followed and resulted in Maradona receiving a dream move to Boca Juniors, though his spell at La Bombonera yielded only one league title and was marked by a difficult relationship with coach Silvio Marzolini before he moved to Barcelona in a world-record transfer in 1982.

    Barca did not see Maradona at his best at the 1982 World Cup in Spain that preceded his debut for the Blaugrana, yet the impact he had on his cohorts at Camp Nou was stark.

    "He had complete mastery of the ball," former team-mate Lobo Carrasco remarked. "When Maradona ran with the ball or dribbled through the defence, he seemed to have the ball tied to his boots."

    His time in Catalonia delivered both brilliance and tumult in equal measure. Maradona became the first Barca player to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu in 1983, but sustained a career-threatening ankle injury against Athletic Bilbao and was then involved in a brawl against the same opposition in the 1984 Copa del Rey final that hastened his exit from the club.

    It was perhaps no surprise that the pinnacle of his international career coincided with that of his club career at Napoli, for whom Maradona will forever be an icon.

    After being named player of the tournament at the '86 World Cup, Maradona inspired Napoli to their first Serie A title and triumph in the Coppa Italia. UEFA Cup glory followed in 1989 prior to a second league title a year later.

    Napoli's Stadio San Paolo was the scene of glory for Argentina in a World Cup semi-final win over Italy, in which Maradona scored the ultimately decisive penalty in the shoot-out, though he could not ensure a successful title defence as West Germany prevailed in the final.

    Italian football saw the best of Maradona, whom Franco Baresi described as his toughest opponent - "when he was on form, there was almost no way of stopping him," the Milan legend said.

    Yet it also saw significant off-field struggles and he left Napoli after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine, battling his addiction to the drug and alcohol until 2004.

    He returned to Argentina by signing for Newell's Old Boys after a turbulent spell with Sevilla, with his international career ended in the wake of a positive test for ephedrine doping during the 1994 World Cup that resulted in him being sent home from the United States.

    Retirement came on the back of a second two-year stint at Boca, but Maradona was rarely out of the spotlight even as he fought addiction and struggles with obesity, undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2005.

    His post-playing career also saw a string of brief coaching tenures, which included him leading Argentina to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, where they were thumped 4-0 by Germany. Maradona made sure his departure was fittingly acrimonious, levelling accusations of betrayal at the national team's hierarchy.

    Maradona had seemingly found some stability in his coaching career at Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata when he was admitted to hospital this month having recently renewed his contract through the 2020-21 season.

    "We live an unforgettable story," Gimnasia posted in a tribute on Twitter.

    Blessed but troubled, tempestuous yet utterly bewitching to watch. Gimnasia's words struck the right chord.

    His story was undeniably unforgettable and it is telling that, despite Lionel Messi's otherworldly exploits, it is Maradona who stands as the symbol of Argentinian football for so many.

    As Messi wrote of Maradona on Instagram: "He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal."

    Whether it's the Hand of God or the Goal of the Century, his presentation to hordes of Napoli fans or that goal celebration at the 94 World Cup. Maradona was the artist behind so many of the game's indelible images. Football is mourning the premature passing of an all-time great, but his legacy and impact will endure for decades to come.

  • Inter 0-2 Real Madrid: Hazard and Rodrygo leave 10-man Nerazzurri on brink of exit Inter 0-2 Real Madrid: Hazard and Rodrygo leave 10-man Nerazzurri on brink of exit

    Inter are on the verge of exiting the Champions League after losing 2-0 to Real Madrid in Wednesday's clash at San Siro.

    Madrid won the reverse fixture 3-2 earlier this month to revive their Group B campaign and they made a strong start to what was the first meeting between these sides at Inter's iconic ground since 1998.

    Eden Hazard converted an early penalty - his first goal in the competition in three years - and Inter's task was made all the more difficult when Arturo Vidal was sent off for dissent with 33 minutes played.

    Madrid added a second goal through substitute Rodrygo's volley to move a point behind Borussia Monchengladbach in second, with Inter five points worse off in fourth heading into the final two rounds of fixtures.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.