Barcelona made quite a few eyebrows to raise with their January acquisition of Kevin Prince Boetang on loan from Sassuolo. Barca bringing Murrilo on loan was understandable due to their problem in RCB depth. But letting go of Munir in January, and then flirting with Piaztek, Stuani, Lopez etc and suddenly finishing up with Boetang was quite a shock.
Kevin has been primarily a midfield player all his life. Barca has no shortage in midfield department, in fact they need to offload a few to make place for De Jong arriving in summer. Then why such an acquisition when a back up for Suarez was imperative following the departure of Munir? The answer lies in Boetang’s spell at Las Palmas under Setien. Boetang has a great engine and despite not being a frequent scorer he has decent finishing. Setien realised that what Boetang missed was tactical discipline and hence he converted Boetang first into a nine and half and then into a false nine. With new found vigour and direction, Boetang performed admirably hussling the defenders, linking up play and scoring and providing at a decent rate. Though there is a major difference in class and demands between barca and Las Palmas, barca decided to take a gamble with Boetang so that he can be used to provide some valuable rest to Suarez at the crucial juncture of the season. Perhaps they were getting hope after surprise success of their weird transfer of Paulinho last season which at first converted Barca into a laughing stock. But Paulinho quickly wiped out any hints of laughter, when he proved to bring something different to the barca midfield and chipped in with some decent and important goals from midfield and provided with some much needed physicality. In fact some time around December, Paulinho had more la liga goals than Ronaldo and Benzema had combined for Real Madrid. Hence Barcelona was hoping to carry out another gamble and be successful. But true to the proverb of “lightning doesn’t strike twice”, Barcelona seems to be failing spectacularly in this gamble.
Rumours is that Boetang has failed to impress Valverde in training and tactical sessions. Valverde gave him enough time to get acquainted with the system and slowly introduced Boetang into scheme of things. Boetang’s first match was against Sevilla in Copa Del Rey where he had a stinker and Barca lost 0-2. Thanks to Lionel Messi heroics, Barca moved to next round after heavily defeating Sevilla in second leg. Valverde again gave Boetang some time and then fielded him against Valladolid where he was the worst player on pitch, by some margin. Questions have already started to be asked regarding whether he has the requisite quality to even be a back up at Barca and rumours are going on regarding Valverde being completely unimpressed with his winter signing. With two tumultuous weeks coming up which can decide the fate of barca this season. If barca continues their sloppy form, it can kick them out from Copa and ucl and can place their league aspirations in jeopardy. It seems destined that Boetang might not get other chances to prove his mettle. Though it’s a loan move, but the ineffectiveness it is proving can mark this transfer as one of the worst in recent barca history.