La Liga transfers: Here’s why Barcelona are trying to sign Joao Cancelo

Barcelona are in negotiations with Manchester City over a potential transfer for Joao Cancelo. Any move for the Portuguese international would most likely be dependent on Barca’s Ousmane Dembele first completing a move to PSG which would free up some much needed funds for the current champions of La Liga.

Manchester City’s Cancelo asking price is believed to be around £34m. However, as the transfer window progresses, the English club may be willing to lower that slightly as they seek to avoid a scenario where the full back remains at a club where he has seemingly fallen out with boss Pep Guardiola.

There are many reasons why a move to Barcelona would make sense for all parties. However the one big stumbling block is likely to be the Catalan club’s ability to stump up the cash. They are still waiting to register the signings they’ve already made this summer as they seek to stay within La Liga’s strict salary limits and they’d need to ensure any deal for Cancelo could be properly financed which right now would be tricky.

Why Barcelona are trying to sign Joao Cancelo

A problem position

Right back has been a real problem position for Barcelona for a number of years now. During the glory years under Guardiola and right up until the treble win in 2014/15 under Luis Enrique, Barca could count on the services of arguably the best attacking right back in the game in the shape of Dani Alves with the Brazilian helping to redefine the role full backs play in modern football.

However since Alves’ departure for Juventus in 2016, Barcelona have had something of a right back problem. Sergi Roberto filled the role for many years without fully convincing with midfield being the more natural position for the long serving player.

Sergiño Dest is another to have been granted a run in the side at right back but the United States international struggled to convince. Last season, Jules Kounde was Barcelona’s primary right back and while he did well, the Frenchman has spoken of his desire to be used in his preferred central defensive role and may not be the long-term solution either.

Cancelo would bring genuine width

Joao Cancelo
Photo by Icon sport

Certainly in terms of right backs with attacking qualities, Barcelona don’t currently have anyone who can offer what Cancelo would bring. The 29 year old, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Bayern Munich, is one of the best in Europe when it comes to getting forward at speed and running with the ball. His skill set would be even more valuable to Xavi’s side in the event that Ousmane Dembele does complete his potential transfer to PSG.

That would leave Barcelona a little bit short on natural width. They’d most likely operate with a front three that would see Gavi and Raphinha play either side of Robert Lewandowski, although in Gavi’s case he’d be more of a hybrid player that would drop into midfield at times.

That kind of set-up would place much greater onus on the full backs to provide width. Youngster Alejandro Balde has established himself as the clear choice on the left while Cancelo would be an excellent addition on the right in terms of his ability to get forward quickly and provide an outlet on the right flank.

European experience

Following the departures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, Barcelona are now a team that’s relatively lacking when it comes to experience of going deep in the Champions League.

Back-to-back group stage exits and subsequent Europa League failures have blighted Xavi’s otherwise successful reign and the starting eleven does not feature many players who know what it takes to handle those big Champions League knockout stage nights.

Cancelo would certainly bring that. While he missed out on playing a part in Manchester City’s triumph this year, the Portuguese international is a veteran of many Champions League campaigns having played in the competition for Valencia, Juventus, City and Bayern.