BARCELONA

Barcelona: the No. 9 debate remains on the table

With the Messi-Suárez dual leader partnership broken, the club is aware it needs to bring in a centre forward to cover the injured Uruguayan.

Barcelona: the number '9' debate remains on the table
Albert Gea Reuters

Whatever can be said about Quique Setién's debut, Barça’s game against Granada ended up like so many others, with a Messi goal.

Despite starting the season injured, the Argentine captain has since participated in 26 goals (17 scored, 9 assists), just one more than Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan striker, with 14 goals and 11 assists, had, until Sunday, been as important as Leo this season.

But the dual leader partnership was broken by the injury of Suárez, who was forced to undergo a knee operation and will subsequently be out for four months.

The match against Granada was a clear indication that Barça will have to depend on Messi for goals even more now with the absence of his Uruguayan partner. But the Argentine striker will need help because the team will not be able to live off him for every game until the end of the season.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his goal against Granada.

Barcelona's No. 9 dilemma

As such, the No. 9 debate is still very much on the table – so much so that a meeting between Quique Setién, Eric Abidal and Ramon Planes was scheduled for this Monday to discuss the issue.

Barça know they need to sign a forward, but they also know they need to proceed with caution, bearing in mind the error that was made with the loan signing of Kevin Prince Boateng in the January window last season. Hence, they will have to be discreet with negotiations and, above all, make sure they make the right signing should they move to bring in a player.

Obsessed with signing Lautaro Martínez last summer, Barcelona have now reignited their plans to acquire a centre forward on the back of Suárez’s injury. But landing the Inter striker in January is impossible.

Thus, Barcelona’s leaders now face the following dilemma: buy a top-level striker now and delay the Lautaro plan, or endure the current situation until the end of the season. The third option would be to find a top-level player who agrees to come on loan, but Boateng arrived the same way and another mistake would point directly to sporting director Eric Abidal. The club’s deputy sporting director, of course, is its president. And with Bartomeu anything can happen.