Old Face, New Signing
By no means is the Brazilian international Marlon Santos a new face at FC Barcelona’s camp, but the fact that 21-year-old defender was officially purchased from Fluminense for €5 million this week deserves a note on these pages.
The Catalan giants have revealed they took up the option to keep Marlon Santos at the club for the next three seasons by turning his loan spell from Fluminense into a permanent deal.
The Brazilian defender was a key part of Gerrard Lopez’s Barcelona B side last season. Marlon made 24 competitive appearances for the reserve squad and his impressive displays led to the player being called up to the first team by Luis Enrique on several occasions.
The 21-year-old was rewarded with a Champions League debut against Celtic, while he also featured in La Liga, where he filled for Gerrard Pique during the last two matches of the season. The Brazilian completed full 90 minutes in each of Barcelona’s win – against Las Palmas and Eibar.
Marlon Santos was linked with a move away from Camp Nou this summer, but Barcelona new manager Ernesto Valverde is believed to have played a big role in convincing the club officials to reward the player with a three-year deal and keep him at the club.
Real Betis were thought to be one of the clubs interested in acquiring the Brazilian defender’s services, but Barcelona ended up showing faith and confidence in the ability of their player who could become a valuable first-team asset next season.
What’s he like?
Naturally fit centre-back, Marlon stands tall with his 1.82 cm and is a notable presence in the box. Having arrived in Barcelona as one of the most promising stars in Brazilian football, Marlon Santos was a key member in Brazil’s U20s side that reached the final of 2015 World Cup.
In addition to his tall presence on the pitch, Marlon Santos is looking strong on the ball and quick with his feet. The ability to read danger and anticipate moves from the rivalling players gives him plenty of confidence to press forward and antagonise rivals.
Luis Enrique was impressed with Marlon Santos during preseason but still decided to stick with his usual suspects in defence during 2016/17 season. It turned out to be a frustrating campaign for the club, however, as Barcelona missed out on major honours, finishing the season with only Copa del Rey title in the bag.
With injury-prone Jeremy Mathieu as his only alternative centre-back, Ernesto Valverde is faced with a problematic backline at Barcelona. Gerard Pique remains the only solid choice in defence, whereas defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano as a makeshift defender was never going to be a long-term option in the heart of defence.
Rising star Samuel Umtiti is another choice and a viable option for next season, but Valverde will want much more than just two first-team regulars and a couple of ageing choices in defence as he looks to rebuild and make his team La Liga contendres again.
The Catalan giants can currently be found at 10/11 betting odds to become the new Spanish champions next year.
Valuable option at the back
With the €5 million purchase of Marlon Santos, Barcelona have in a way sent a message to the player himself, who could expect to be given a more prominent role next season. He most certainly deserves it after a stellar season in Barca B, although there will we those to question his ability to make a seamless transition to the first team.
Those should know by now that Barcelona leaves nothing to chance and will also have Marlon’s late-season starts to go by and draw conclusions from. The staggering stats from the Las Palmas match work well in his favour as Marlon was able to complete 94% of his passes and make 3 clearances in the match. Squawka numbers claim the Brazilian also won 100% of his tackles and aerial duels.
His calm and composed performance was the biggest sign of promise, however, as the Brazilian also took a small part in the build-up to Barcelona’s opening goal against Las Palmas. He truly presented himself as a capable and quality defender, who is expected to be a great replacement for Jeremy Mathieu in the first team.
Ernesto Valverde is smart enough to recognise the potential and wise enough to make a move that will undeniably make Barcelona younger, more powerful and overall better in front of own goal.
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