Opinion: Five options for Barcelona and Real Madrid to replace stalwarts in defence

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Replacing a key member of your team is always difficult, especially when they play in a position where it’s rare to find top class options.

The left back spots at Barcelona and Real Madrid have been occupied by Jordi Alba and Marcelo respectively for years now, but both players are 31 and struggling for fitness and consistency.

Because it’s such a scarce position, it’s likely that both clubs will be shopping in the same limited pool when searching for a replacement, so here’s a look at some potential solutions for them.

David Alaba – Bayern Munich

Alaba seems like the most well known option who might be available, but there’s also a reason for that. He was outstanding for Bayern in the earlier part of his career and even showed the ability to fill in at centre-back or midfield, but then he struggled for consistency and his position came under question. It’s possible that he just needs a change of scenery, but he certainly has the attributes to excel. He’s able to run all day and is great on the ball, while he’s certainly capable in a defensive sense too. He turns 28 in the Summer so this is his last chance to secure a big transfer, while he comes across as more of a Real Madrid style signing.

alaba bayern munich
David Alaba in action for Bayern

Alex Sandro – Juventus

It’s possible that the Brazilian could be available this Summer if Juve look to raise funds to sign Paul Pogba, and he has the qualities both sides would look for in an attacking wing back. He always resembled a winger playing at full back during his spell with Porto. but he’s come on tactically and defensively in Italy. Outstanding on the ball and possessing the athleticism to dominate an entire side of the field single-handedly, he could be the ideal signing. He turned 29 earlier in the year so he’s unlikely to provide a long term solution, but he could last a few years while someone else develops behind him.

alex sandro
Alex Sandro in action

Jose Gaya – Valencia

This almost makes too much sense for Barcelona when you consider that Jordi Alba made his name at Valencia too, while there are plenty of similarities between the two players. He’s very quick and great going forward, but also capable defensively too, even if his lack of height leaves him vulnerable in the air. He’s still only 24 but has over 200 senior appearances for Valencia so he would offer an experienced option with plenty of years left in him. Although history suggests he would be perfect for Barca, don’t rule out Real Madrid looking his way either.

Alex Grimaldo – Benfica

The former Barcelona youth product has been making a name for himself at Benfica in the last couple of seasons, but it’s not clear if that history would go for or against Barca. It seems that the Catalans would benefit financially when Benfica sell him but there’s no set buy-back option, and he did have to leave to establish himself so he might hold that against his former club. He might not be blisteringly quick but he has pace and he’s the most gifted player in a technical sense on the list. He’s 24 years old and looks exciting when he gets on the ball, Real Madrid would also love to get one over on their rivals by having one of their own excel for them.

Grimaldo has flourished since joining Benfica

Internal solutions

In days gone by Barcelona would’ve had a young player ready to step up and challenge for a spot, but they’ve gone the Real Madrid route of throwing big money at established players lately.

Barca do have a couple of players who look promising, but it would need a big show of faith from the management. Marc Cucurella could be complicated as he’s out on loan with a buy out clause, but if he could be kept then he’s got La Liga experience and the quality to grow into the role. Junior Firpo is already there, but hasn’t really established himself. The former Betis man looks solid if unspectacular, so it’s hard to see Barca going with either unless finances force them too.

Cucurella on loan at Getafe

Real Madrid do have a more promising option in Sergio Reguilon, he’s got experience playing for the club and will return after a promising spell at Sevilla. He’s only 22 and looks like a quality player, so he could rotate with Marcelo for a couple of seasons as he fully beds into the team. Ferland Mendy looks quick but lacks ability on the ball, while someone like Nacho could fill in but doesn’t look like a long term solution.

Reguilon in action for Sevilla

It could be tough for both clubs because these players are at a premium and it’s hard to get the fans excited about spending big money on a full back, but it might just need to be done.

More Stories Alex Grimaldo Alex Sandro David Alaba Jordi Alba Jose Gaya Junior Firpo Marc Cucurella Marcelo Sergio Reguilon