Gerardo Martino
New Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino knows he faces immediate challenges at Barcelona. Reuters

With Gerardo Martino settling in following his swift hoisting into the Barcelona hot seat, the Argentinian is now focused on filling the team’s gaping need for a top class central defender. The inability to address that void last summer proved costly in the biggest games last term and it is unthinkable to think of the problem going unresolved once more.

However, as happened last summer, Barcelona identified Thiago Silva as their chief target and have come away empty handed. Already committed to Paris Saint-Germain 12 months ago, the Brazil captain was unwilling to force through a move this time around to ease his club’s resistance and has now ended weeks of speculation by signing a new contract.

Martino was believed to have been keen to bring in Santiago Vergini from his previous club Newell’s Old Boys, while fellow Argentinian Walter Samuel has also been mooted as a target. According to Catalunya Radio, though, Barcelona have now turned their attention toward the Premier League.

Top of Barcelona’s list, according to Spanish sports daily AS is, long-reported target David Luiz. In many ways his passing ability and willingness to come forward with the ball make him an ideal fit for the Blaugrana. He is, though, a very different defender than his international teammate Thiago Silva. And Barcelona appear to need more of an uncompromising center-back. At the same time, David Luiz has shown plenty of signs of eradicating the mental lapses from his game during the previous season with Chelsea. The 26-year-old is also said to be interesting former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

AS also reports that Liverpool’s Daniel Agger features prominently on the Spanish champions’ wanted list. Although, not to the same degree as David Luiz, Agger is also good on the ball and would be tempted by a move with Liverpool spending another season outside of the Champions League. He will not come cheap, though, given that Liverpool turned down a bid from Manchester City of around €25 million last summer. With the Denmark international set to turn 29 in December, Barcelona might found better value elsewhere.

Another target in England is believed to be Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen. But, while he may be the Premier League club’s captain, he was left out of the side in the closing weeks of the season. Again he is excellent going forward, but his often rash decision would surely make him an unwise target to add greater solidity to the Barcelona backline.

In part Keeping Vermaelen out of the Arsenal side was the improved performances of Laurent Koscielny. He is another defender linked and, aged, 27, is fulfilling the potential that prompted Arsene Wenger to pluck him from the French second division three years ago. Still, it is highly doubtful that he has the requisite quality to be a defensive lynchpin for a club of Barcelona’s ambitions.

Jan Vertonghen enjoyed an impressive first season in England with Tottenham and would be an understandable target for Barcelona. Yet, given that Spurs face losing their star man Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, it is hard to imagine their notoriously tough-negotiating chairman Daniel Levy sanctioning the release of Belgium international Vertonghen for anything less than a ridiculously unrealistic fee.

Perhaps of all the defenders linked the one who could aid Barcelona the most is Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany. While he didn’t have his best season last term, the Belgium has brought a commanding presence to City’s backline and it is easy to envisage him doing likewise at the Camp Nou. However, Barcelona are likely to encounter a similar situation to their pursuit of Thiago Silva: a club that can’t be swayed with any amount of money and a player with a personality that makes him unwilling to publicly agitate for a move.

With just over a month of the transfer window remaining, Martino and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta have a tough job on their hands to secure a defender that can help take Barcelona back to European dominance.

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