Barcelona Should Buy Mats Hummels Before Manchester United Get There First & Leave Neymar For Chelsea
Perhaps this bit of ‘news’ was overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s slaughter of Gerd “Der Bomber” Müller’s 40-year old record of goals scored in a calendar year. Maybe a quote doesn’t necessarily qualify as ‘news’ but that’s how ‘it’ (transfer speculation) usually starts. On Sunday Borussia Dortmund center-half and German international, Mats Hummels, was asked by popular German TV host Günther Jauch whether there’s any truth to the rumors linking him with Barcelona. When prompted, the German international replied “I’ve read that in the papers. My father asked me about it. He asked me if there’s a possibility.” I told him “You’re my agent. You should know.” He concluded his response by telling the host: “It’s an honor to be linked with Barcelona. In my mind Barcelona is the best club in the world.”
Two years ago an international teammate of Mats Hummels produced a similar quote, only to sign for FC Barcelona’s eternal rivals Real Madrid. The player in question: Mesut Özil. The Real Madrid playmaker even went on record saying that Barcelona was his favorite club. Unfortunately for Mesut Özil Barcelona were and still are well-stacked in the midfield department. Furthermore, the Blaugrana always intended to bring home the prodigal son that goes by the name of Cesc Fabregas. Pre-Pep Guardiola the German International of Turkish descent would’ve probably been acquired by FC Barcelona but with a golden generation of talents coming through La Masia, the prospect of Özil at Barcelona was remote at best.
Even though Barcelona’s first choice centre-back pairing of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have graduated from the famous academy, and are undoubtedly of world-class pedigree, La Masia isn’t known to produce top quality center-halves. The brightest prospect in that regard is Marc Bartra, 21, who finds himself on the periphery of the first team. Bartra has only featured sporadically at best this season. However, there’s the suspicion that there’s a quality center-half in there, somewhere.
So why buy Mats Hummels who is only 2 years his senior?
At Barcelona every player must be perfectly comfortable on the ball. A ‘pure’ defender whose only purpose is kick the ball as far away from his own box as possible is utterly misplaced within Barcelona’s tactical set-up. When even keeper Victor Valdes isn’t allowed to mindlessly smash the ball anytime an opponent is closing in on him, one gets the idea what Barcelona expect from their defenders.
At 23 years Mats Hummels isn’t even remotely close to his peak years, yet he has already established himself as one of the top center-halves in all of Europe. He has been imperious for Borussia Dortmund in their last two title-winning campaigns, and had it not been for a single lapse against Italy at the Euro 2012 semi-finals, he would’ve finished the stand-out defender of the tournament.
Rumor has it that Bayern Munich only acquired fellow Jerome Boateng after Mats Hummels made it clear he would not return to his boyhood club. The current 2012/13 Champions League campaign has finally announced the arrival of Mats Hummels at the European stage. Borussia Dortmund not only topped Group D, the infamous group of death (Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester City), they went unbeaten too. Though Dortmund’s attack deserves its plaudits, the credit belongs to their defense, with Mats Hummels at the heart of it.
If Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva is rated as the best center-half in Europe, Hummels isn’t too far behind. Mind you, Hummels is 4 years Silva’s junior, meaning he has a potentially higher ceiling than the Brazilian. Furthermore, Germany has a storied history of producing world-class defenders, the greatest of them, Franz Beckenbauer. Sure, putting Hummels or Silva in Der Kaiser’s category would be a stretch but who’s to say the Dortmund man can’t make history in his own right?
Thiago Silva had to return to return to Brazil after a failed stint Europe when he was Hummels current age before his breakthrough with AC Milan in 2009. His career at top level football isn’t necessarily over but France Ligue 1 isn’t exactly the most demanding domestic competition in Europe either. The fact that Paris Saint-Germain are not topping the French league isn’t a testimony to the quality of the opposition but Carlo Ancelotti’s incompetence and their increasing dependency on star signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede is having the time of his life as he’s currently scoring for fun, at a higher rate than he did in Italy and Spain, his two previous destinations. The big four leagues in Europe are (according to UEFA’s rankings and allocations of Champions League places) England, Spain, Germany and Italy. Hence, Silva’s perceived greatness is aided by the quality of opposition (or lack thereof) Paris Saint-Germain are facing week in and week out.
The Dortmund man faced some of Europe’s best attackers and passed the test with flying colors. The respected website Transfermarkt values Mats Hummels at €24,000,000, add to the fact that Borussia Dortmund are likely unwilling to sell, and not bound by a release clause (Nuri Sahin) or expiring contract (Shinji Kagawa), any potential suitor is probably looking at a fee exceeding €30,000,000.
Manchester United are rumored to keep taps on the German international which would only serve to further increase the asking price for Hummels. At any rate, Hummels is poised to be the most expensive German defender in history. World-class, ball-playing center-halves are a rare breed. One will likely find more world-class forwards than defenders. Even if (and that’s a big if) Borussia Dortmund decide to cash in on him and the final price of Hummels exceeds €40,000,000 - it’s still good value. Especially when one considers the fact that the German can give any side at least 8 – 10 years of service. Paris Saint-Germain shelled out €42,000,000 for then 27-year old Silva, so there’s resell-value with Hummels. Either way, Mats Hummels is the closest to a sure thing in defence that Barcelona could buy. Though the Blaugrana are still somewhat over-reliant on Lionel Messi, the current season should be a reminder that Barcelona don’t need to add to their attack but defense.
If there is indeed a secret savings account for the capture of Neymar, that money should be used to buy Mats Hummels instead. Gerard Pique is 25, so there’s the potential to form one of the most dominant center-half partnerships for years to come, to prolong the cycle of Barcelona. Carles Puyol is already in the autumn of his career; why not make a sound investment in his successor now? The current spine of Valdes, Xavi, Iniesta has significantly contributed to 5 La Liga titles and 3 Champions League trophies. Imagine the nucleus of Barcelona formed by Pique, Alba, Montoya, Busquets, Cesc, Thiago, Pedro, Messi and Hummels who are more or less the same age. Adding a further 3 Champions League titles with these set of players over the next 10 years isn’t entirely unrealistic.
Attack wins games, defense wins titles.
Gerard Pique and Mats Hummels sound like the continental ball playing version of Manchester United’s great duo of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. And we all know how many titles the Red Devils have collected with this duo at the heart of their defence.
Personally, I’d sign Mats Hummels with my eyes closed.
There are worse signings than Neymar, but if Barcelona signed Mats Hummels I’d be ecstatic.
Mats Hummels to Barcelona should be a no-brainer.