Barcelona have spent much of the summer combing the market for a suitable forward to complement their world-class attacking trio – and after an exhaustive search they have got their man, signing Paco Alcácer from Valencia for a minimum €30m on a five-year deal.
Barça’s ‘MSN’ trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar scored 254 goals together over the last two seasons, but although competing for a starting berth with such talents would faze many strikers, Alcácer is no stranger to fighting for his place.
The 22-year-old, whose tally of 14 goals in the 2009/10 UEFA European Under-17 Championship including qualifying is a record and a two-time U19 winner, has faced immense competition at Valencia and with the Spain senior team, yet he has never shied away from putting in the extra work.
He also has a habit of delivering when called upon, demonstrated by his 24 goals in 51 Liga starts in the last two campaigns, and a team-best five strikes for La Roja during UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.
Alcácer’s knack of seizing the moment will be put to the test more than ever at Barcelona, not least since Neymar, Suárez and Messi each have a superb track record of staying fit and are rarely in the mood to rest. Indeed, the trio started a combined 100 out of a possible 114 games in the Liga last term and 25 out of 30 in the UEFA Champions League.
Barça’s three-pronged assault for the league, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League will invariably take its toll, however, and the team’s sudden collapse in form last April, when they lost three consecutive top-flight matches and were knocked out of Europe by Atlético, highlighted the need for fresh blood up front.
Luis Enrique’s side rarely struggle to create chances, but finishing them off proved easier said than done as last season wore on and tiredness kicked in. Not any player can just slot into a system as intricate as Barça’s, but Alcácer’s selfless work rate will further help unlock opposition defences. Just as crucially, his ability to sniff out a chance in a tense game could prove the difference in the team’s quest to win every prize available.
The puzzle of improving the most feared strike force in Europe has kept Barcelona busy all summer, but by adding Alcácer to their fleet of prolific scorers, they may have just solved it.