Xavi ‘Gives OK’ For Teen To Reinforce Barcelona Defence: Report

Xavi Hernandez

Getty Xavi is missing Dembele.

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has been forced to look at the club’s youth academy to find a replacement for club legend Gerard Pique, who retired from football just before the World Cup.

Xavi has now “given the OK” for 19-year-old highly-rated center-back Chadi Riad to come in and reinforce the defense by replacing Pique, as reported by Mundo Deportivo.

The Barcelona boss is “convinced” by Riad and appreciates his height, positioning, ability on the ball and aggression. Riad’s development has been monitored for some time and the club are happy with his progress.

Riad has long been tipped for the first team after impressing in Barca’s youth system and is already an international with Morocco’s Under-20 side. The Atlas Lions’ senior team has made headlines at the World Cup by dumping Spain out in the last 16.

Xavi has seen Riad in first-team training this season and called him up for the club’s pre-season tour of the United States. The teenager now appears to have the perfect chance to stake a claim to be permanently part of the first team at the Camp Nou.

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Barca’s Defensive Options

Riad will add to Xavi’s defensive options and becomes another player able to play centrally, along with Eric Garcia, Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Jules Koude.

Barca’s lack of an outstanding right-back option means that Xavi could therefore look to use either Kounde or Araujo on the flank for the rest of the campaign, with Riad competing with Christensen and Garcia for the two center-back slots.

Xavi does have Hector Bellerin and Sergi Roberto available at right-back, but neither player has really been able to cement a spot in the team. Indeed Barca’s best option at right-back this season has been teenager Alejandro Balde who is actually a left-back by trade.

No January Signings?

One reason that Xavi has been forced to look internally for a replacement is the fact that Barcelona now look unlikely to bring in players during the January transfer window, despite Pique’s departure which will have freed up space on the wage bill.

Sporting director Jordi Cruyff has admitted that things have changed on the financial front and the Catalans are now pessimistic about the prospect of strengthening the squad in the winter market, as reported by Diario Sport.

“We are prepared. The problem is fair play,” he explained. “Every week or month something new appears. It is true that the rule is getting tougher, it is also true that Spanish football is feeling it. I’m not talking about Barça. You have to see what is best for Spanish football. Competition with other countries is very tough. Both what is allowed in spending and taxes.”

The situation could change if Barcelona do manage to offload players in the winter window. Memphis Depay and Franck Kessie have both been tipped to leave but Barca may wait until the end of the season to make changes to the squad.

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