Barcelona are on the hunt for the long-term successor to Sergio Busquets this summer, with the veteran set to depart the club at the end of the season. Given Busquets’ unique skill set and incredible interpretation of the game, that in itself is slightly oxymoronic, but the Blaugrana will need someone to take his position on the pitch, even if it isn’t the same role as he plays. Xavi has named it their number one priority this summer.
Various options have been named for that position, including Martin Zubimendi and Guido Rodriguez, but Barcelona’s issues with the La Liga salary limit will also limit their spending ability.
According to Gerard Romero on his Twitch channel, one of the names they are looking at as is 18-year-old Belgian midfielder Arthur Vermeeren.
Enjoying a fine breakthrough season, Vermeeren has played 3,130 minutes for Royal Antwerp this season, becoming a regular for his side as they finished third in the regular season of the Jupiler Pro League. With three wins and one defeat, Antwerp are also leading the Championship group on goal difference with two games to go.
As per Romero, Vermeeren has been highlighted in particular by big data studies for his excellent play, especially standing out in the defensive duties he has taken on. In addition, scouts from the Catalan side have been to Belgium to watch him play.
The Blaugrana are not the only club who have been linked with Vermeeren too, with Manchester United and Newcastle United being mentioned as interested parties in the 18-year-old too (Daily Mail via OneFootball). Already fees of around €20m have been mentioned.
Appearing for the Belgian under-19 side on three occasions so far, Vermeeren has already been tipped by coach Mark van Bommel – a former Barcelona midfielder himself – for the senior Red Devil side.
Vermeeren clearly enjoys excellent vision and reading of the game, often stepping forward to shut down attacks, in the same way that Barcelona like their pivots to do. It is an essential tool for possession-based sides. That proactive attitude will serve him well, but his composure once he has the ball is equally important at Barcelona, where he would likely be the first or second receiver of the ball, and asked to play out under pressure.
If Barcelona were to pursue him seriously as an option for next season, it would take an extraordinary leap of faith. Xavi needs someone who can fill the role immediately, and if Vermeeren is to be that player, it would be placing enormous pressure on the teenager’s shoulders, and asking him to step up a level at the same time.