If reports are to be believed, United are about to help Everton out for the second time by buying their most valuable player and providing them with some much needed income. Leighton Baines is the 27 year old left back who many United fans feel would provide ideal competition for Paddy Evra, with some even feeling he should be bought as a replacement for the Frenchman. His defensive solidarity and ability to whip in a deadly left-footed cross have made him one of the Premier League’s best full backs, and the fact he is English adds further value to the Baines package; for whatever reason that may be. However, the fees being touted around as sufficient to gain his signature seem quite steep, with amounts ranging from £12m to £20m being quoted in recent ‘newspapers.‘ For a player who will have a very low sell-on fee should United decide to let him go within the next few years, this hardly represents good value for a player who has next to no European or international experience.
Despite this interest in the former Wigan man, Baines was not United’s first choice target for the left back role. Fergie seems to be keen to strengthen the left back area of the team, and his attempt to sign Jordi Alba from Valencia perhaps suggests that he is aiming to replace Evra completely, as the Spanish European Championship winner is hardly a player suited for the Old Trafford bench. However, the possibility of that dream signing soon vanished quicker than Paul Pogba’s United career, as the outstanding Spaniard went and joined the ranks at Barcelona, who, to be fair, need strengthening after such a poor season. This finally brings me on to the point of this rambling; with Alba now guaranteed first team football at Barça following Abidal’s sad retirement, their other remaining left back, Adriano, now seems destined to leave the Nou Camp. He has apparently gathered Juventus, Bayern Munich and wait, you guessed it, Manchester City among his admirers over recent months, and at the same age as Baines, would command a much lower transfer fee than the scouser if United were to attempt to sign him.
Adriano Correia Claro was Barcelona’s most consistently played left back during the end of the 2010/11 season as Abidal struggled with his battle with cancer, and the club went on the complete the league and European double, seemingly at a canter. Abidal remarkably recovered to play in the Champion’s League final, but any player who plays over 30 games during a season for that team, undoubtedly one of the greatest club sides in footballing history, must be very good at playing football. While it’s important to remember that any full back playing for Barcelona rarely has to do any defending at all, they also must be comfortable on the ball, possess great passing ability and be able to attack the opposition at every available opportunity. Adriano is as two-footed as any player you will see, meaning that, theoretically, he is also capable at playing right back. United’s problem areas last season were both full back areas (I’m not even going to mention the midfield or this article may never end) so logically, signing a two-footed full back with experience of playing alongside Messi and co. for the last two years would vastly improve the quality we have in these positions. He has also played on either wing for Barcelona, further enhancing his reputation as a very talented utility man, something missing from United’s squad since Sheasy left for Sunderland.
United have recently admitted what many have suspected for a long time, that the club’s buying powers are not what they should be due to the ridiculous financial restrictions placed onto the ‘most valuable sports brand in the universe’ by it’s popular American owners. So by my calculations, when faced with the possibility of buying one of two 27 year old left backs who will have no sell-on value, a Brazilian with vast European and big-game experience who would command a transfer fee of less then £8m represents better value than an Englishman with no such experience who would cost double that. Yes Baines has Premier League experience and made it into the PFA team of the year last season, but if United are serious about competing on all fronts next season then I believe Adriano would be a better signing. People may wish to point out that in recent years we have signed English players with only league experience (Smalling, Jones and Young) and they have settled into the team and performed brilliantly at times. Baines may just do this and I would be more than happy if this came to fruition. But these players were not bought as direct replacements for existing players, which may not be the case in this situation. Replacing Evra with Baines may provide slight benefits in the league, but I am not convinced he could maintain that level in the Champions League, where the English players mentioned above have struggled with form as we embarrassingly failed to progress from the group stages last season. European football is not something that many players can just take into their stride, even the great Portuguese One took a few seasons to replicate his league form in the competition. Adriano would have no problems competing for United in Europe, so the only question remaining would be whether he could adapt to the Premier League. My view is that if you’re good enough to represent Barcelona over 70 times during two seasons, winning La Liga, the Champions League and the Club World Cup, then you’re good enough to play anywhere in the world, and it would be foolish of United not to explore the possibility of bringing him to Old Trafford this summer.
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