Jérémy Mathieu Joins FC Barcelona From Valencia


For the past few years during the transfer windows, fans of the historic Catalan team have begged director of football Andoni Zubizarreta and the board to sign a new centre back.  On Wednesday July 23, 2014 that dream came true.  The runners up in La Liga have announced the signing of 30-year-old French defender Jérémy Mathieu from Valencia.  The fee agreed upon by the two Spanish clubs appears to be around 20 million euros, and has Mathieu under contract at the Camp Nou until 2018.

Mathieu had been with Valencia since the 2009 season, previously playing for the French Ligue 1 teams Sochaux and Toulouse.  In the five seasons he spent at Valencia, Mathieu accrued six goals, eight assists and had a 78% pass completion rate [via WhoScored.com].  The six-foot-three defender will be the 20th Frenchman to play for Barcelona, with the most recent being Eric Abidal and Thierry Henry.

“The club knows my game and I’m here to help the team. I’m ready to be the centre back Barcelona is looking for.” – Jérémy Mathieu

While this may not be the defensive signing that most of the Blaugrana fans were hoping for, the French defender does add a considerable amount of depth to the side.  At 30-years-old, Mathieu is not the ideal age for a new signing, but in some cases defenders have come into the best form of their lives when they hit 30.  The most recent case that comes to mind is the legendary Carles Puyol.  The former Barcelona captain spent 15 years with the first team at the Camp Nou, 10 of which he served as captain.  You could argue that the wild haired defender’s best years for the Blaugrana was from 2008-2010, when Puyol was in his early thirties.  Other modern day defenders who have been in excellent form above the age of thirty are Chelsea’s John Terry and Argentina’s Martin Demchelis, who was excellent at the 2014 World Cup.

From a physical standpoint, Mathieu adds some much needed height to a back line that was very poor defending set pieces.  At six-foot-three, Mathieu also possesses great speed for a defender of his size, which will allow new head coach Luis Enrique some flexibility when setting his defensive lineup.  In fact, the versatility that Mathieu has may be the main reason that Enrique wanted the quick footed defender’s signature so badly.  While he may be primarily used as a backup centre back and left back, Mathieu’s signing could allow Enrique to tinker with the 3-4-3 formation, that the club has not been able to use since the departure of fellow Frenchman Eric Abidal.  Abidal possessed a similar skill set to Mathieu, a skill set which allowed Abidal to play as the left central defender in the 3-4-3.  Mathieu’s speed and comfortability on the ball would allow him to cover the flanks and chase down quicker wingers.  More importantly, playing with three in the back would allow for more rotation in the Barcelona midfield.  Javier Mascherano proved during the World Cup that he is an excellent defensive midfielder, but Sergio Busquets has occupied that spot in recent years.  Playing with three in the back could allow for Barcelona fans to see Busquets and Mascherano partner up in the midfield, which surely would be a treat.

While the signing of Mathieu is surely exciting for many fans of the Catalan club, it cannot be the last defensive signing that the club makes this summer.  With the absence of Carles Puyol this year, the depth at the centre back position is still worrying.  Pique struggled with injuries during last years campaign, and while the young Marc Bartra stepped in and performed admirably, the signing of another central defender would give much needed depth to the Barcelona back line.