How Luuk de Jong is Barcelona's Ighalo moment

Martin Macdonald
Luuk De Jong is on the radar of Barcelona very late in the window

Barcelona have gone through one of the most tumultuous summers in their entire history due to the financial instability currently overshadowing the club.

The Blaugrana are €1.3 billion in debt and have been ordered by La Liga to drastically reduce their wage bill from last season.

No Spanish club must spend over 70% of their annual turnover on player wages, and last season that percentage at Barcelona was closer to 110%.

The need to cut costs in the main reason why they were forced to let legendary player Lionel Messi leave for free to join Paris Saint-Germain and Antoine Griezmann depart for Atletico Madrid on loan, despite signing for €120m just two summers ago.

Barcelona have been recruiting, too, but mostly in the free agent market as Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia all arrived before the start of the campaign, the Dutchman arriving from Lyon and the latter pair joining from Man City.

With no outgoings, Barcelona would have had an attacking roster of Messi, Griezmann, Aguero, Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Yusuf Demir and Martin Braithwaite.

Messi and Griezmann have now gone, and Barcelona's bright idea has been to replace them with...31-year-old Luuk de Jong on loan from Sevilla.

Even before Griezmann left, Barcelona were eager to bring in a new centre-forward, not only for extra numbers but because Aguero will miss 10 weeks of action due to a calf injury.

The financial state of the club made any big-money acquisition impossible this summer, but bringing in De Jong is severely underwhelming.

The best season of De Jong's career came in 2018/19 when he scored 28 goals in the Eredivisie and it was that kind of form that earned him a move to Sevilla in the first place.

However, he has struggled with the step up in quality to Spanish football, so much so that he has scored just 10 La Liga goals in 66 games - certainly nowhere near good enough to be on Barca's radar in normal times.

It remains to be seen how much game time De Jong will receive, but his close relationship with former Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman was certainly a major factor in the move happening.

There is no reason why Barca B player Rey Manaj (now loaned to Spezia) couldn't have played what will be a very limited role.

If De Jong does play a lot, it will be a damning indictment of how the mighty Barca have fallen.

Ighalo comparisons

At the moment, Manchester United have an abundance of quality in the centre-forward position, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial all capable of leading the line at Old Trafford.

But that was not the case always the case. As recently as 2019/20, Odion Ighalo was on United's books. Ronaldo and Cavani have since been added.

After selling Romelu Lukaku to Inter in the summer of 2019, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer failed to bring in a replacement which left the club bereft of personnel in the centre-forward position.

Several massive names were linked with a move to Man Utd the following January, but it was the attacking midfield position that was prioritised, with Bruno Fernandes arriving from Sporting CP.

And so the centre-forward spot was left as an afterthought.

Eventually, the club settled on former Watford man Odion Ighalo, who at that time was plying his trade in China with Shanghai Shenhua.

Even though the fans recognised he would be brought on as an impact sub or play the occasional cup match, it was still just as underwhelming as the De Jong deal.

Just 18 months later, and it seems unthinkable that Man Utd would opt for such a deal, as in the summer of 2021 they have bought three world-class players in Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

Barcelona will be hoping that, sooner rather than later, they will also be shopping from the top shelf rather than in the bargain bin.