Oriol Romeu: Barcelona’s Short-term Successor to Sergio Busquets?

After emerging through the ranks of a prestigious club and subsequently playing at a mid-table team for years, it is hard to find your way back to the elite level. This challenge is primarily rooted in the prevailing assumption that your capabilities are known already, with people judging you for not making it at the elite club in the first place.


It is an unconscious bias that a lot of football stakeholders carry, from executives to coaches to fans. There is also an assumption that if you were really that good, you would not have stayed at the level you did for so long. This underlying perspective has significantly influenced the perception surrounding Oriol Romeu and the recent discussions about him.


For a player who excelled so well at a stable club, in what has clearly been the best league in the world for years, it is quite remarkable how little credit or hype Romeu gets. Even considering the bias mentioned earlier, one would still expect him to get plaudits for his work – perhaps not the kind declaring him a fit for the elite level, of course. Then again, that should not surprise anyone, should it?


After all, what is sadly a key issue with modern football fandom is actually what makes Romeu who he is. Many struggle to relate with quiet consistency or find any allure in it, because it is unremarkable and dull. They want flashes of brilliance, headline grabbers, screamers, nutmegs, compilation material that can go viral, the football equivalent of rap verse “quotables” or as we sometimes say it, “they want a vine footballer”. All of these things, Romeu is not.


Sergio Busquets: The Immortal Metronome


Oriol Romeu is a player who gives you 6 or 7 out of 10 every week. He may not give you a 10 over 10 or a moment to remember. He may not give you a 1/10, so poor that it makes the news. He gives around the level that is not catchy enough to draw superlatives or hyperbolic criticisms out of you. Just there, steady, executing at a solid level, working in the shadows. He is the type of player that gives the flashier players a platform to grab the headlines. He is the foundation, the baseline, the water carrier channeling the spirit of Didier Deschamps. 


Many expectedly turned their noses up when talk of him joining Barcelona again began to surface. This was the club he grew up in, with all the ideals and the famed DNA. It was also the club where he did not make it to first-team regular status, despite the expectations for him and his career. Why sign him right after losing Sergio Busquets, when he is only a few years younger, in his 30s too? The answer is really simple.


What Barcelona have lost in Busquets won’t be fully replaced by Romeu or anyone, but he will bring the calmness, experience and composure needed in a team of rockstars. More importantly, he will bring balance to a midfield that constantly struggles with it. It is clear what Xavi’s thinking is; he needs someone who can regularly recalibrate things in midfield, to keep things ticking and the momentum rolling.


Xavi needs a player who is capable of delivering consistent 6s and 7s, so that others can deliver their 8s and 9s. What is evident is that Romeu probably wouldn’t be around for too long, but what he will give over the next two years will help to drive Barcelona down the path they need. No matter the midfield combinations Xavi opts for, Romeu will balance it. No matter the profile, he will be the master key that fits in and makes it work.


He may not be a flashy name or one that sets the internet on fire; he may not have the track record of a generational Barcelona star; he may not deliver 8s and 9s weekly; but what Oriol Romeu will give Barcelona is solutions that they so desperately need. He will be the answer to a plethora of questions that have no real answers. It is all set up for him to have one last dance at the elite level, at the club that is home. Will he be up for it? Time will tell. 


By: Astorre S. Cerebróne / @xyCerebrone

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Sam Hodde / Getty Images