Robert Lewandowski’s arrival at Barcelona means the world’s most lethal centre-forward and arguably the team most associated with strikerless formations must adapt to each other if trophies are to return to the Catalan capital.
That’s according to former Barça full-back Albert Ferrer, who sat down for an exclusive chat with FourFourTwo this week following La Liga’s return.
Ferrer, who won five Ligas and the 1992 European Cup among 15 trophies in eight seasons with his hometown club in the 1990s, believes the Polish hitman will prove an excellent addition to the Barça squad but only if Lewandowski and the Blaugrana learn to co-exist.
“Logically, if you’ve got one of the best finishers in the world playing for you then you want him to spend the maximum time possible in the area and get them the ball as often as possible,” Ferrer tells FFT. “Yes, Lewandowski technically good, can play with his back to goal, links play very well and moves the ball quickly, but he’s got to be in the area.
“Xavi is trying to give him the service. He’s got this reference point up there and wants to play with his wingers as wide as possible and get the ball in the box.”
Barcelona drew 0-0 with Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou in the opening weekend of La Liga, but Ferrer believes the goals will soon flow for Lewandowski, who plundered 344 in 375 Bayern Munich appearances and won eight Bundesligas and one Champions League in Bavaria before his €50m switch this summer.
“A guy with a history of scoring 40 to 50 goals a season, at a team like Barcelona, the normal thing is that he scores them,” says a confident Ferrer.
“Barcelona haven’t really had this sort of player before. Luis Suarez is the only other penalty box predator I can think of but even he would move around the pitch. Both Lewandowski and the team will have to adapt because playing with a fixed No.9 isn’t normal for Barcelona, it’s more about midfielders and wingers getting on the ball, but now the centre-forward will be more involved. It will be a different Barcelona.”
Lewandowski is one of a number of new faces at the Camp Nou in 2022/23, with Raphinha, Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie and Jules Kounde – who is yet to be registered because of the club’s ongoing struggles to comply with La Liga salary cap – arriving and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva rumoured to be joining them.
With Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and youngster Pedri and Gavi already there, former Barça and Chelsea right-back Ferrer believes it’s the strongest Blaugrana squad for some time.
“Xavi’s main issue is managing what he’s got, especially up front,” says Ferrer. “You’ve got Rafinha, Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres – that’s four wingers for two spaces. Then Lewandowski and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. That’s a lot of players who could all be first choice, but will have to spend time on the bench. It won’t be easy.
“But it’s a more balanced squad, one that should compete for every trophy.”
After two seasons without silverware, Xavi will need to deliver this term.
“The pressure will be on Xavi – he has stabilised the team now he has to win trophies,” says Ferrer, adding the Barça fanbase will be as demanding as ever.
“At Barcelona, we are who we are. We draw with Rayo Vallecano and it’s already, ‘what a load of sh*t, this team’s hopeless, we’ve spent all this money and we can’t even beat Rayo’. This is us, we tend to be quite pessimistic. But, honestly, this team is ready to compete until the end.”
To do so, Barcelona have channelled their inner Marty McFly and gone Back to the Future, with Ferrer seeing parallels with the club’s fabled Dream Team, in which he starred to win their first European Cup in 1992.
“Xavi has recovered some of the movements we used to have in the Dream Team – they’re a bit more direct, quicker and reach the opposition’s box sooner with fewer touches than recent Barcelona sides. He knows how to set up a very intense, high-pressing team,” he says.
To win a first Liga title since 2018/19, Barça will have to topple defending Spanish and European champions Real Madrid, a winning machine who excel in pressure moments.
“Madrid have that DNA to fight at the very limit to win trophy after trophy – they’re such a difficult rival,” says Ferrer, who adds La Liga will again be between Spain’s big two this term. “Real Madrid bear no resemblance to Barcelona. To win matches, Barcelona have to play their own brand of football – an aesthetic style, almost mathematic in its precision, but Madrid are like a glorious chaos.
“You don’t know what they’re going to do. Luka Modric might pop up on the left wing, Casemiro might shoot from inside the area – it’s all about improvisation. Preparing a team to face Real Madrid is harder than it is to play Barcelona. With Barça, I know what they’re going to do and if they succeed then they’ll beat you, but I know the movements they’re going to make. Madrid could attack with four players down the left wing one minute, then with three through the middle the next. That’s so hard to defend against.”
Ferrer will be fronting La Liga TV’s tactical analysis, who will show every game live this season in the UK and Ireland. Ten games from Spain’s top-flight will also be shown on ITV4, beginning with Real Sociedad against Barcelona this Sunday.
“I’ve always loved tactics – they’re essential to how a team functions,” he says. “Any coach has to have three plans in place for every game, because you have to evolve so often during a match.”
Ferrer will feature on the Viva La Liga show every Tuesday, providing Spanish football’s best tactical analysis using MediaCoach and PanoCam software.
Watch all of LaLiga this season via Premier Sports, with ten games also broadcast live on ITV. Sign up to Premier Sports here (opens in new tab).
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