Clement Lenglet: Barcelona’s unsung hero proves himself against Manchester United one year after doing the same with Sevilla

11 Apr

With usual starter Samuel Umtiti suffering from a persistent knee problem this year, relying on a Nou Camp newcomer with only a few years’ top flight experience to play centre-back could have been a problem for Barcelona.

Instead, Barça’s summer signing Clement Lenglet has looked consistently assured at the heart of their defence.

Lenglet has managed to pull off an odd feat: playing 38 games for Barcelona this season without really being noticed.

It’s been a promising debut season for Lenglet at the Nou Camp

But far from a sign of mediocrity, for a central defender at Barça, it’s a good thing.

Asked to be brave under pressure, play in a high line, and spend more time in the opposition half than most centre-backs would dare, central defenders at the Nou Camp are just one mistake away from ridicule during their time on the pitch.

It is a vertigo-inducing situation with pressure that experienced, quality players have buckled under.

Lenglet, still only 23, looks like he has been doing it for years; like he has long been playing Champions League quarter-finals.

Lenglet has surpassed all expectations this term

He hasn’t.

Just three years ago Lenglet was plying his trade in France’s second division with Nancy, stepping out at tiny grounds in Annecy or Dijon rather than the Theatre of Dreams or the Santiago Bernabeu.

When the French minnows gained promotion to Ligue 1, Sevilla’s ever savvy sporting director Monchi needed only half a season to judge that the young centre-back could be good enough to make the leap up to LaLiga straight away.

Monchi’s vision proved to be typically sound.

Within 12 months Lenglet was the leader of another defence, this time at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, dealing with the pressure at one of LaLiga’s most ambitious clubs like it was nothing. Accustomed to trophies and European football, Sevilla fans demand strong performances from their players every weekend, all season long.

At 22, the centre-back looked completely unfazed by it all.

With that kind of head on his shoulders, no wonder Barcelona moved quickly.

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That said, when the Blaugrana last summer paid €35million to sign a player Sevilla had brought in for €5m only a season-and-a-half prior, reasonable questions were raised.

Was that really enough time in LaLiga to accurately judge how a young footballer would adapt to one of the trickiest positions at the Nou Camp? Wouldn’t he just be warming the bench anyway with Samuel Umtiti around? If he was that good wouldn’t someone bigger than Sevilla have noticed already?

Barcelona spent €35million to sign Lenglet last summer

Fast forward nine months, and Lenglet´s purchase has already proven pivotal in helping Barça cope with a persistent knee injury that has kept Umtiti, Gerard Pique’s main defensive partner from last season, out for much of the campaign.

The Catalans have a history of poor transfer decisions when it comes to the middle of the defence, but in Lenglet’s case they got it spot on.

Starting in wins over Tottenham, Inter, Real Madrid, Atlético and now Manchester United to name but a few, the effortlessness with which Lenglet has adapted to the biggest stage is rarely seen from newcomers to the Barça backline.

Lenglet has been afforded opportunities due to Samuel Umtiti being sidelined through injury

It’s likely his no-fuss approach to business that stops Lenglet getting more plaudits.

Though he likes to anticipate and step up to win the ball early, he is rarely caught out making rash decisions, and though he isn’t the quickest in a sprint, his positioning generally makes up for that, meaning he is barely ever exposed.

To complete the Barça-quality package, Lenglet is also tidy with the ball.

Against United on Wednesday, with the home side executing a calculated high press for long spells, the Frenchman even coped far better than veterans such as Sergio Busquets. As the last line of defence in a situation in which the slightest error could have been punished, he was impressively controlled.

Lenget’s latest superb performance came in Barcelona’s defeat of Manchester United

“I think he looks great. Lenglet is producing a magnificent season with us,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde – who isn’t prone to superlatives – assessed last month. Wednesday’s clean sheet in Manchester was the latest benchmark in that campaign.

Appropriately enough, it was a similarly assured performance at the same ground in the Champions League knockout stages with Sevilla last year that fully convinced Barcelona to get a move on and pay Lenglet’s buyout clause.

Barcelona were convinced of Lenglet’s talents when he helped Sevilla beat Manchester United at Old Trafford

Other clubs will wish they had moved as promptly.

Just over 12 months later, the Frenchman is edging towards a treble. And he’s doing so discretely, without anyone noticing.

Top 20 best value transfers of the summer, according to statistics

22 Jan

We all know transfers can either be hits or misses.

Some players take time to settle and others adapt easily to their new clubs, having an instant impact.

And the CIES Football Observatory have attempted to find out which summer moves have so far yielded the most value.

Fabinho was bought by Liverpool for a big fee but has his value increased?

The Swiss statisticians have taken every player’s reported fee in the summer and their current estimated value – worked out by their own impressive algorithm – and calculated the best deals so far this year.

So, which stars have since the biggest increase in their value from their transfer fee in the summer? Find out below.

20. Jorginho (Napoli to Chelsea) – Value increase from fee – €18.2m
Reported fee – €57million
Current estimated value – €75.2million

Jorginho has struggled in recent games

19. Krzysztof Piatek (Cracovia to Genoa) – Value increase from fee – €18.4m
Reported fee – €4.5million
Current estimated value – €22.9million
18. Thilo Kehrer (Schalke to Paris Saint-Germain) – Value increase from fee – €18.5m
Reported fee – €37million
Current estimated value – €55.5million
17. Jonathan Ikone (Paris Saint-Germain to Lille) – Value increase from fee – €19.4m
Reported fee – €5million
Current estimated value – €24.4million
16. Felipe Anderson (Lazio to West Ham) – Value increase from fee – €19.9m
Reported fee – €37million
Current estimated value – €56.9million

Anderson has been a revelation since joining the Hammers in the summer

15. Richarlison (Watford to Everton) – Value increase from fee – €20.2m
Reported fee – €56million
Current estimated value – €76.2million
14. Alban Lafont (Toulouse to Fiorentina) – Value increase from fee – €20.9m
Reported fee – €8.5million
Current estimated value – €29.4million
13. Alassane Plea (Nice to Borussia Monchengladbach) – Value increase from fee – €21.7m
Reported fee – €23million
Current estimated value – €44.7million
12. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus) – Value increase from fee – €22.2m
Reported fee – €105million
Current estimated value – €127.2million

Ronaldo is still scoring for fun at Juventus

11. Clement Lenglet (Sevilla to Barcelona) – Value increase from fee – €27m
Reported fee – €35million
Current estimated value – €62million
10. Bryan Cristante (Atalanta to Roma) – Value increase from fee – €27.2m
Reported fee – €30million
Current estimated value – €57.2million
9. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea to Real Madrid) – Value increase from fee – €29.5m
Reported fee – €40million
Current estimated value – €69.5million
8. Fabinho (Monaco to Liverpool) – Value increase from fee – €31.5m
Reported fee – €55million
Current estimated value – €86.5million
7. Alisson (Roma to Liverpool) – Value increase from fee – €33.1m
Reported fee – €72.5million
Current estimated value – €105.6million

Liverpool star Alisson Becker has been superb this season

6. Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient to Arsenal) – Value increase from fee – €34.2m
Reported fee – €9million
Current estimated value – €43.2million
5. Joao Cancelo (Valencia to Juventus) – Value increase from fee – €37.6m
Reported fee – €40.4million
Current estimated value – €78million
4. Fabian Ruiz (Real Betis to Napoli) – Value increase from fee – €40.1m
Reported fee – €30million
Current estimated value – €70.1million
3. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City to Liverpool) – Value increase from fee – €40.3m
Reported fee – €14.7million
Current estimated value – €55.0million

Shaqiri has shone at Anfield, surprising fans and pundits alike

2. Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria to Arsenal) – Value increase from transfer fee – €44.3m
Reported fee – €30million
Current estimated value – €74.3million

Lucas Torreira has been a revelation in north London

1. Rodri (Villarreal to Atletico Madrid) – Value increase from transfer fee – €45.1m
Reported fee – €25million
Current estimated value – €70.1million

Atletico Madrid ace Rodri

Watch: Barcelona’s bizarre video announcing the signing of Clement Lenglet is really quite confusing

12 Jul

Barcelona have completed the signing of French defender Clement Lenglet for £32million in a deal which sees the ex-Sevilla man have a £265million release clause attached to him.

However, if that clause wasn’t crazy enough for you, wait till you get to see the welcome video for their latest signing.

Lenglet in action against Barca last season

It begins with a football in the home dressing room at the Nou Camp talking – yes, the football was talking – about how if Barca legend Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick that ball would end up in the Argentine’s private museum.

Any mention of Lenglet came during the last few seconds of the video. The football signed off by referring to Lenglet as “a great baller”.

Below you can see one of the more strange announcement videos of this transfer window…