Lucas Digne is now in the Premier League with Everton after two seasons with FC Barcelona. Since his signing in 2016, the Frenchman made 29 La Liga appearances, seven Champions League appearances, seven Copa del Rey appearances and played in three Supercopa matches. In total, he played for the club 46 times, scoring two goals and providing three assists. Being blocked by Jordi Alba was always going to have its challenges, but Digne also never showed the kind of quality required to create healthy competition at the left-back spot. Unlike midfield or wing positions where players tend to be more versatile in their positioning, one would assume that Ernesto Valverde would feel most assured featuring players along the back-line that are comfortable in their natural positions. Replacing a back-up left-back may not make or break a season, but any long-term injury to Alba would very likely create some havoc on the left side of the field. At the moment, the club is looking at the three very different options for how to proceed.
The curly-haired 20-year-old was billed as Jordi Alba 2.0 in his days with the Juvenil squads, but that is a lofty comparison for any player due to the overwhelming accomplishments of the man that lines up next to Samuel Umtiti. Cucurella was given the potential equivalence due to his speed and unrelenting work rate when bombing into the attack. His low crosses are very reminiscent of the ones that Alba delivers to the feet of Lionel Messi, just at a much more precise rate. The problems with Cucurella lie on the defensive side of the ball, and it seems that the coaching staff and other important figures at the club have yet to be impressed by him in training enough to warrant any confidence that he would be trusted to supplant Alba in the case of a major issue. Ideally, Alba’s back-up will only need to be available for between ten and fifteen games throughout the season, and at the price of the other options, trusting Cucurella in those assuming less significant fixtures may be the best course of action for the club.
The reason for any doubt in Cucurella’s camp that he has a long-term future at the club rests on the feet of 18-year-old Juan Miranda. Miranda has a larger build than Cucurella and has already been proven to be more capable in possession, albeit at the expense of the speed Cucurella possesses. If national team selections are any indication, which they usually are, Miranda has long been anointed by Spain as their left-back for the future, being capped at every age level and starting in some recent deep tournament runs. Choosing to keep Miranda at the Barca B level probably says more about the younger left-back than it does of Cucurella. By keeping the more promising youngster at Barca B this season, Miranda would be rewarded with plenty of matches and minutes; the same matches and minutes that he wouldn’t receive while sitting on the bench behind one of the best in the game at his position.
The final option is obvious one where Cucurella would leave the club, Miranda would stay with Barca B and a new player would be bought. Ferland Mendy, 23-year-old Frenchman from Lyon, was linked with the club a few weeks ago, and he is one of the only names that has been leaked to the media. In truth, Samuel Umtiti and potentially Clement Lenglet, Thomas Vermaelen or Sergi Roberto could also deputize at left-back. Umtiti played at left-back occasionally for Lyon from 2011 to 2013 before he moved over to centre-back permanently so he has the most experience at the position, but Valverde may opt to use three at the back instead of playing anyone out of their comfort zone.