Are Barcelona facing a centre-back crisis? Not with Jean-Clair Todibo around

Jean-Clair Todibo put in a fine performance against Sevilla

Barcelona face Eibar when La Liga action returns after the international break and a new partnership will feature in central defense. Barring an unexpected injury or the return of Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet will line up next to fellow Frenchman Jean-Clair Todibo.

After watching from the sidelines since the start of the season, it’s no surprise that the 19-year-old Todibo wasn’t match fit for the game against Sevilla. “I was really looking forward to playing in La Liga,” he said, “because it’s not the same playing in a friendly like the Gamper.”

It’s a little puzzling the way the club has handled the player. Instead of registering him with Barcelona B last year when he arrived from Toulouse, he joined the first team right away. He got two appearances last season, against Huesca and Celta de Vigo, and neither of those appearances came alongside a preferred starting XI.

It could have been the player or his agent that pushed him into the first team out of the gate, but it would be much more telling if the club and Ernesto Valverde had made that decision. It should be noted that Todibo is younger than all four of Barcelona B’s centre-backs; Jorge Cuenca, Ronald Araújo, Chumi, and Óscar Mingueza. Somebody saw something special.

Todibo looked nervous in the first half against Sevilla, but showed flashes of his ability to dribble himself out of trouble. He was beaten a number of times on aerial challenges early, but as Barcelona found the match so did the teenager.

With Gerard Pique and Araújo suspended and Samuel Umtiti potentially still on the shelf, Valverde has no other option but to start Lenglet and Todibo. Next up would be Chumi, who looked to be the next man up last season but has now fallen back down the depth chart. Maybe this was the plan all along, since Araújo took some time last year to get his paperwork finalized after coming over from Boston River in Uruguay last summer and needed time to find his feet in Catalonia.

If Barcelona had always intended to get Matthijs de Ligt, this back-up plan seems to be something the club can live with. It’s always a challenge to be conservative with praise for young players, but Todibo looks to be the real deal. He should start every fourth or fifth La Liga match plus Copa del Rey games. The potential he has to do things that Lenglet and Piqué can’t do is too valuable, even this season, to sit on the bench and never get the chance.