As evidenced by the January transfer window, Barcelona can’t compete with the financial might of the Premier League. After Endrick’s move to Real Madrid, they learned that it may be some time before they can even compete with their eternal rivals in the spending department. Players who come to the Camp Nou this summer will need to want to come and choose Barça over all others.
Plus, the club still has some salary work to do, mainly concerning the renewals of Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde. Both renewals are ready to go but still need to be registered with La Liga and will count again the club’s limit for the summer. Reducing the wages of Frenkie de Jong and Jordi Alba may be essential parts of the summer business as well – de Jong, Alba, and Lewandowski are the only three players reportedly making more than €20m next season, with those three making up close to 30% of the wage bill. If Barça can get that homework done on time, there is still a slight chance that they may have some money to work with around the edges while utilizing some major amortization (thanks for the blueprint Chelsea!).
A right-back and a defensive midfielder (depending on Busquets’ renewal) are the priorities, but a young forward could be in the works as well. The futures of Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres are in question at this point in the season, and the club may already be looking for a succession plan for Robert Lewandowski. That’s where Vitor Roque, the 17-year-old (turning 18 at the end of the month) centre-forward for Athletico Paranaense, comes in.
Unlike Endrick, who went where the money was, it appears that Roque may choose Barcelona regardless of other suitors. At the moment, he’s standing out as one of the top players of the South American U-20 Championships with Brazil, and he is already a regular for his club side.
The price could be around €30m plus add-ons, but Athletico Paranaense may be open to having those payed in multiple installments, likely three. The player’s agent Andre Curry is also a former scout for Barcelona, and that relationship could be enough to get a deal done.
Who is Vitor Roque the player though? Being still a teenager, it’s hard to tell how much of a clinical finisher he’ll become. After joining Athletico Paranaense last season from Cruzeiro, he scored seven goals in 36 appearances. Most impressively, he almost immediately found himself in the starting line-up for the team’s run to the Copa Libertadores Final, scoring two goals along the way.
At this point in his development, he isn’t yet a traditional target forward – if he’ll ever be. Many of his best moments come from either a teammate creating the chance or his team turning the opponent over in an advantageous position. His stocky build may physically draw comparisons to Sergio Agüero or a young Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), but his goalscoring process even at 17 isn’t where those two were and that also won’t be what Xavi would be impressed by yet.
His work rate seems translatable to Europe, as he is in the top 3% for interceptions among all forwards, and is in the top 11% in tackles. He’s also in the top 25% in shot-creating actions and successful take-ons, two skills that should only improve with experience. His ability to start out wide on the right and either call his own number or create space for a teammate is another skill that makes Roque look mature for his age.
Culers will expect him to immediately come in and be a goalscorer; putting pressure on teenagers is just what fans of “big” clubs do. But fortunately for the player, a €30m fee may wind up being a steal if all his other abilities translate as well as they could. Now he just has to choose Barça.