He is the number one target of the boo boys at Camp Nou, but could another club find joy in signing Barcelona outcast André Gomes?
The Portuguese midfielder has endured a terrible time with the Catalans since moving from Valencia in the summer of 2016 for a reported €35 million fee, with a further €20 million agreed in add-ons. Gomes has ultimately failed to settle and adapt into life with Barça, most of the time seeing intimidated by his illustrious surroundings.
At Valencia he was happy, confident and at times unplayable. His incredible drives through midfield and ability to destroy defences with his dribbling became a common occurrence. Barça were not the only ones enamoured with the player, as Premier League teams also cast an eye over the former Benfica man.
While his reputation has taken a battering with the Catalans, those Premier League teams could well return and take advantage of his inevitable exit from Barça. Spurs in fact, mulled over a deal in January only to end up going elsewhere when it became clear the former Manchester United transfer target was digging in at Barça for a little while longer. After all, he has not become a bad player overnight, he simply needs a fresh start. The main issue has been finding a suitable place for Gomes, something that even now remains unclear.
Most recently he has featured in central midfield as a defensive player, picking the ball up off the backline and moving it into attacking areas. But due to his lack of confidence, has been asked to play there and keep things simple.
While the player insists he’s happy at the club and gives no time to discussion over his future, it’s evident things can’t persist like this.
A move away, and back to his comfort zone of the final third, is exactly what he needs. He also possesses attributes many clubs desire, including his ability to dribble and break down defences. His close control is excellent in these situations and he can penetrate defences at speed and with skill.
Even with limited minutes Gomes has managed 1.42 successful take on’s per 90 minutes this season. At his best with Valencia, he was managing highs of 1.71 successful take on’s per game and that is the sort of level he can play at.
The dwindling of his attacking numbers since coming to Barca is quite startling, with the player required to do more work off the all as opposed to sparking attacks.
Take his shooting; at Valencia he averaged around 1.5 shots per game, while at Barça in two season he’s not reached over 0.7 per game. While every player must develop and add new features to their game, there’s quite a difference when you ask a player to be completely different to his previous form. Gomes was requested to do exactly that and ultimately hasn’t been able to.
Spurs might well offer the exact balance he needs. The case of Erik Lamela is a good one to use as a parallel. He arrived from Roma having shown some defensive sensibility that needed a little shaping. Mauricio Pochettino did exactly that, and now the Argentinian is a more balanced player able to execute defensive duties but also still produce moments of magic in attacking areas.
The problem will be justifying an outlay on Gomes; does he really bring to the table qualities Spurs lack? The sense is that Lucas Moura will play more next season, going off Pochettino’s usual treatment of new signings. A long adaptation period before eventually being integrated into the first team proper. As well as Lamela, Son Heung-min also settled by undergoing a similar process. Moura can offer drive from deeper areas, while also occupy wide positions.
It might well leave the Barcelona man in a position where he’s searching for a position to be effective in.
If there is anything Spurs lack then it’s a player to drive and dribble at opponents, pulling them out of position and dragging them into areas they shouldn’t be. It perhaps explains those long-term links to Wilfried Zaha too. Son is on 1.8 successful dribbles per game this season, while Lamela sits at just 0.7. Moussa Dembele‘s impressive 2.2 usually come from the centre of midfield, as opposed to the final third where some teams can stifle Spurs and restrict their play.
Gomes isn’t of that sort however, and while he can dribble impressively he is probably not the type of player Spurs require; they need a more classic winger who retains width and allows the central players room to manoeuvre. He instinctively looks to come inside and associate with players, which may present a problem for others.
There’s no doubt Pochettino could do some work with Gomes and help him regain confidence, but his skill set simply isn’t impressive or varied enough to warrant a Spurs outlay, which would likely be quite large. West Ham United have been linked and for a club such as them, the Portuguese would represent more a coup. It also gives the 24-year-old a place to play with less pressure, and a chance to work his way back up again.
Marko Arnautović’s excellent upturn in form has been largely down to his incredible individual ability. The giant Austrian can hold a line well on his own, but with the right kind of support West Ham could offer more danger in attack. The Portugal international could be an ideal solution, along with countryman João Mário and Manuel Lanzini it would give the Hammers different options in attack.
Gomes is a clear case of a player needing a move, the problem is his next one must be the right one.