Imagine Luciano Pavarotti’s immense opera playing in the background to you admiring the Amalfi coast and all its beauty, whilst opening a bottle of Cognac. Well, that best describes what it is like to watch Adrien Rabiot grace the Parc des Princes pitch. It is a sight to behold.
Coming through the academy at PSG, Rabiot made his proper breakthrough during the 13/14 campaign and since then has amassed over 30 appearances every season since. And as they say, durability is the best ability. After agreeing a pre-contract deal with Barcelona, in which Adrien is said to be receiving in the region of £9m-a-year at the Camp Nou, plus an additional £9m signing bonus, this is a clear sign the Catalan club is keen on the French international. The Blaugrana has proved to be the more attractive option, as according to Sports Illustrated, it was reported Rabiot “does not believe in the PSG project” and there is an understanding that Barca will allow him to play in the 8 role more than the 6, which he is currently occupying at PSG.
The 6-foot-3 defensive midfielder has started to show what he’s really about in recent years. Able to operate in the 6 and the 8 effectively, Rabiot is best categorised as a deep-lying playmaker, who isn’t afraid in the final third and knows his defensive responsibilities. Comfortable receiving the ball deep within his own half and finding the right pass, it is no surprise that Valverde tried to sign the 23 year old French midfielder in the summer, according to the ever-so reliant source of Rabiot’s mother. Nothing ever seems rushed with Rabiot, even in pressure situations such as a high zonal press in his own half, he will stay calm, highlighted by his 92% pass completion last season(thanks WhoScored). Using his large frame to hold off players as he uses his underrated speed to get past players is a certain in every game for Adrien.
However, Barca will surely want to see Rabiot contribute more directly to goals. In the 2017/18 season, he only was involved in 11 goals in 49 appearances. In hindsight, this was likely due to the role Rabiot was playing, with the midfielder more likely to get second assists and have pivotal roles in driving the team forward before a goal. Defensively, he only was shown two yellow cards in Ligue 1, but this is due to the fact Rabiot is not seen in the challenge for the Parisian side, with Marco Verratti the main dispossessor in the midfield. If handed more defensive responsibility, Rabiot would need to grow this side of his game quickly as the Catalan club is a harsh environment for players, with the very best demanded and expected from their fans.
Focusing on this season’s performances, it is clear Barca’s interest in the summer unsettled the midfield maestro, and thus a dip in his performances has occurred. No goals or assists in open play, despite 1154 of game time this season in 14 games. The stats emphasise his role within the PSG system; 3 second assists, 8 successful take-ons, but surprisingly, we are seeing Rabiot get involved in the physical side of defending more with 10 tackles won. In all three statistics just mentioned, Rabiot ousts most of the Barca midfield, with only Busquets trumping him in tackles won (no surprise there!) and Phil Coutinho with more successful take-ons. With Busquets, Vidal and Rakitic all getting on in age, Valverde is strengthening the new age of Barcelona’s midfield, with Arthur, Coutinho and Rabiot all under the age of 27.
Rabiot has finally gotten his dream move – even if he has to wait until the summer. Personally, I feel like he has not been mature enough when dealing with this saga, and now that he has completed his mission, he really needs to start maturing, because the tradition and honour that Barcelona hold so very dear to their hearts cannot be tainted by a French diva. It is time for Adrien to show the world why Valverde went through all this hassle to get him.
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