Over the last few days, multiple sources have reported that FC Barcelona have Borussia Dortmund’s right back, Thomas Meunier, on their shortlist as a potential last-minute summer acquisition, for a fee between €10-15 million.
This rumor hasn’t exactly gained a ton of traction and none of the more trustworthy BVB sources have confirmed it, but I’d still like to briefly explain why I think, if the story IS true, Dortmund should do everything they can to avoid selling Thomas Meunier.
The main problem with selling Meunier would be that BVB has no viable alternative at right back unless the front office is secretly scouting some other candidate for a last-minute transfer. The club’s current “back-ups” are Marius Wolf, Mateu Morey, Emre Can, and Felix Passlack. Of these four players, Marius Wolf is probably the most ready to fill Meunier’s place; but his role as a utility man that can play anywhere on the pitch would be undermined if he was starting at right back regularly. Morey showed promise prior to his injury, but he has been out for a year following an ACL injury and is still going through rehab, so probably shouldn’t be expected to play significant minutes this season. While Emre Can can play right back in a pinch, he is a clear downgrade from Meunier, and Passlack should be limited to an emergency fill-in at best.
The other problem with selling Meunier is that he is a legitimately good offensive full back that fits the style that BVB will try to use this season. BVB’s two striker acquisitions this summer— first Sebastien Haller, and then Anthony Modeste— are both classic #9s whose jobs are to get in the box and latch on to crosses, whether the ball is in the air or on the ground. While both players can win their fair share of challenges, the squad also needs someone to fire in those crosses, and there’s hardly anyone more prolific at it than Thomas Meunier.
Despite boasting a plethora of talented wingers, BVB don’t have anyone in the squad who can launch a cross into the penalty box like Thomas Meunier. No player on the squad comes close to him in terms of successful crosses into the penalty area (PA):
If Thomas Meunier leaves, Edin Terzic will have a massive problems on his hands: a pair of strikers who can challenge for crosses with no one who can actually cross the ball to them. Removing Meunier from the squad would take away a valuable avenue for attack that helps BVB break down stubborn low blocks.
In addition to his crossing, Meunier generally moves the ball well. This skill is very important in Edin Terzic’s system, in which so much of the forward progression is conducted along the touchlines. None of Marius Wolf, Felix Passlack, Mateu Morey, or Emre Can can match the Belgian in this area. He was second in the team in progressive passes per 90 minutes last season only behind Raphael Guerreiro, which is an indication of how important he is to the squad.
Meunier’s defensive contributions are less strong, and frankly it might be an area where Marius Wolf and Emre Can have him beat. In my opinion, though, the value on the ball that Meunier adds more than make up for any defensive weaknesses he may have.
Overall, a paltry €10-15 million seems to be a pittance compared to the impact that Thomas Meunier has on the pitch. Without him, Anthony Modeste and, when he returns, Sebastien Haller will have a hard time finding aerial challenges to win, and the entire right side of the pitch will suffer. Barcelona might be a mess right now, but they appear to have found a proper target in Meunier; let’s make sure he doesn’t slip away!