Looking for an U25 replacement for Sergio Busquets

Category: Player Analysis

We analyze the performance of the Barcelona central-midfielder and carry out a parameterized search in order to find a younger substitute


Barcelona is one of the most unique clubs in European football in terms of the way they play and the way they plan their matches, with a great deal of patience in the build up of each play. The impressions that people have from the outside are reinforced by the statistics: in the last ten campaigns they have averaged 65.7% possession, attempting an average between 620 and 751 passes per game. Despite the fact that essential players such as Xavi, Iniesta and Alves left a while ago, the Catalonians are still on the same road map. One of the masts of this ship is Sergio Busquets, a fixture in the central-midfielder position for more than a decade. The player from Sabadell has a proven track record, with a top response in many big games and more than 120 matches with the Spanish national team. But the continuing catastrophes in the Champions League have opened up a period of change at Barça and Busquets may need a younger replacement in the near future. At Driblab we have used the data to try to find an under 25 player who can cover his usual tasks.

Firstly, we will analyze the Busquets metrics in recent years. Despite the feeling that his physique is not as good as it used to be, his averages still leave him in a very good position among the midfielders of the big leagues. His extraordinary passing success (90%), which is hardly affected when the passes end in the final third, is accompanied by very good records in ball progression or xG build up -which takes into account plays that end in a shot-. He is also a player who adds in the defensive phase, with very high recovery averages. However, it is understood that in a team like Barcelona certain metrics are multiplied by the style, being a particularly aggressive team when they lose the ball. It is here that a small “downhill” in the Busquets’ performance can be glimpsed. While in 2015/16 it had a sum of 8.12 between successful interceptions and tackles, in 2020/21 that sum is 4.63. Regardless of whether the club is looking for a replacement in the short term or not, in this post we will evaluate some alternatives.

In order to find a younger player who can be assimilated into the Busquets profile, we have used the parameterised search. It is a tool that we often use with our clients and that allows us to screen by establishing a series of filters. In this case we have looked for players under 25 years old, with a minimum height of 180 cm, who make more than 2.5 tackles and more than 1.5 interceptions per 90 minutes, who contribute to the build up of at least 0.35 xG and who have an average of dispossessions (steals suffered) of less than 1.4.

At first sight, among those who meet the requirements, the most appropriate profiles seem to be those of Cheick Doucouré (Lens, 2000), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus, 1997), Ibrahim Sangaré (PSV, 1997), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo, 1998) and Aurélien Tchouaméni (Monaco, 2000). It is true that some of them lack sufficient experience at the first level, but almost all of them have maintained a significant growth line in the last two years. Doucouré, for example, is proving to be one of the most efficient central midfielder in Ligue 1 in its first year in the category. However, if we stop at its volume of passes attempted per 90 minutes (46.7) it is a far cry from that of a player like Busquets. Something similar occurs with Tchouaméni (49), who does not yet seem to be sufficiently exposed to ball intervention to evaluate him. A footballer who does not fulfill the last of our filters, having participated in the build up of less xG than the rest, but who fits in for his work in many other tasks, is Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad, 1996). The Spanish player has been standing out a lot in the recovery, the aerial game or the pressing since last season, but his figures in the distribution are far from those of the rest of the players in the list.

Sangaré is indeed a player who is having to make quite a few on-ball decisions this year at PSV Eindhoven, with about 62 passes attempted per 90 minutes. He also has a high volume of successful defensive actions, with good numbers of tackles and interceptions far above the average for the position. But in his case the jump seems more pronounced, since he is playing in a non-top league and last year at Toulouse did not show such solid numbers. In short, in this search, the best placed candidates seem to be Locatelli and Bentancur. Although they are two different players, both are used to finding teammates regularly in the final third. In the graphs below we see all the deliveries they have made this season from midfield positions to the final 35 metres.

Both are players who participate in a very regular way and who are used to overcoming rival lines with passes. Although Locatelli makes more use of long-range movement from his own field. If we look at the Sassuolo player’s metrics, we find a player with more offensive initiative than Bentancur, but his talent for offensive play and distribution from midfield makes him suitable for a role like Busquets. This season (1514 min.) he is generating 20.2 ball progressions (advances of at least 10 metres through the pass or drive) per 90 minutes of play. Bentancur also averages quite a few such advances (16.8) and is also very effective as a passer. What sets them apart is that Locatelli, who is more exposed because of the role he plays within his team, suffers more steals than the Uruguayan. But both could be the player to replace Busquets. In the accumulative of successful tackles plus interceptions both already have similar averages (4,99 the Italian; 5,06 the Uruguayan) to the one of the azulgrana player, in teams less prepared to press after they lose the possession of the ball.

We are Driblab, a consultancy specialized in the statistical analysis of players and teams; our work is focused on advising and minimizing risk in professional football decision-making in areas related to talent detection and footballer evaluations. Our database has more than 180,000 players from more than 180 competitions, covering information from all over the world. Here you can learn more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Antonio Durán
Para Player Analysiswe also recommend you:

Bryan Gil: the uprising of a hidden gem

The 20-year-old has been gaining minutes, confidence and continuity with Eibar. We analyze the latest season of La Liga’s revelation.

Similar players: Replacing Modric, van Dijk, Sancho or Enzo Pérez

Players turn old, get injured, decide to change teams or simply drop in performance. One of the best ways to replace a player is to identify which profile we take as a reference, what functions are desired for that position and see who are the most similar names....

Weston McKennie: Juventus’ (not so) secret weapon

From one of the most defensive teams in Europe to a Juventus team that gives him freedom in attack. This is Weston McKennie’s transformation and evolution.

Looking for an U25 replacement for Sergio Busquets

We analyze the performance of the Barcelona central-midfielder and carry out a parameterized search in order to find a younger substitute

Who could replace Gonzalo Montiel?

In light of the possible exit of River Plate’s full-back, we use our models to search for and analyze players who could replace him.

The big bargain of the next summer?

We analyzed David Alaba’s performance with data. The Bayern player finishes his contract in June and that puts him in the point of view of many big clubs.

Four players who stood out in the last African Champions League

By Ali Hassan;
We analyze some details on four names that performed at a high level in the last edition of the CAF Champions League

Brenner: a potential proven by data

A long time after Cafu, Ronaldo or Rivaldo consolidated their careers in big European clubs, Brazil is still one of the countries that exports most talent abroad in the football industry. The cases of Pedrinho (1998, Benfica), Antony (2000, Ajax) or Luis Henrique...

Is there a replacement for Sergio Ramos?

With the help of the data we look for a U-25 centre-back that can replace the Real Madrid captain in case he leaves the club one day. We use the parameterized search and propose some names.

The benefits Atlético gets from the Suárez-Morata exchange

Until a few days ago, Atlético de Madrid was one of the LaLiga teams that was passing this market window with more discretion. Except for the return of Yannick Carrasco and the incorporation of the young Croatian goalkeeper Ivo Grbić, the club had almost made no...


Corporate Information

We are a company based in Madrid founded in 2017 by Salvador Carmona and Cristian Coré Ramiro. Since our inception our work has focused on statistical analysis to help clubs in sports planning. We are a consulting firm that offers personalized services for each client and defends a mixed management model and constant communication to accompany the day to day of the institutions. Our strength is the widest coverage available in number of professional and junior tournaments. For more details please contact us.

Colaboramos con:


Hemos aparecido en:

Talk to our speciali