Analysing Arthur: A Xavi Successor Or Just Not Worth The Hassle?
In the world of football, the name Barcelona is often associated with the term, ‘youth development’ as the club is often known for either producing gems from their youth system or buying the right players who seemingly have the DNA of the team’s footballing ethos. The example of Arthur Melo is a perfect one. When he signed from Grêmio in 2018, he practically came from out of nowhere and is now considered one of the hottest properties in Europe in the span of barely two seasons. Despite his meteoric rise, speculation around his future away from the club does not seem to go away.
At More Than A Game, we decided to delve deep into Arthur’s three years at Barcelona that have seen him become one of the best in his position in Europe and simultaneously, one who cannot escape the speculation about his exit from the Camp Nou.
2018: The Arrival of Arthur
The rumours linking Barcelona to a young Brazilian kid from Grêmio who shone in the Copa Libertadores excited many Barcelona fans, due to the fact that there was a certain mystery around Arthur back then considering he was somewhat of an unknown properly. The Brazilian had idolised Andrés Iniesta all his life and from what observers had witnessed, how he went about his business resembled Xavi. The diminutive midfielder fulfilled the criteria of players who were moulded the Barcelona way. Arthur could control the tempo of game through midfield with ease and alternate from being a No. 8 to a No. 10 in no time. His passing range and vision were also one to wax lyrical about and at just €40 million, he was a bargain buy.
Arthur made his debut in the pre-season game against Spurs and was one of the most impressive players on the pitch. He offered Barcelona just a glimpse into the bright future he had in store for culés that were aching for a man who could dictate things in the middle of the park.
As the season kicked off, Arthur showed promise in his first La Liga outings, coming off the bench and even starting one or two on occasion but the game that brought him under the spotlight was in his first start in the Champions League, ironically against Spurs. Even though the game was a Messi masterclass as per, Arthur shone the brightest after the genius himself. Even though he didn’t bag an assist during the match, the Brazilian ran the game from midfield. Sure, the crucial touches in the final third came from Messi but Arthur was the one responsible for getting the ball into the final third. Attacking and defending in equal proportions, watching Arthur play was like listening to a jazz composition: smooth, improvisational, and controlled. Not only that, with Arthur taking up the responsibility of getting the ball into the attacking positions, we saw the return of a prime Sergio Busquets as he was relieved of those duties as Xavi and Iniesta reached the end of their glittering careers.
The rest of 2018 established Arthur into one of the starters at our club but then arrived 2019, and the Brazilian midfielder was to face his latest challenge.
2019: A blemish on his record
The year 2019 looked bright for Arthur. He received a call-up for international duty with Brazil and the world started to recognize the subtle brilliance of the former Grêmio man. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of his problems. The only thing we had been left to desire from Arthur was his fitness as he could rarely complete 90 minutes, but he was working hard and improving on all aspects of his name. However, negative headlines began to surface when he was exposed to Neymar, whose backstory with Barcelona needs no introduction of course.
When Arthur was introduced to Neymar in the Brazilian setup, the two heavily bonded and allegedly, the club was worried that the Seleção poster boy could be a bit of a negative influence on their star midfielder. All that was not in vain as Arthur went to Neymar’s birthday party without alerting the club and got injured in the process, 48 hours before a Clásico. This was yet another blemish on Arthur’s fitness record and more importantly, him being so callous was far from a good look for a player before what is the biggest match in club football. In addition to this, the pair even partied a day before Neymar’s court case with the club and for all of the good work Arthur had done since his arrival, his actions off the pitch were disappointing to say the least.
Despite these incidents, there were high hopes for Arthur during the start of the new campaign. Arthur had lost a bit of credibility after the Neymar fiasco but, he was improving physically and as ever, there was no doubting his footballing ability. He had displaced Rakitić as the preferred choice in the midfield trio alongside de Jong and Busquets. Just as things were looking good for Arthur, disaster struck yet again as Arthur was ruled out for weeks in December after picking up an injury while snowboarding.
Manager Ernesto Valverde was sacked soon after as the new year rolled in but 2019 was a rollercoaster ride for Arthur who was making all the wrong headlines, despite being a player who could make the back pages for how terrific he was.
2020 brought a new challenge in front of Arthur in the form of Quique Setién, a manager known to be a tougher nut than his predecessor.
2020: Things are on the up, yet the uncertainty remains
The simple pattern with Arthur in 2019 was that when he played, he shone but that was if he managed to play. When Arthur timely recovered under new boss Quique Setién and made a couple of substitute appearances under him, the former Betis boss entrusted him with a start in the 2-0 loss against Valencia. The decision did not pay off as the Brazilian was not fit enough to keep up with the high tempo of Los Che and put on a below par performance. This caused him to be dropped in the 5-0 thrashing of Leganés. Arthur, however learnt from his mistakes and started working properly with the fitness coach and made an impressive comeback in the 11, even scoring against Eibar in the 5-0 thrashing in which Messi was on the scoresheet on four occasions and ran the show.
Arthur formed an impressive duo with de Jong, but an injury to the ankle in the game versus Real Sociedad and was ruled out yet again. A vicious cycle that deters a genuinely top player from reaching the heights he can seem to haunt him since he has arrived at the Catalan club. While all the noises suggested Arthur was putting in the work to return in time for the Champions League tie against Napoli, he fell just short. And since after, the COVID-19 outbreak put the world on pause and naturally, football too.
During this lockdown period, heavy rumours have emerged linking Arthur to both Inter Milan and Juventus with reports stating that Inter are demanding him in a deal for Lautaro Martinez while Juve want to swap him for Miralem Pjanić.
While Arthur should be untouchable, speculation suggesting the board have accepted a bid for the Brazilian from Juve in a plea to raise more funds cannot seem to go away. In addition, talks seem to have reached an advanced stage, however, Arthur’s heart lies at Barça.
From a fan’s perspective, Arthur is a jewel and should not be let go but anything can be expected of the rather questionable Barcelona board. Will he become a club legend, the next Xavi as he is touted to be by many, or will he be the one that got away?
You decide where you stand. All one can say is, keep your eyes peeled for the chaos that unfolds.