Can new Barcelona signing Arthur revive Camelot at the Camp Nou?
FC Barcelona lost Paulinho after a very successful season. The Brazil international returned to Guangzhou Evergrande after 12 months at the Camp Nou. In part, the Blaugranas allowed him to leave because they had already signed his replacement, a potentially world-class player in midfield. He is also Brazilian, goes by the name of Arthur Melo, but is widely known as Arthur.
The former Gremio standout signed with Barca in March 2018 on a €31 million deal that also included €9 million in add-ons. Initially, Arthur was expected to arrive at Camp Nou in January 2019. Paulinho's departure and other personnel decisions allowed the Catalans to bring him to Spain earlier than expected. There is a risk because he has never played outside South America, but the player should be more than ready for the challenge. It would be a waste of time to leave him playing for Gremio any longer.
The accolades say as much. The 21-year-old was Gremio's MVP during their Copa Libertadores title run in 2017. CONMEBOL selected him as the Man of the Match for the Final against Argentinian side Lanus. He was also in the mix for the Selecao World Cup squad during the qualification process. He has yet to be capped but his time is coming.
To begin, Arthur will fill Paulinho's shoes at Barcelona but he can do much more than that. He represents a clear upgrade over other in-house alternatives such as Andre Gomes. He might require time to adjust to La Liga’s pace but the talent is there for him to become a regular starter sooner rather than later. Barca fans will have plenty of time to enjoy him. He will be under contract until June 2024.
There is a reason Arthur has been dubbed “the new Xavi” by several experts. He can play a deeper role, but has enough clarity going forward to play a more attacking role when needed. If you pushed me, I would say he is a cross between Xavi and Andres Iniesta. He has Xavi’s poise and accuracy with Iniesta’s ability to push the lines forward and create something out of nothing. Arthur rarely misses a ball or makes a wrong pass. That is why he was compared to Xavi in the first place.
He is not a scorer, though only registering two goals in 50 appearances for Gremio. That's not what Barcelona expect from the position. Paulino's productivity was an unexpected bonus.
It's a smart move bringing Arthur earlier than expected. It wasn't the original plan but Barca need him to adjust as quickly as possible to the pace and culture. His quality, maturity and overall poise make him more than an intriguing prospect. He's a youngster worth watching right now. Expect him to become a regular starter for Barca quite soon, while filling the void that has been ever-present since Xavi left the team.
Yes, Arthur is that good.