Barcelona head into Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Valencia without a recognised centre forward.
While they may possess the best player in the world, with Luis Suarez injured and Munir El Haddadi having long since left to join Sevilla there is a gaping hole at the head of the Barca attack.
So how has it got to this? There is one clear explanation.
Barca made the decision to allow Paco Alcacer to join Dortmund last summer, a move that began as a loan but included a puzzling €23 million (£20m/$26.5m) option to buy him outright – a clause they announced they’d activated within just two months.
While it’s fair to say the 25-year-old struggled to find the net with any regularity during his two full seasons at Camp Nou, he was a decent enough back-up option and his time with Valencia proved he was a capable goalscorer.
Letting him leave was one thing, but the failure to replace him has proven costly.
Munir, who had rejected Barca’s attempts to sign a new contract at Camp Nou, left for Sevilla for just €1 million while Kevin-Prince Boateng was somewhat bizarrely brought in on loan. A midfielder in his thirties who had never managed to score more than 10 goals over a season during his career. That was the Suarez back-up.
As Barca have found to their detriment, the role of possessing a back-up striker, and a good one at that, can be crucial in determining the success of a season. Just ask Liverpool and Tottenham.
Divock Origi and Fernando Llorente made just 10 league starts, and a further three in the Champions League, between them over the 2018-19 campaign but both delivered when their team needed them.
The Reds striker scored a crucial double against, somewhat ironically, Barca, with Llorente netting the decisive third goal in the quarter-final in that memorable away-goals triumph over Manchester City. As Ajax will atest, he wasn’t bad in the semi-final either.
Both are now in the Champions League final and due in no small part to the contribution of their two benchwarmers. What makes it look all the more embarrassing for Barca is the impact Alcacer’s had at Dortmund.
The Spaniard hit the ground running and then some as he scored eight goals in his first five matches for the Bundesliga side. In total he managed 19 goals in all competitions, plus three in two for Spain – not a bad return for a player Barca didn’t want.
The truth is, Alcacer would never start ahead of Luis Suarez, who enjoyed a productive campaign that saw him score 25 goals, but that’s besides the point. There needed to be a plan B.
“He should never had left Barcelona because he always scored for every team he played for,” a club source told 360aproko. “He has the ability to creating chances and acore them and he has shown it since he was a kid in Valencia, he was the top striker in the academy there.
“He never created any problems in any team, he was a great professional. We were sure his team-mates and the fans would receive him well because of his profile and attitude.”
The Barca hierarchy are likely to rectify the situation in the summer but there’s no escaping how it’s been such a fundamentally bad decision to let Alcacer go. And there’s every chance it’ll cost them a domestic double.