Why Barcelona signed ‘champion’ Lenglet for €36m
Clement Lenglet has hit the big time. The 23-year-old centre-back signed for Sevilla in January 2017 and quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite at the Sanchez Pizjuan. So much so, in fact, that many of Europe’s elite clubs watched with interest. One of those teams was Barcelona. The Blaugrana were on the lookout for a new defender this summer and possibly two, with coach Ernesto Valverde keen to bring in a player already adapted to La Liga.
Barca were worried that their own French defender, Samuel Umtiti, might leave, but he put pen to paper on a new contract in June and now he could line up alongside his compatriot at Camp Nou next season after Lenglet completed a €36 million (£32m/$42m) move on Thursday.
Sevilla had hoped to keep the centre-back, who recently turned 23, but their financial situation means they usually have to part with their best players and Lenglet is no exception.
The Frenchman is the last in a long line of talents recruited by Monchi at Sevilla and many of those, including Dani Alves, Seydou Keita and Adriano, ended up moving from Andalucia to the Catalan club.
The defender joined Sevilla at the age of 21 from Nancy, but admitted he had been wanted by the Spanish side since he was a teenager. “Monchi spoke to my parents when I was 17,” he said last season.
“My parents came to Seville and they thought the city was incredible. From that moment, I wanted to come, but my club didn’t want to let me go. So when they called to sign me last January, I fulfilled a dream, something I had been dreaming of since the age of 17.”
Monchi is now at Roma after leaving Sevilla last summer, but Lenglet proved to be quite the parting gift. The centre-back featured more than any other player for the Andalusians in 2017-18 and was superb in both legs as Vincenzo Montella’s men knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.
“Lenglet is a champion in the head and on the pitch,” former coach Montella said in April. “He could play in the future for a big team like Barcelona but I hope he stays at Sevilla for a few years.”
Unfortunately for Sevilla, that has not happened. But their loss is Barca’s gain as it will be the Blaugrana benefitting now from the 23-year-old, a left-footed centre-back with pace, physical strength and excellent positional sense. The French Under-21 international leaves behind his brother Corentin, a full-back for Sevilla C, who he had lived with in the Andalusian capital.
And the pair’s Spanish teacher, who has given lessons to countless players, said earlier this year: “Of all the footballers I have taught, they are the most responsible of them all. They always have their homework done and they pay great attention.”
Barca have done their homework, too, and have bought one of the league’s best young defenders for €36m, choosing to pay Sevilla a little more than his release clause, which was set at €30m.
Lenglet turned down Juventus to sign for Sevilla last year and was wary that he would not be a starter at Barcelona, but is now ready to take the next step in a career on a rapid rise.
“He is a starter, he rarely gets injured and he has a great competitive mentality,” former Sevilla and France defender Julien Escude said recently. “He has all the characteristics to be a key player in future.”
Barca believe that, too, and as coincidence would have it, Lenglet could now make his competitive debut for the Blaugrana against his former club Sevilla in the Spanish Supercopa on August 12.