Tranquillo Barnetta has been a revelation for the Philadelphia Union at the number ten spot but he could be on the move when his contract expires.
Tranquillo Barnetta has been one of the Philadelphia Union’s best signings in their short history. From the time that he joined the team, there was a sense that change was in the air and that the Philadelphia Union were ready to put their losing past behind them.
Since joining the Union, Barnetta has registered six goals and seven assists but numbers don’t show the true impact that he has on the field. Barnetta sports the captain’s armband showing his leadership qualities both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, Barnetta sets the tempo for how Jim Curtin expects the team to play and if he’s doing well it usually bodes well for the team.
While there was a brief spell with Barnetta in the number eight role that didn’t go too well, it shouldn’t diminish how good his season has been. He’s instrumental to beginning the press from the top of the pitch and he’s always looking to make a key pass. Barnetta is a player who’s always trying to make something out of nothing as shown by his goal against the Montreal Impact as well as his free kick mastery which is a thing of beauty.
With what he’s done for the club, it’s no surprise that the Philadelphia Union would like to extend Barnetta’s contract for at least another year even with his knee issues. The Philadelphia Union have extended a contract offer to Barnetta but he would like to mull it over because he also has an offer to return to his boyhood club FC St. Gallen. While no one could fault Barnetta for wanting to return to the club of his roots, it would leave a larger gap both in the midfield and in the locker room.
Who would step in to replace the Swiss
In house, the Philadelphia Union have three options for filling the number ten role which I’ll go over. They involve Fabian Herbers, Roland Alberg, and Alejandro Bedoya. Each player has different strengths and weaknesses but the common thread is that they can all play in the number ten role.
Fabian Herbers has made 27 appearances on the year split between forward, center attacking midfielder, and the right wing. The rookie has had quite the season and could be an option to replace Barnetta in the number ten role.
Herbers has scored two goals while assisting on four more but it’s his movement that could make him a good replacement in the attacking band. Herbers consistently finds space with his movement and he’s been getting better at picking out the key pass in the final third. Herbers can’t replicate the same dribbling ability that Barnetta has but neither can anyone on the team.
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Another option for the role is Alejandro Bedoya who has played the CAM role during his time at FC Nantes and for the USMNT but he has been a box to box midfielder for the Philadelphia Union. Bedoya has the versatility to play on the wing as well as in the middle but the need this year was for him to play deeper in the midfield. Moving Bedoya up would raise the need for a new number eight but Earnie Stewart would have the entire offseason to take stock of the squad and bring in new transfers.
Bedoya would likely inherit the captain’s armband if Barnetta was to move on but it remains to be seen if he’s the proper fit for his role.
The most logical fit for the role is Roland Alberg. While Alberg is a flawed player due to his lack of defensive ability in the press he’s easily the best shooter and goal scorer on the team. Alberg has nine goals and one assist (in league play) mainly appearing as a substitute. Alberg will have some work to do before he’s a consistent starter on the team but he’s shown the will to want to fight for his spot.
If Alberg can improve his defensive work rate during the offseason he could become a force to be reckoned with in MLS.
If all goes well, the Philadelphia Union won’t have to use any of these options and Barnetta will sign up for another year with the team. But with him getting older it’s never too early to look at options for once he does move on or retire.