Luis Enrique's project to strengthen FC Barcelona's defence has been bolstered by the signing of right-back Douglas Pereira: local correspondent Richard Walker explains.
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FC Barcelona's defence will be further reinforced this season after agreeing to sign right-back Douglas Pereira from São Paulo FC.
In a statement, the club confirmed that the transfer fee is €4m, with an additional €1.5m based on how many games the Brazilian plays. Douglas, who has racked up 95 appearances for his current club, will travel to Barcelona at the end of this week to complete a medical and put pen to paper on a five-season deal.
The 24-year-old is the third defender Barcelona have signed this summer following the arrivals of Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal FC and Valencia CF's Jérémy Mathieu. Douglas's capture is a further signal that new coach Luis Enrique meant business when he said one of his priorities after taking over from Gerardo Martino was to tighten up the team's defence.
In his short spell as Barça coach, Luis Enrique has already signed more defenders than his three predecessors Martino, Tito Vilanova and Josep Guardiola did combined. While Barcelona's attacking flair players and possession-obsessed midfielders mopped up the plaudits, leading the team to trophy after trophy under Guardiola, the back line perhaps needed work.
The Blaugrana had a reliable and sturdy defence throughout the former captain's tenure at the club, conceding the fewest goals in the Liga in each of his four years in the Camp Nou dugout. Veteran centre-back Carles Puyol played a large part in the club's success, developing a real understanding with the young Gerard Piqué. When Puyol's injury problems started to become regular occurrences, midfielder Javier Mascherano slotted into the defence seamlessly.
However, the loss of left-back Éric Abidal to illness had a profound impact, and the prolonged absence of Puyol, the back line's leader, began to take its toll. The lightning-quick Jordi Alba was signed from Valencia CF, but the team have benefitted more from his attacking contributions than defensive work.
Gaps started to appear in a back four that conceded more than a goal a game in the 2012/13 Liga season, but their star-studded forward line, and in particular the 46 strikes provided by Lionel Messi, papered over the cracks. That was until FC Bayern München eviscerated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
La Masia graduate Marc Bartra made giant strides in his development in 2013/14, playing 20 games and earning his first Spain cap, and it was hoped his progression might compensate for the club's decision not to sign defensive reinforcements. Despite conceding seven fewer goals than the previous campaign, they wilted in important games against Real Valladolid CF, Getafe CF, and in the crucial Liga decider versus Club Atlético de Madrid.
Luis Enrique has seen enough, and made it his priority to rectify and bolster. In his first meeting with the press, he said "
Barça have an attractive philosophy of football, but we also have to defend, concentrate, and work hard. The way of playing will be the same as for many years now, but you must evolve the ideas, and improve on them."
Luis Enrique's new-look Barcelona will find out who their UEFA Champions League group stage opponents are for the 2014/15 season on Thursday afternoon, when the draw is held in Monaco.