Tactical Insights

Barcelona, heed the warning – sign Nico Williams before it’s too late


Ahead of Spain’s Euro 2024 meeting with Italy on Thursday night, MARCA described Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams as ‘two Ferraris’.

La Roja’s revolution into a fast and direct team has been driven by their pacy and tricky wingers. Fortunately for head coach Luis de la Fuente, he has two of the world’s very best at that at his disposal.

At only 16 years of age, Yamal took Spain’s metaphorical car keys, and with them, total control in their 3-0 win against Croatia at the weekend. A few days later, Williams was the protagonist of their 1-0 victory over the reigning champions.

Spain mainly played in transition to open up Croatia, but it was a different story against Italy. Tiki-taka remained absent, only the possession stats were stacked way back up again. And yet Williams had no problem using his quickness and unpredictability to unlock the Azzurri’s deep defence.

Even at 21, Williams displayed the maturity and composure to knit together his various strengths – the acceleration, the technique, the courage – and perform in front of Europe’s watching eyes. It’s one thing to have the talent, it’s another to channel it in unison.

Italy were fortunate enough to get into half-time at 0-0, but lady luck went against them just after the break when a wicked cross from Williams bounced off Alvaro Morata’s head and was turned in by Riccardo Calafiori. It was no less than Spain deserved, and it still gave Williams the spotlight for creating the own goal.

Williams, whose Athletic Club contract contains a €50m release clause, has been heavily linked with a summer transfer. Barcelona in particular are said to be keen on acquiring him.

Lamine Yamal, Nico Williams

Yamal and Williams form quite a tandem / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Hell, it’s even got to the stage where Yamal has been quizzed on linking up with Williams at club level that he’s just giving the Catalan press exactly what they want to hear.

“Nico is a great player and I hope to be able to share a dressing room with him,” Yamal said this week. “Of course, I think he should decide.

“We get along really well. Since the first call, he has been like that and he is another friend here. He is one of those wingers who confront you, who beat you with speed. He has audacity, can overwhelm anyone, and that helps any team. If I could, I would sign him.”

Barca’s disadvantage is that, as has been well documented, they don’t have much money to spend in the transfer market without making sales. They’re barely within La Liga’s regulations as it is.

But if Barcelona don’t sign Williams this summer – or at least intimate they will – then another top club is going to instead. The world just watched him tear Italy to shreds and he won’t be in the shop window for a lot longer at this rate.

READ THE LATEST EURO 2024 NEWS, PREVIEWS & PLAYER RATINGS



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