Player Features

Worth the €50 million – Why Nico Williams could be a good fit at Barcelona


The core of the current Spanish national team is predominantly Barcelona-based. Gavi, Pedri, Alejandro Balde, Lamine Yamal, Ferran Torres and now Pau Cubarsi are all players with roles to play for La Roja, and it only helps their chemistry to share the stage on every front.

Barcelona’s eye, thus, has been on the Spanish national team’s left wing for a long time now. Once destined to be Ansu Fati’s position, it has seen a change in ownership and currently belongs to a certain Nico Williams.

As the Blaugranas head into the summer transfer window in the hunt for a new left-winger, the 21-year-old has thus popped up as a priority target, and not for the first time.

The club’s precarious financial circumstances throw doubt on their chances of grabbing the winger’s services. Reality aside, however, it is indeed interesting to speculate how the youngster would fit into Xavi’s setup should the move go through.

Barça Universal brings you the story of Nico Williams, his profile, possible integration and an analysis of his skillsets.

The backstory

Inaki Williams, for long, basked in the limelight of Athletic Club’s attacking department. A mainstay at the club since the 2014-15 campaign, the Ghanaian international was the Basque side’s single greatest threat in front of goal.

Not many expected, however, that the player who would share the limelight with the 29-year-old in the years to come would be his own brother.

Nico, the younger of the two Williams siblings, burst onto Athletic Club’s first team scene in the 2020-21 season with two appearances off the bench.

The subsequent season saw him become a regular name off the bench for the Basque setup as he participated in 34 games for the team in La Liga alone.

The Williams brothers, Nico and Inaki. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

With regular minutes under his belt, the young phenom honed his skills and began churning out numbers for the club as early as last season. With six goals and four assists to his name in La Liga, he even earned a regular starting spot for the side.

The ongoing campaign, however, has been Williams’ breakthrough season by far. Numbers do not do justice to the performances he brings out for the club, and one can even argue that he has taken over from his big brother as the team’s most potent force.

Flair and end-product in equal measure

Now 21 years of age, Williams stands out as one of the world’s brightest talents on the wing and not without reason.

What makes the young phenom stand out concerning his compatriots is his fluency on the ball with a level that is difficult to come by in today’s world.

Specialising as a left-winger, the youngster has the right balance of pace and agility to get past opposition defenders. He is seldom forced to use any muscle as his flair and skill on the ball help him manoeuvre past defenders with ease.

Williams specialises in providing crosses into the box and is best coupled with a potent number nine. Yet, he does have a strong strike and can develop the same to create a more direct threat on goal as well.

In 28 games this season in La Liga, the young phenom has scored four goals and provided 11 assists for Athletic Club.

A tricky customer on the flanks. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

What makes his statistics more impressive, however, is that he averages close to three successful dribbles and 1.5 key passes per game and is thus one of La Liga’s most fouled players.

Apart from being La Liga’s second-highest assist provider this season, Williams is the player in the league with the most successful dribbles per game, even above Vinicius Jr, Savio and Isco.

He is also a menace in the box which is testified by the fact that he has won the most penalties in La Liga this season.

How does Williams compare to Xavi’s current options?

Should Barcelona complete the dream signing of the 21-year-old, he will certainly take over as the team’s first-choice winger down the left flank.

It is thus only logical that his profile and style to compared with Xavi’s existing options in the department – Joao Felix, Raphinha and Ferran Torres.

The Athletic Club star understandably has a lower xG per ninety minutes compared to the Barcelona stars as he operates primarily as a wide winger, however, his expected assists (xA) per ninety minutes is only second to Raphinha at 0.44 per game.

Williams also records an average of 5.51 progressive carries and 12.1 progressive receives per game, significantly higher than Barcelona’s trio. The aforementioned statistic only shows that the youngster plays a more vertical brand of football with more incisive passes and runs.

Throwing the focus on crosses, the Athletic Club star has also averaged more crosses than all three Barcelona players per game with 6.40 crosses per 90 minutes.

In terms of creating danger on goal, one can look towards the player’s shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions per ninety minutes this season.

In the former respect, he stands on 5.07, only behind Barcelona’s Raphinha, while he is significantly better in terms of the latter with 1.02 goal-creating actions per game.

Williams’ signing can elevate Barcelona’s attack. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Williams has averaged 7.47 take-ons per game this season compared to Raphinha’s 3.19 and Felix’s 3.19. Notably, he completes more take-ons than any of the Barcelona players attempt at 3.56.

The Spanish youngster also leads the race by quite some margin in terms of total carrying distance, progressive carrying distance and progressive carries per 90.

Conclusion

Williams would be a spectacular signing for Barcelona, not only in terms of a stylistic fit but also as a direct solution to the team’s problem in breaking down low blocks.

With Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams down the right and left flanks respectively, Xavi can boast of a terrifying forward trio next season that is equally able to attack down both flanks.

One must also pay notice to the phenom’s consistency for Athletic Club this season.

Irrespective of whether he has got on the scoresheet, he has consistently delivered for his side in terms of creativity, attacking impetus and key passes which is precisely where the likes of Joao Felix and Ferran Torres falter.

The one shortcoming in Nico’s game that could concern Barcelona is his distribution, which is a department where his statistics are not up to the mark for the club’s liking. Yet, it is an area where the player can make conscious efforts to improve.

All eyes thus turn to the club’s finances and whether they can raise the €50 million needed to sign Williams come summer. The Spaniard would be worth that investment and could elevate this attacking unit to the next level.

Stats courtesy: FBRef



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