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Who is Oriol Romeu?

The internets are abuzz now that Alexis Sanchez has completed his long awaited move to Barcelona, but one other interesting rumor that has been making the rounds today is that Chelsea may have capitalized on Barca's need to sell some of their youth in order to raise funds to acquire Cesc Fabregas as well.  To that end, there have quite a few whispers that we may have poached 19 year old Oriol Romeu from their B side.  Romeu is an interesting name, and he became reluctant to sign an extended contract with Barca last year after they acquired Javier Mascherano.    He was fairly heavily linked to Porto last year as Andres Villas-Boas wanted to add him to the squad, but Barca held out hope that he would extend and refused to sell.  He didn't extend, and now he's entering the final year of his deal.  To that end this rumor passes the smell test, and adding depth while helping Barca to get Cesc out of the Premier League would be killing two birds with one fairly inexpensive stone.

Romeu has played predominantly in the holding midfield role for both club and country, but he's very capable of playing as a center back.  He's also been used quite effectively slightly further up the pitch in a box to box role, so he's quite a versatile youngster.  Positionally speaking, he sounds like he might be the type of depth that Villas-Boas was forced to add to his wish list several weeks ago with the injury to Michael Essien.  Romeu is certainly ready to contribute in some capacity to the first team, as he made his debut last May for the Barcelona senior side.  He's also a key member of the Spanish U20 side that will be competing in the World Cup later this month (Gael Kakuta is currently in training for the same tournament).

Romeu will turn 20 this September, so he'll never qualify as a "homegrown" player in England.  He stands 6'1" tall, and has excellent pace and strength.  He's noted for being very technically astute, a quality common in many of the Spanish international players.  He's also noted for having excellent vision of the field, something that allows him to start the attck from the back on a regular basis.  His passing and tackling are both fairly sound, although he does sometimes hesitate to pull the trigger which can cause him to get beat or give up the ball.  His blend of skills and physical traits would lead you to believe he'd be able to transition to the Premier League without too many issues, and his unique blend of talents would lead you to believe he'd be an ideal holder or pivot in a two man holding role.  Here's a little look at some of Romeu's work in that role at  last summer's UEFA U19 Championships:

While Romeu will be unlikely to start from his arrival here, I think the chances of him going out on loan are exceptionally slim.  As a U21 player, he wouldn't occupy a roster spot and force the club to sell a player to make room for a potential Essien replacement.  He's also already good enough that he should be capable of providing valuable depth in the midfield behind Mikel and Ramires, something we sorely need in the case of injury.  He also doesn't eat up much of the transfer kitty, leaving plenty of money to go after that creative midfielder we keep finding ourselves linked to.  It's exactly the type of move the club should be making if they want to comply with FFP when it takes hold.  It would probably be the realistic end of any Arturo Vidal talk though.

This one caught me out of right field today, but given the fact that I had known AVB made a hard run at him last year and the fact that he can fill the same roles as the Bison, it really shouldn't have. I would be surprised if this rumor didn't have some legs, and at the rumored price I'd actually be a very big fan of the move.  If nothing else, it will give me a second player beyond Kakuta to follow closely when the U20 championships kick off next week.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts on the potential move in the comments below.

*I actually realized while writing this that the Essien injury likely opened a non-homegrown space until at least January 31st.  If the club doesn't expect him back until late December, they just don't add him to the 25 man roster in September and deal with it at the end of January.  That gives the club the entire month of January (where they don't need to name a roster) to deal with selling a player if none have been lost for the year by that point.

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