After two and a half seasons at Betis, Emerson has finally arrived at the club that signed him in January 2019 and then transferred him, FC Barcelona. The Brazilian full-back, who has performed well in Andalusia, will still face a tough competition, unless his future brings him elsewhere.
After two years of waiting, Emerson is finally where he wants to be. The Brazilian fullback arrived in Spain in January 2019 and signed for Barcelona but never wore their colours. The Catalan club preferred to send him to Betis in La Liga, further south. What was supposed to be a temporary stopgap turned out to be a long one, so much so that it was hard to imagine the player returning to Catalonia. But almost thirty months later, the defender is back where he actually never was. At the beginning of June, the club exercised its right to bring back the player, whom it co-owned with Betis. Emerson is officially a Barcelona player..
"When Barça signed him, it was at a delicate moment because the club had a bad history with Brazilian players, says Tracy Rodrigo, a journalist for the website Furia Liga, dedicated to Spanish football. Many of them arrived for reasons other than sporting ones, including agent issues. When Emerson's name comes up in the press, people think he's just another Brazilian to be used as a bargaining chip in a deal". That was not the case for the Maurice Revello Tournament 2019 winner with the Seleção, who was coming off a short but successful spell with Atletico Mineiro in his native country. Marcelin Chamoin, a journalist for Lucarne Opposée and a specialist in Brazilian football, recalls his time with the Belo Horizonte club. "He played there for a short time but quickly established himself as a starter and showed his worth at the South American U20 Championship and the Maurice Revello Tournament in 2019, which led to his transfer to Spain. He didn't have time to make a name for himself throughout Brazil but he left a good impression on the Atletico Mineiro fans, even though they were happy with the transfer as the fee was quite high and they already had a replacement with Guga."
Emerson against Indonesia during the Maurice Revello Tournament 2019
With two appearances at the Maurice Revello Tournament in 2017 and 2019, Emerson is already showing above-average qualities and is attracting interest from all over Europe, as well as from national coach Tite, who sees him as a potential future member of his team. "Thanks to his transfer to Barça and his call-up for the Copa America, he is starting to make a name for himself, explains Marcelin Chamoin. In the Seleção, Dani Alves' successor has never really arrived and Danilo is about to turn 30. Emerson is therefore seen as a possible starter in a position that has been lacking in Brazil for several years. His main rival is Guga, who is the same age. For me, they are the two potential starters in the coming years in the Seleção."
Brazil won the Maurice Revello Tournament 2019 with Emerson... and Guga
The shadow of Firpo... or of a departure
Since potential and predictions are not enough, Emerson had to prove. And he did. Smiling and chatting, he added to his natural good humour some great performances for Betis. So much so, in fact, that he has been compared to a former Andalusian club full-back who left for... Barcelona, Junior Firpo. "Firpo never made his mark at Barcelona, although he was interesting at Betis, recalls Tracy Rodrigo. The profile is not quite the same either. Emerson defends better, he has fewer absences, he's the modern full-back, very offensive, and he does that very well. He's a very good crosser too. He brought a lot to Manuel Pellegrini's Betis, who had a tendency to lock themselves into a sterile game of possession, without real players who brought the extra man, and Emerson brought that imbalance."
"When you play for Betis, it's not difficult to stand out from the crowd, adds François Miguel Boudet, also a journalist for Furia Liga. You see a player go over the top, cross the ball... and you immediately get a magnifying mirror on his performance, which was the case with Firpo in particular. Afterwards, when you arrive at a big club, you are more observed and it is not the same". Predicting Emerson's career at Barcelona is science fiction, even if his qualities give cause for optimism. However, he will first have to find a place in the Catalan team, especially in the right-back position, where there is a bottleneck, not to say a pile-up: with three or four players able to play on the right side, the competition will be fierce. "Emerson as a starter? It will depend on Sergi Roberto, whether he leaves or how good he is if he stays, warns Tracy Rodrigo. Ronald Koeman doesn't seem to have much faith in Sergiño Dest. He's coming into a position where there's no clear starter, so he'll get his chance. And it's a position that's been a bit of a disaster at Barça since the departure of Daniel Alves."
Emerson with the Maurice Revello 2019 trophy
There is now one last unknown, and not the least of which is Barcelona's financial situation. Joan Laporta, who returned to the club's presidency last March, has never hidden the financial difficulties facing Barça, who are in dire need of cash. And to find it quickly, there is only one real way: the sale of players. Emerson could be one of them. According to the Spanish press, the club could part with him if they receive a good offer. The defender, who is currently in Brazil for the Copa America with his national team, has not been allowed to travel to the Olympic Games in Tokyo at the end of July. He will therefore go on holiday after the final of the South American competition (Brazil qualified for the final, editor's note) before finally heading to Catalonia. Or somewhere else...