When Nelson Semedo joined Barcelona from Benfica in the summer of 2017, the signing hardly drew as much attention as Ousmane Dembele’s. Aleix Vidal’s time at the club was clearly coming to an end and Barcelona wanted an upgrade on the former Sevilla man.
The fee involved was 30 million euros and Semedo was probably coming in as the only proper right-back. Sergi Roberto wasn’t a natural right-back, having been converted from initially being a midfielder.
Fast forward to today, Semedo is a regular at right-back. This season, he has appeared nine times already. Seven of them have been starts. He has racked up two assists and has impressed in the two Champions League games.
Against Borussia Dortmund, he was Barca’s best player. The game saw none of the side’s players exert their control. The Catalans were lucky to finish the game goalless, as Marco Reus missed a penalty.
Semedo made as many as five tackles in that game- the highest. He completed three dribbles- more than any other Barcelona player. His passing accuracy was also not bad at all- 86 percent (via Whoscored).
Against Inter, Barca were without a proper left-back. Junior Firpo and Jordi Alba were out injured. Semedo played there and had a fine game.
He had a tackle success rate of 100 percent, completing the second-highest number of passes in the game- 87. He took a measured approach, completing just one dribble. But it was a very cultured performance. It came just when it was needed.
In La Liga, he enjoyed very good games against Sevilla, Valencia and even Villarreal. He did have poor games against Osasuna and Granada, but many others in that Barca side did too. A limited few bad games in the middle of some really good ones should not worry anyone.
When it comes to comparisons with others, Semedo hasn’t done badly at all. When it comes to dribbles per game, he has made the fifth-highest for the club- 1.6. The Portuguese has also won the highest number of tackles per game for the Nou Camp based side- 2.4 (via Whoscored). That is an achievement in itself.
These stats just show what sort of player he is. He can be a modern-day full-back when the need arises. He can attack, make in-roads forward and take on opposition defenders. But there’s a very reliable second side to him. He can be the workhorse who can balance defence with attack just perfectly.
This past summer, Semedo had been linked with moves away from the Nou Camp. Reports claimed that Barca were willing to insert him in the deal that could have brought Neymar back to Catalonia. While that deal did not work out, Semedo later rubbished the reports and called it ‘fake news’.
That was probably a way of exerting the fact that he was keen on staying at Barcelona, despite all the speculation. And the way he has performed says a lot about his temperament. He has proved to his club that he is their first-choice right-back, even if they have a youth graduate in Roberto in the side.
Roberto might be technically adept and he is a more intelligent footballer than Semedo. But he cannot unleash pace against an opposition that is sitting deeper in its own half. Semedo will do that ruthlessly and he will do his best to track back too.
Even if Barcelona had plans to use Semedo as a makeweight, they should trash those ideas. The 25-year-old is a vital part of the club and is now at the peak of his powers already. It won’t be a huge surprise at all if he still improves. But Barca can’t afford to let a player as good as him join a European rival. It will only come back to haunt them.