Already reeling from the sale of Xavi and Pedro, Barcelona’s depth in midfield took another hit this week when tests revealed Rafinha Alcantara -– generally know as Rafinha -– suffered an injury to his cruciate ligament against Roma Wednesday.
The Brazilian midfielder had barely been on the pitch at the Estadio Olimpico in Rome for two minutes when he was the victim of a crunching tackle from Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
After the match Barça boss Luis Enrique remarked that the injury “doesn’t look very good.”
The club released a statement early Thursday confirming that Rafinha had indeed injured his ACL and would require surgery and several months of rehabilitation. This means the 22-year-old is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Rafinha’s injury leaves Barcelona’s already thin squad further stretched. While the Catalan club has signed Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, neither player can join the squad until January when a FIFA-imposed transfer ban will be lifted.
In the meantime, Enrique will have to shuffle the deck in midfield to accommodate the loss of Rafinha, who’d featured in six out of six of Barça’s matches this season and scored in the club’s UEFA Super Cup victory last month.
For Enrique it could be a matter of moving Javier Mascherano forward from the backline and allowing Sergio Busquets to play a more advanced role. Or perhaps he will follow in the club’s time-honored tradition of promoting from within and turn to Barça B players like Sergi Samper or Gerard Gumabu.
Sergi Roberto is another option. While Roberto has been used at right back this season, he is a true midfielder and could be covered in defense by the likes of Adriano or Marc Bartra.
In any event, Enrique has his work cut out for him as the treble winners attempt to compete on three fronts again this season, especially between now and January, when the badly needed reinforcements will finally be bled into the squad.
Barcelona plays Levante on Sunday, September 20 at 2:25pm ET on beIN Sports.