Barcelona are in trouble, and defeat against Real Madrid in Spanish Super Cup final first leg is the least of the problems. Since Paris Saint Germain paid Neymar's €222m release clause, the club has struggled to make new signings. Centrally because all the top Europe's top teams know how wealthy they are since the Brazilian join Ligue 1, so they are requested big sums of money.
Liverpool will not sell Philippe Coutinho for less than €100m and Borussia Dortmund, who signed Ousmane Dembele for €15m a year ago, are asking for €120m. They were even unable to secure the signing of Inigo Martinez. The Real Sociedad defender was about to sign for the Catalans, it was a done deal according to sources coming from Barcelona, but the Basques asked for his full release clause of €32m, some way short of the initial €27m offer - leading to negotiations ending unsuccessfully.
However, Martínez is not the only Sociedad player in Ernesto Valverde's radar. According to Mundo Deportivo, Asier Illarramendi, the playmaker who won the Champions League playing alongside Xabi Alonso at Real, may be the secret signing Barcelona are willing to complete. "During the conversation between Jokin Aperribay and Josep Bartomeu regarding Iñigo Martínez, Illarramendi's name also popped up," the publication claim.
Barcelona have not been unable to replace Xavi Hernández properly since he left Barcelona in order to play in Qatar. His ability when it came to combining short and long distance passes, his talent with regard to keeping possession and his connection with Andrés Iniesta made a difference during Pep Guardiola's tenure.
In fact in the 2016-17 La Liga season, Illarramendi complete more successful passes ran the most kilometers. Though the Basque's dribbling ability is poor, he averaged 10 tackles per game, which would benefit Barcelona, given the lack of control they are experiencing since Xavi's departure.
However, there are some issues concerning this possible signing of Illarramendi according to Mundo Deportivo. "The player has always been praised inside the club, but some players do not subscribe to that view. Until the end of the transfer window, everything is possible. Everything," they added.
In 2013, Illarramendi became the most expensive Spaniard to sign for Real - at €32m. He generated high hopes, given that he grew up in Sociedad's football academy, much like Xabi Alonso. Precisely, they labelled that move as a generational renewal months after the former Liverpool and Real Madrid player turned 30.
However, Illarra's performances went from top to bottom. He did not cope with the pressure, probably due to his shy character and his lack of skills when it comes to communication, and after a Champions League game at Dortmund against Borussia he showed fear and lack of confidence every time he started a game.
When Real won the Champions League edition in Lisbon in 2014 Alonso was banned and Illarra had played all the games on their way to the final, but he did not feature against Atletico Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti knew that Illarra was afraid of the big games. But he was not able to succeed and one season later, he was sold to his former club, Sociedad, for half the amount of money Real Madrid payed for him in 2013 (€16m in 2015).
Since Illarra plays for a smaller club, with no pressure in the stands and far from the spotlight, he has recovered his dorm and is an even a better player than in 2013. He has played internationally for Spain along this way as Julen Lopetegi has admitted several times that he loves his gamestyle. However, if Barcelona decide to pay his €40m release clause, they might found out what Real discovered in 2013. That he is a superb player for a small club, but he lacks the mental strength a player needs to play for a top European club.