Football Club Barcelona have altered their January transfer plans after the emergence of a shock candidate from within the squad to provide cover for Xavi's shortcomings. The Catalan outfit were seeking cover for Gerard Pique, who announced his retirement from the game last week.

The former Spain international decided to call time on his illustrious career before La Liga took a break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Barcelona's game at home against Almeria last Saturday (Nov. 5) was Pique's final appearance in the famous maroon and blue kit.

Pique's sudden departure midway through the campaign will leave Barcelona short in defence, which saw the club draw up a list of options ahead of the January transfer window. Xavi confirmed recently that the club will look to sign a central defender in January.

As per Italian transfer expert Fabrizio Romano, Athletic Bilbao star Inigo Martinez has been a long-term target for the Catalan club. The Spaniard is out of contract in 2023, and recently revealed that his long-term future remains uncertain amid ongoing talks with his current employers over a new deal.

Newly-appointed Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez (right) alongside club president Joan Laporta at Camp Nou on Monday. LLUIS GENE/AFP

"I am happy here, I am very comfortable. Let's say that my future is not at all clear, but this is not the time or the place to be able to talk about the subject of my renewal," Martinez said. "The negotiations are there, the issue is being handled by my representatives, doing the best for me and for Athletic."

However, the emergence of Marcos Alonso as an alternate on the left-side of central defence has altered Barcelona's plans for January. According to Sport, Xavi has been impressed with the former Chelsea full-back's ability to provide cover in the absence of regular centre-backs Jules Kounde, Eric Garcia and Ronald Araujo.

Six of Alonso's seven appearances in La Liga have been at centre-back while also having played twice in the Champions League. During his spell in the heart of Barcelona's defence, the team remain unbeaten in the league with the only loss coming against Bayern Munich in Europe.

Alonso's emergence has given Xavi an added option at the back, which will allow Barcelona to focus on strengthening other areas of the squad. The Catalan giants are facing a financial crunch, and will welcome any internal solution to their problems rather than having to pull out the cheque book.

Marcos Alonso
Marcos Alonso Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images