Unlike many of their summer additions, at first glance Monaco’s signing of Antonio Barreca made sense. Acquiring young players with first team experience and a burgeoning talent, complemented by the quality on-field leadership of older pros, was the basis for their model’s success. Former Chelsea (and now former Monaco) sporting director Michael Emenalo’s shift towards signing a host of unproven teenagers, however, contributed heavily to their disastrous season.
Nevertheless, despite fitting the mould, Barreca was far from a sure thing. A left sided defender equally comfortable at full-back or wing-back, the Italian now 23, had broken through at Torino during the 2016/17 Serie A season having worked his way through the youth ranks at I Granatavia a handful of loan spells. Barreca was close to ever-present between September and March that year, performing admirably as Torino finished 9th, notably shutting down Roma’s Mohamed Salah in an autumn 3-1 win.
However, the return of the experienced Cristian Molinaro from a long term knee injury displaced the 21-year-old Barreca for the run in and he subsequently largely disappeared from the Torino XI. An intermittent injury-affected 2017/18 season afforded the Italian U21 international just three competitive starts; sent off in one and publicly blamed by his coach, Sinisa Mihajlovic, for conceding in a 1-1 draw with Atalanta in another.
With Leonardo Jardim in charge, after a €4m transfer, Barreca started Monaco’s first four league games this, enjoying a solid enough opening to his Ligue 1 career. However, just one of those resulted in a win for the 2016/17 title winners and as results refused to improve, and the pressure built on Jardim, Barreca was again usurped, this time by the arrival of Bayer Leverkusen full-back Benjamin Henrichs.
Through little fault of his own, Barreca fell out of favour as Monaco’s disastrous season unfolded. By the time that Thierry Henry had his feet under the table the Italian had been deemed largely surplus to requirements, only appearing in the 18-man squad twice since early November, his last Ligue 1 outing being a 2-2 draw with Dijon on October 27th having tallied just nine starts in all competitions, including the 4-0 Champions’ League home humiliation by Brugge.
As Rafa Benitez pointed out, “the left-back/left-wing-back position is one we’ve been looking to strengthen for a while”, but while he may be right in saying“we know he has quality, good delivery and is good going forward,”Barreca, a player whose last run of consistent form occurred close to two years ago, has done little to prove he is able to positively affect games regularly in France. It is more likely he will add squad depth at St James’s Park, as Benitez seems to underline: “Now we must see how quickly he can adapt… if he can give us more competition in this area, and more quality in the final third with his deliveries, the only thing I can see is a positive.”
Although Barreca, a move to Genoa also mooted this window, will fill the need for a natural left wing-back at Newcastle, he is unlikely to supplant Matt Ritchie from that role while, despite having failings of his own, Lazio’s Jordan Lukaku, who Newcastle were also linked heavily with this month, would have been an undoubtedly better option for the Magpies. While Barreca may fill a gap at St James’s Park and clearly has ability, it will take longer than the length of his loan agreement to unearth any of it. Not ideal for Newcastle’s fight against relegation.