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Barcelona finally have a Dani Alves replacement in Nelson Semedo

15:38 SAST 2017/09/22
Nelson Semedo, Barcelona
After a season with midfielder Sergi Roberto in the right-back role, the Blaugrana signed a specialist in the summer - and he has made a superb start

Barcelona finally have a replacement for Dani Alves. After playing Sergi Roberto out of position for much of last season and then switching to a three-man defence to hide their lack of a genuine right-back, the Catalan club signed a specialist in the summer. And Nelson Semedo has not disappointed.

The Blaugrana had originally targeted Arsenal's Hector Bellerin, but were put off by the Gunners' high valuation of their former youth product and signed Semedo instead from Benfica for a fee of around €30 million.

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The Portuguese made his debut in the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu as a substitute, coming on to replace Gerard Pique for the final 40 minutes as Barca switched to four at the back and improved notably after starting with 3-5-2.

The 23-year-old then made his full debut in La Liga against Betis, helping Barca to a clean sheet in their 2-0 win and showing some superb skills as he beat Joaquin with a wonderful change of feet that brought comparisons with Ronaldinho in the Spanish press.

Subsequent showings have also been good. With Semedo in their team, Barca have conceded only one goal so far (the Eibar strike in the Catalans' 6-1 win on Tuesday), when he also won the penalty that allowed Lionel Messi to open the scoring in the Camp Nou clash.

Solid at the back, comfortable with the ball at his feet, fast and physically strong, the 23-year-old is being utilised in more of a defensive role than Alves, with Jordi Alba given increased license to attack on the other flank, although Semedo does still advance on occasion.

"I feel good," he said after impressing in the 3-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League last week. "I believe I have adapted; it is easy to do so in this team. All of the players are world class and they have helped me a lot."

It is still early days, of course, and this time last season, Sergi Roberto was earning rave reviews for his polished performances at right-back, with some pundits even claiming that Barca did not need to bring in a replacement for Alves following his departure for Juventus.

However, Roberto is a midfielder and he was ultimately found out in the Champions League, as Barca lost 4-0 to PSG and then 3-0 to Juventus (after the Catalan's goal had secured a memorable comeback against the French side).

Time will tell whether Semedo is a worthy successor to Alves, but the early signs are extremely encouraging.

The Portuguese looks like the real deal at right-back, a player who can make the position his own at Camp Nou for many years to come - and make the fans forget about Alves once and for all.