Beating Inter on Tuesday evening at San Siro was a big achievement for Barcelona. On paper, it was a usual outing for the Catalans. It was a dead rubber, as Inter went out of the UEFA Champions League for the second season in a row. But for Barca, it was another step in the right direction. Not because they won, but because who helped them win. Jean-Clair Todibo was key in that.
As Inter struggled, Barca were thriving with a younger side than the nerazzurri. While Antonio Conte’s men went with their first-team, Ernesto Valverde was intent on handing some exciting youngsters game time. And Todibo went onto prove that he could well be the real deal.
The Frenchman has been short of game time for a while now. His deal to join Barca was brought forward last winter, when he was initially set to join the club in the summer. But Barca took the risk and brought the deal forward.
When he was signed, Eric Abidal said (via FCB): ” He is a player with a lot of potential. He has come here now because we have to protect our players, and the situation in which he wasn’t playing at Toulouse was difficult.”
Last season, Todibo didn’t feature much. He played only two La Liga games, averaging 3.5 tackles per game and 1.5 interceptions per game. He also made 3 clearances, picking up a yellow card each in those two games. Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique were the club’s first-choice defenders for the whole season.
This season, he hadn’t played much either. Before the game against Inter, Todibo had played only two games in all competitions. One of them was a start against Barcelona, with the other being an appearance from the bench. The game against the nerazzurri was a huge one for him, when it comes to impressing.
And Todibo was colossal throughout the game. Coming up against possibly the most dangerous striker duo in Europe this season, he came up with an impressive show. He was probably the best player on the pitch too.
The Frenchman won as many as eight tackles in the game- three more than anyone else. More than that, he won every single tackle of his, carrying a 100 percent accuracy. He won three aerial duels out of a total five- an achievement in itself against an aerially proficient striker like Romelu Lukaku.
Todibo also completed two out of his three dribbles in the game, having a passing accuracy of 84 percent as well. It was as solid as Todibo is meant to be.
That’s how he has always been. During his ten games at Toulouse in the first half of the 2018-19 season, it is how he always was too.
He won 2.1 tackles per game, making 1.4 interceptions per game too. He showed his aerial ability as well, winning 2.5 aerial duels in the ten games that he played. These were qualities that had attracted interest from the likes of Juventus and Napoli as well.
That strength and confidence in winning the ball back is highly valuable for any club. And Todibo has loads of that.
And the performance was proof that they have a very reliable defender to call upon if Pique or Lenglet aren’t available. There is little chance Todibo gets to play every game, but his growth in stature is very evident. The only way forward for him is up. He can make sure that in the long-run, Barca don’t regret missing out on Matthijs de Ligt.