Barcelona To Trigger Martin Braithwaite's Release Clause In Emergency Deal

In what will prove a controversial move, Barcelona looks likely to sign Leganes forward Martin Braithwaite. After season-ending injuries to both Ousmane Dembélé and Luis Suarez, the Catalan side finds itself sorely lacking in forward depth. 

Barcelona will trigger the Danish international's $21.6 million release clause on an emergency signing sanctioned by LaLiga. The league granted them permission to sign a player outside the transfer window granted he was registered in LaLiga or a current free agent. Braithwaite will not be allowed to represent the club in the Champions League as the law permitting the signing is not applied by UEFA or FIFA. 

The move has been greeted with uproar from fans of other clubs, especially since Leganes — locked in a relegation battle — will not be able to replace Braithwaite, a crucial player in its bid to stay up. Leganes sold striker Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla in the winter transfer window in a $22 million deal and the club now finds itself in even more of an uphill battle to retain its place in LaLiga. 

None of the club's other center forwards — Southampton loanee Guido Carillo, Olympiakos loanee Miguel Angel Guerrero and Young Boys loanee Roger Assale — have found the net this season in the league, though in fairness the latter two only arrived on deadline day last month. 

Leganes will now pay the price for Barcelona's poor squad planning. The Blaugrana allowed both Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz to depart in January to Roma and Portugal's Braga, respectively. Those moves were completed in anticipation of an incoming player at the Camp Nou, which never materialized. Barcelona flip-flopped on signing Cedric Bakambu from Beijing Guoan and entered February without bringing in a forward. Thanks to the Spanish requirement that every player's contract contain a release clause, Leganes finds itself powerless to fend off Barcelona'a approach.

Club owner Felipe Moreno, while frustrated, understands that a move to Barcelona is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that few players could pass up. As reported by SPORT, Moreno said: "The truth is that we're worried. After what happened with (Youssef) En-Nesyri, staying in this league gets harder every day. I can understand that Barcelona do this if the law says it but I thought they could not sign an active player and only one not contracted. ... I understand that Braithwaite would go to Barca, I would too. That said we're not negotiating anything. Pay the clause or he stays at Leganes."

Braithwaite provides Quique Setien with options as he is capable of playing multiple positions. Most often deployed at center forward, he has scored 55 goals and assisted a further 32 in 200 appearances down the middle. He could also rotate with 17-year-old Ansu Fati, having played on the left wing 64 times, scoring 17 and assisting another two. Many have questioned whether Braithwaite has the quality required to play for Barcelona — despite a relatively successful spell at Toulouse, where he scored 40 goals and provided 15 assists in 140 games, he struggled at Championship side Middlesborough, scoring just nine in 40 appearances before moving to the Spanish capital last January. Thanks to the urgent nature of the move and the requirements of the rule permitting it, Barcelona could not afford to be overly picky.

Braithwaite's form has improved somewhat at Leganes and he has grown into a crucial player for the 19th-placed side, having scored six of his side's 18 goals so far this season. The club will feel aggrieved considering the reports that Barcelona had agreed to sign Getafe's Angel Rodriguez before instead deciding to pry loose its top scorer. Two points off safety, Leganes could soon find itself up against the 39-cap Denmark star as the side still must travel to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in March.

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