Barcelona remain firm favorites to win this season's Champions League. The likes of Lionel Messi and Xavi continue to produce match-winning performances, but it's the transfer of Jordi Alba that has got La Blaugrana back on track.
Alba has made it back to the club that released him at just 16 years old. But the man that now occupies the left-back spot is a far cry from the boy that was let go in 2005.
Granted, Barca have had to pay a lot to ensure his return, but every dollar of the $18 million deal with Valencia looks well spent.
So why is the transfer so important?
Firstly, it was Tito Vilanova's first major signing. With all the hype and attention surrounding the new manager, many were intrigued by what new additions he would make.
Alba's stunning displays for Spain during Euro 2012 only made the decision easier after a longtime scouting mission.
Secondly, it filled the one problem position that had given predecessor Pep Guardiola so many sleepless nights.
The 24-year-old provides perfect balance to the team that Eric Abidal and Adriano struggled to achieve despite admirable efforts.
The club have not really had an elite left-back since Giovanni van Bronckhorst left in 2007.
But thirdly and most important of all, he's delivered on the pitch.
There has been no period of adjustment, no gradual integration, it was straight in at the deep end for Alba and he's made the transition look easy.
He's a big reason why Barca have all but regained the La Liga title, but it's the Champions League where the marauding defender has had the greatest impact.
Alba sometimes doesn't get the credit he deserves defensively, but much of that is due to the attention Messi and co. will always attract.
Comfortable in a back three or four, Alba has shown great positional awareness, especially when Daniel Alves pushes forward.
It's evident that a new central defensive partner for Gerard Pique will only improve what is already an excellently assembled defence.
But it's at the other end of the pitch where Alba has earned his Champions League MVP status.
Goals are a dime a dozen from defenders in today's game, but the importance and timing of them are what separates the good from the great.
This 24-year-old is great.
Many remember his stunning injury-time strike against AC Milan, which will be savoured for many years to come, but the late winner against Celtic at home was probably one of the most important he will score in his career.
Almost single-handedly, Alba rescued Vilanova's men from potential disaster—they needed to finish top of their qualifying group.
Of course, they still have work to do, starting with the return leg against PSG. But with two away goals and back at Camp Nou, they should be fine.
Don't be surprised if Alba has a big say in the final result, especially when all the attention will be on Messi's hamstring.
In conclusion, Alba has great short- and long-term potential with very few players rivalling his current European form.
A fantastic signing who is big reason why Barca should regain the Champions League from Chelsea.
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