Barcelona is one of the most iconic clubs in world football. Camp Nou has been home to some of the world’s best players, including Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Neymar, Thierry Henry and countless others. But in recent times, the club looks like a mere ghost of its former self. Issues with the board, the continued unrest in Catalonia, and an ever-increasing debt have taken a toll on this historic club. But now, with Joan Laporta as the club president and Messi staying on at the club, it is time Barca started to rebuild and look towards the future.
Barcelona Look to Rebuild With Blend of Youth and Experience
Ronald Koeman Begins Project Rebuild at Barcelona
With the club struggling to replace their older players and several failed transfers, let’s look at what the club should do in the upcoming months to compete for the La Liga and the Champions League once again.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not been easy on football clubs, with many of them facing major financial issues, and Barcelona is one of them. To finance the transfer of new players, Barcelona will have to start by selling a few and easing up the tight wage budget.
Who to Sell?
Barcelona’s defence has struggled the whole season, and one of the biggest reasons behind it is the poor showing by their centre backs. They concede far too many chances on the regular and fail to keep up with faster forwards, illustrated quite clearly in the game against Paris Saint-Germain.
Samuel Umtiti has underperformed severely this season. With constant fitness problems coupled with a poor show in defence, it is high time the Catalonian club got rid of him. Umtiti has played only 645 minutes in La Liga this year, where his performances have been a shell of his former self. Compared to the 2017-18 season, Umiti’s stats have taken a big dip. The number of tackles he makes per 90 has dropped from 1.64 to 1.25, and those made in the defensive third have dropped from 1.11 to 0.57. His ability to hold and pass the ball under pressure has also been affected. His 9.70 passes under pressure have dropped to 5.82. While he used to lose only 0.49 aerial battles per 90, now he loses 1.14 per 90.
Signed for a reported fee of 120.5 million pounds, Phillipe Coutinho has done everything but justify this price tag. Signing from Liverpool, the Brazilian wizard was supposed to fill in the mammoth shoes left by fellow Brazilian Neymar. While Neymar became the star-show at the Parc Des Princes, Camp Nou became Phillipe Coutinho’s worst nightmare. Known for his sharpshooting at Anfield, Coutinho’s shooting lacked the edge at Barcelona. In 2017-18, his last season in Liverpool, 34% of his shots were on target. This number has fallen to a mere 29.3% this season. The Brazilian also underperformed in terms of his passing, as his xAp90 fell to 0.17, almost half of what it used to be. His shot-creating action numbers also saw a similar fall, as it went down from 6.33 to 3.41 per 90.
With clubs like Arsenal interested, Barca can let him go and use the money to improve other lacking areas of the squad.
Like other players on this list, Sergi Roberto has endured a tough season, one marked with injuries and setbacks. But even when fit, Roberto does not make the starting eleven. The midfielder turned right back needs to find a club where he can play day in, day out. Selling Roberto will also create a much needed cut in Barcelona’s wage budget, as his salary is rumoured to be around two hundred thousand Euros per week.
Other Players they should consider selling:
Who to Promote?
Signing many players may not be the best strategy for Barcelona, considering the massive debt they are in. Barcelona’s well-reputed youth academy, La Masia, is known for producing world-class talent, like Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Messi, Sergio Busquets, and more recently in Ansu Fati and Pedri. It is time that Barcelona use some of these talents in the immediate future, as it will not only save them tons of money but also would continue the decade long tradition of getting local youth players involved in the first team.
Alex Collado has consistently been one of the best players in the Barcelona B setup, and it is high time that he gets the promotion to the first team. The 22-year-old attacker, who has been at the club since the tender age of ten, has scored eight goals and assisted three in 22 games this season for Barcelona B. He has been described as a dictator in the midfield, and is the central spearhead in all attacking aspects for the side.
Collado is very versatile and can play on the right-wing or in the midfield. His first touch and his dribbling skills allow him to guide past players effortlessly. He is also an amazing free-kick taker. The young forward can help provide balance on the wing and cover-up for the many times Sergino Dest moves further up the field to supplement the attack.
Inaki Pena has also been part of the Barcelona youth setup for several years. A complete and agile goalkeeper, Pena is also great at aerial battles regardless of his stature of only 184 cm (considered quite short for a goalkeeper). He is also technically brilliant with his feet, an essential part of the game plan at Barcelona. Pena is also great at saving penalties, displayed quite clearly with his five penalty saves this season.
Who to Buy to Fit Project Rebuild at Barcelona?
The sale of Luiz Suarez left a big void in Barcelona. Even zthough Messi can still be relied upon for the team’s creative output, Barcelona lacks a penalty box striker who can draw defenders and finish the chances created.
Erling Haaland would be best suited for this role, but considering his heavy price tag and major competition from clubs like Manchester City, it is unlikely the club make a move for the player at this time.
However, their signing of Sergio Aguero from Manchester City will help fill this void. The Argentinian’s numbers since the 2016 season are very similar to those of the Norwegian. Aguero averages 1.3 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 57% while also creating 1.3 chances and taking 4.5 shots per 90.
The talismanic forward will also help build the play from the back, a role he was fairly attuned to at Manchester City. His brilliantly positioning in and around the box will help draw out defenders while also providing the finishing touch Barcelona lack right now.
However, Sergio Aguero is not in his prime anymore. At 32, he is a ghost of his past self. However, if Barcelona can sign Memphis Depay, who is also a free agent this summer, they will have a regular starter and will create depth in the position. The 27-year Dutch has had 32 goal contributions this season, averaging one almost every 90 minutes. He creates on an average 4.9 shots creating actions per 90.
Having already confirmed the move of Eric Garcia back to Camp Nou, Barcelona will still need to look for another centre-back to give the manager more options at the back.
Duje Caleta- Car from Marseille would be the ideal signing for Barcelona. At 24, the ball-playing defender is slowly becoming one of the best defenders in world football. Like Garcia, Car also is a ball-playing defender. Car attempts 60 passes per game on an average with an 87% pass completion rate. The Croatian is also physically imposing and great at aerial duels, winning 77% of his aerial battles. He is also a brilliant pass blocker, blocking 0.26 passes per 90 (one of the highest in Europe).
However, if Barcelona fails to sign Car, they can look to Ajax’s Argentinian defender Lisandro Martinez. The 23-year old is also a ball-playing defender like Garcia and Car. He attempts a staggering 90 passes per game with a completion rate of 89.6%. A workhorse, Martinez completes around 5.15 pressures per 90 and averages around 2.57 interceptions per 90. Martinez also is a great long passer of the ball. Signing one of these defenders with Eric Garcia would help Barca strengthen the centre-back position and help them push harder for the title race next season.
The last area Barcelona need to strengthen is the fullback position. On the right, Sergino Dest has shown a glimpse of the immense potential he holds, but if Roberto is let go of this season, Barcelona will need to sign another right full-back to give him competition on the right-hand side.
Emerson from Real Betis would be the perfect signing. Valued at only around nine million Euros, Emerson can easily compete with Dest for the starting position. The Brazilian wins around 1.74 tackles per 90 compared to Dest’s 0.94. He also applies 15.54 pressures per 90 compared to the American’s 14.43. The 22-year old, however, is not as good a dribbler as Dest, completing only 43% of his dribbles compared to Dest’s 55%.
Jordi Alba has been Barcelona’s reliable left-back for years now. But it is high time Barcelona realised that the Spaniard is past his prime and that they will need to give him a less important role. If Barcelona does give him a lesser role, a new left-back would be required. Jose Gaya of Valencia is a great option. Like Barcelona, Valencia is also going through a tough financial situation and is willing to sell their star players. The Spaniard also creates two shots creating actions per 90, and completes 65% of his dribbles compared to Alba. Gaya is a leader of men and can help mentor the youth at Barca.
Old Players Problem:
While Barca sign new players, selling the dead wood and promoting fresh youth talent is equally important. Players like Sergio Busquets, Gerad Pique and Jordi Alba need to be given a wage cut and lesser roles. They are club legends and deserve to retire at the club. It is valuable to keep this experience in the dressing room and have them, mentors, to the younger players.
The summer transfer window is crucial for Barcelona, and if taken advantage of in the right way, the club can fight for the La Liga and the Champions League again.
Main Image Credit
Embed from Getty Images