How will Barcelona spend their summer?
Background photo: CR Gutman
For the vast majority of European clubs, securing a second successive league title, reaching a domestic cup final and a Champions League semi-final would represent a good campaign. For Barcelona, it was an utter failure.
Alright, there was some joy at adding another La Liga title but none to be found elsewhere. Capitulation to Liverpool in the Champions League, the second time in succession that Ernesto Valverde's side surrendered a three-goal lead in the second leg of a knockout round, left most dumbfounded. A surprise defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final raised the level of concern to Gobsmack 3.
Not only did Barcelona somehow throw away the chance at a treble, they did it from a position of strength. The killer instinct just isn't in the squad. It left most doubting the players, the manager and whether Barcelona are even good enough to challenge for the most important trophy as currently constituted. Indeed, the fanbase wanted Ernesto Valverde sacked as a consequence.
That won’t be happening. Barcelona's hierarchy announced its support for the embattled manager almost immediately. He seems to have the players’ support as well. If the third season isn't a charm, that may change. For now, though, Valverde is in charge. It's his job to oversee the overhaul required this summer.
First question: what kind of budget will he be given? Deloitte rated Barcelona as the club with the most significant profit margin in the world in November, and its second richest. There is money for the manager to spend. Barcelona already flexed their financial muscle by closing a deal for Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong for £75 million ahead of the window opening. They also lead the sweepstakes for his teammate, Matthijs de Ligt.
Valverde's spending power could be bolstered by several departures. Rumours suggest Barca will let as many as ten first-team players go this summer in a major clear out.
Philippe Coutinho is one who could leave given how disastrously his time in Spain has turned out. Paris Saint Germain have been credited with an interest, as well as several other clubs. While Barcelona are unlikely to get back the vast fee they paid for him, they should still be able to mitigate their loss.
Samuel Umtiti is another attracting interest. The Frenchman fell down the pecking order this season, mostly due to chronic injury issues. Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet became the preferred centre back pairing. Umtiti is a top-class centre back when healthy and will have no problem finding a new club assuming Barcelona are happy to let him leave. He’ll command a minimum £50 million fee.
The same can be said of Ivan Rakitic, another big star linked with a move away. The 31-year-old Croatian hasn't been offered a new contract. He’s never received universal love at the Nou Camp but is a top midfielder on his day. As with Coutinho and Umtiti, he’ll have suitors around Europe and will draw a sizeable fee despite his age.
Malcom is another Barcelona can sell for a reasonable price. The Brazilian failed to make the grade this season and ought to regret not heading to Roma instead. He prefers first team football. Valverde is reluctant to offer much.
The same can be said for Jasper Cillessen who hasn't had a sniff of the scoresheet thanks to Marc-Andre ter Stegen's heroics.
Jeison Murillo and Kevin Prince Boateng will be sent back to their clubs. It seems very likely that Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez will be moved on. Gomes spent the season on loan at Everton. The Toffees should be more than happy to pay his £30 million price tag. Whether Suarez can earn a permanent move to Arsenal is debatable given he barely featured. It's not a concern. Most La Liga clubs would take him.
How will Barcelona fill the available space? They need at least one quality centre-forward, two if Luis Suarez doesn't stay. The only pure striker in the squad, the Uruguayan hasn't been at his best for two years.
Antoine Griezmann seemed an ideal option now that the Frenchman 'decided' to leave Atletico Madrid. Problem: the Barca players don’t want him, apparently holding a vote to reject his advances. Reports suggest Lionel Messi was among the naysayers. If that is the case, Barcelona could look towards Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, roll the dice on Mauro Icardi or go big for a youngster like Joao Felix. The Portuguese starlet would cost the same as Griezmann.
Assuming Coutinho departs, Valverde needs another playmaker. Neymar is the romantics' choice but has even more baggage these days than when he left. A sex scandal and tussles with fans aren't the image the Catalans wish to project. On the other hand, a swap for Coutinho might appeal to both Barcelona and PSG.
Nicolas Pepe lit up Ligue 1 this season for Lille. Barcelona could muscle in on Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern for the 24-year-old's signature.
Yet to adequately replace Dani Alves three years after his departure a right back might be on the shopping list. Nelson Semedo is inconsistent. Sergi Roberto is serviceable. We're talking Barcelona, though. Fantastic players should fill every role. Unfortunately, finding a solution isn’t all that easy.
There aren’t many top full backs available, with the best already at big clubs. Joao Cancelo might be had from Juventus for the right price. More likely, someone like Kenny Lala is the way to go. He impressed with RC Strasbourg this term. Mario Gaspar at Villarreal is worth a look as well.
Frenkie de Jong fills Rakitic's shoes but Barcelona might want to kick Christian Eriksen's tyres as insurance.
While Real Madrid have been quicker out of the gate, don't expect this to be a quiet summer for Barcelona whatever happens.