It's no mystery what the top priority for Barca is this transfer window. With Eric Abidal thankfully recovering and out of the hospital but with his career in doubt, the Blaugrana need to secure another left-back.
The only one on the squad is Adriano Correia, who did OK but not great. He can attack but is sometimes lax in defense, plus he has injury problems which compound the lack of depth. It looks likely the team will be looking for the best left-back available to transfer to Barcelona.
Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur and Jordi Alba from Valencia CF are the most talked-about targets, but there have been others named in the presses as being in the eyes of the club. Who is the best option for Barcelona?B-Team
First, let's talk about the reserve side, as Barca is famous for developing top talent. There is Marc Muniesa, who has impressed in his showings for the senior team but is still raw and primarily a centerback. Carles Planas is the B team's regular left-back but he has yet to feature for the senior side.
They won't cost anything in transfer fees and are already adapted to Barca's style. They won't have to acclimate to a new city and they have good amount of potential.
The main one is experience, as they have very little between the two of them. For Muniesa, left-back is not the position he plays the most and he hasn't really featured in big matches. For Planas it's just that he hasn't featured at all. It'd be a huge risk to expect either one to be the team's number 1 left-back next year.
Good players but still far away from replacing Abidal. They will get their chances more and more, hopefully, but for the moment they are backups.
The Welsh winger can operate as a fast attacking fullback that terrorizes opposing defenses. He also has a good touch and can take free kicks.
Speed is the main one, but he's also quite strong. Bale has a very good shot for a fullback - he scored 9 league goals for Spurs this season. According to WhoScored.com, Bale was 5th in the Premiership in average rating. He is only 22 and can still improve. As a bonus, he is as tall as Abidal and can help a bit on set pieces.
He won't come cheap, that's for sure. I've heard he might cost 40m Euros. Transfrmarkt has him rated at just over 30m Euros. Perhaps that is the "British Premium" - having to pay extra for an overrated British player? One of his better-known tools, his ability to whip in crosses, may not be of that much use to Barca's small forward line. And his defending is not top-class. How would he acclimate to a new culture, new city, new playing style?
An exciting player, to be sure, but this is where cost can become an issue. Is he so far ahead of the other left backs on the market that paying two times or more the amount for Bale worth it? It becomes an extra risky proposition if Bale does not adapt well to Spain and to the style of Barca, which he doesn't have experience in.
He, along with Jeremy Mathieu helped Valencia to some good results against Barcelona, cutting up the Blaugrana's right side. It's around this time that a lot of Cules began asking how or why we let him go from the youth set-up.
A very quick player who likes to dribble, he would have a pretty easy time adapting to Barca. After all, he began his career in Barca's youth teams. He would fit right in with a lot of Spanish national team members like Cesc, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol. He is a good attacking fullback and would cost comparatively little - probably 15m would be the most he would cost.
Compared to Bale, he is smaller and less likely to score. His crossing is also not as polished, but perhaps it matters less in Barcelona. His numbers overall are not as impressive as Bale's, though there are mitigating favtors to this.
Alba is the most natural choice for the job. He has Barcelona training and Spanish national team experience, plus he's young and not too expensive. He also is a better defender than Bale, and with Alves on the other side, perhaps that is preferable.
Jose Angel followed Luis Enrique from Spain to Rome last season. The former Barca B manager secured his transfer from Sporting to AS Roma, where he was the starting left-back.
Good dribbler, not bad defensively, Experience in the Barcelona system and has stated he would want to play for Barcelona. Would be pretty cheap (rated at 4m by Transfermarkt).
Jose Angel is fairly balanced but he is just not in the same class as Bale or Alba. He is fairly tall, fairly good at defending, fairly good at attacking, fairly fast... but he does not - at this stage at least - appear to be in the very top class of players. He is 22, however...
A backup at this point. Barcelona could sign Jose Angel and someone else, or they might be monitoring him in case other deals fall through.
A recent transplant from Newcastle, Jose Enrique arrived to Liverpool FC for 5m last season. LFC had a disappointing season and their manager Kenny Dalglish was fired, but he was for the most part a bright spot.
A good athlete with good speed, strength, and endurance. At 26, he is entering his prime. He is a better attacker than Jose Angel...
...but not as good a defender. He has been good for LFC in what has been a problem spot for the Reds recently, so there is a feeling they won't let him go cheaply (Transfermarkt has him rated at 11.5m)
Jose Enrique is a good player but for the money he might cost, it's likely that Jordi Alba is a better option.
Cole has been one of the world's best left-backs for a while now and has frequently been linked to a move to Barca. At 31 and with European glory, is this the best or worst time for that to finally happen?
An experienced defender that won't be fazed by big matches. Good attacker and a pretty great passer, too. His defending is underrated.
He is getting a bit old, and his value has dropped in a significant fashion. True, Barca could be picking up a great player on the cheap ... but they could also be putting money based on past and not future performance, which is a dangerous business.
An interesting proposition, as Cole is still a good player as he showed in the Champions League. But he is 8 or 9 years older than the other targets. His cost - and attitude - may become prohibitive, especially if Barca want him as a backup. They have to wonder whether it is a good investment for getting at most a 4 or 5 years worth of a return.
It will most likely come down to either Alba or Bale, barring some strange occurrences. The B team is not prepared to supply a #1 left-back and the other transfer options aren't as appealing. Bale is the riskier pick, as it could turn out brilliantly or as a flop. Alba makes more sense, but there is the worry that his upside is not as high as Bale. There is also the factor of price: both are good players, but one will cost a lot more. It ultimately depends on what qualities Tito Vilanova prioritizes in his left-back next season..