Note: Here at Barca Blaugranes, we are always happy to hear or read your opinion on the team, whether it's in the form of a comment, or indeed in a fanpost. This particular, well-written post from long-time community member JBeck12 creates an "ideal" Barcelona squad for next season - do you agree with his assessment?
Transfer talk ever since Barca's crushing 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich has increased to a fever pitch. Many reactions have been typical knee-jerk responses to a loss that, while certainly deserved, was exacerbated by injuries and unfit players; not the least of which was Lionel Messi. However, to outright ignore the defeat would be ignorant and naive. While it's hard to come to grips with such a fantastic run ending, the fact of the matter is the bulk of the current Barca squad has spent the past 4-5 years carrying both FCB AND the Spanish Men's National Team. It's sad, but the "golden generation" had to end at some point and with Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez 35 and 33 respectively yet still holding vital positions within the team it's time to start looking ahead to the next generation and the next decade.
To me, Barca's goal should be continual dominance. While this isn't always guaranteed, especially with the rise of German football over the past year, it'd be faulty logic to simply accept a shift in power from Catalonia to Bavaria and the club should do everything within its power to, at the very least, compete with the German powerhouse. A number of problems within the current squad and team template have been recognized, and so this post operates under the following premises:
1. The existing player base is too homogenized. Players are basically, except for small differences, the same in that they prefer the ball played into feet. This brings its own problems, mainly that teams have adapted to counter our system through intense midfield pressing.
2. The current system has become outdated. This does NOT mean Tiki Taka is ineffective, but current application in matches has become stale. Mainly, we require perfect execution for our tactics to prove fruitful, which, against good teams, is simply impossible or highly unlikely. Tactics typically only last for around 4 years, and this makes sense since the current Barca team is operating under Guardiola-era ideology. Which leads to...
3. Tito is the manager now, NOT Guardiola. Thus, statements like, "now this is how a Guardiola team plays" are simply ridiculous. A new identity is necessary.
4. We're going to assume that FCB will employ a budget of 40m euros before any transfers are made.
Okay, so let's dive in, shall we?
Oh, one more note, all potential fees are derived by using transfermarkt.co.uk.
Okay, so this new Barca squad for next season must fulfill the following:
significantly strengthened defense.
an infusion of current B-team players.
the exiting of ancillary, unnecessary players.
a revamped offense which is NOT Messi-dependent. Rather, Messi elevates the team to an exceptional level.
No more than 26 players.
1. Gerard Deulofeu. It's time. After so much hype for so long it's time for Gerard to make the first team. While I don't expect him to play a tremendous amount, it's important for his development that he be rotated into as many games as possible. He fills a role as an excellent 1v1 player who is the most similar player to Lionel Messi and a potential future replacement. I expect him to most commonly play on either the left or right wing.
2. Sergi Roberto. One of the few Barca midfielders to demonstrate box-to-box qualities, Roberto should develop in the vein of Ilkay Gundogan at Dortmund. Ergo, he should be a physically strong, defensively apt, positionally excellent ball-playing midfielder who can operate in deep positions yet storm forward to assist the offense.
3. Oier Olazabal. While not a future starter, at 23 Oier makes sense as a capable backup keeper. With Pinto as old as he is, bringing Oier up permanently would be a smart move, and one the club is almost certain to make.
Now for loans:
1. Isaac Cuenca. He wants to return to Ajax for another year, and this makes sense. The tricky winger has a future at Barca, but with planned infusions of forward talent letting him develop elsewhere makes sense. Ajax is a great team with great history and perfect for Isaac.
2. Sergi Roberto. Once promoted, Sergi would be best loaned out to develop physically, perhaps to an EPL side like Swansea.
3. Marc Muniesa. After injury, he needs first team playing experience, and that would preferably happen at a club like Ajax.
I expect current loanees (besides Cuenca) to be sold. This means Afellay and Fontas will most certainly be sold for small sums, I think 6m and 3m respectively. Also expect Bojan to generate 10-11 million, and I think this is the time we manage to get rid of JDS as well.
But the big transfer sales will be Alexis Sanchez, Victor Valdes and David Villa. Villa can only regress at this point in his career, and while still a good finisher it's time to move to a new player. He's certainly lost some of his pace and explosiveness, but we can still sell him for good money. I expect a move to Liverpool or Arsenal for 15 million. Valdes is not re-signing and we'd be wise to cash in while we can. Sanchez is starting to prove greater worth, but he's a wide playmaker rather than a scorer in a system that doesn't accommodate wide playmakers and needs scorers. At a club like Juve or Inter he'd be excellent and better-used, plus we'd make 25m which we could use for more fitting players. Don't be surprised if he stays, but I have a feeling he'll leave for the right price.
Totaling transfer fees received? I'd wager somewhere around 45-50 million. Song and Cesc are unknowns at this point, and could be sold, but I highly doubt it. Song isn't perfect, but we've spent this long developing him, why make him leave? In time he could be the new Keita, and strong recent performances only support that idea.
1. Neymar-Santos. He's on everyone's minds, is almost definitely coming, and makes sense because he'll draw attention from Messi. However, I don't think he completes the offense in any way, shape or form. Remember, diversity is the goal. We still need a player who can tangle with a defense. That comes later though. Neymar provides pace, shooting, trickery, 1v1 skill, and unlimited potential. He can be the next Ronaldinho. Finally, I don't think his transfer fee is tied to the 40m dollar budget. I think the money's already raised, or will be generated through our Nike sponsorship. Neymar at Barca would generate tremendous shirt sales, probably covering the transfer fee in a few months.
2. Mats Hummels-Dortmund. The perfect player to improve our back line, Hummels makes his case as an incredibly complete defender. He can do everything, whether its passing, dribbling, dominating aerially, tackling, or making impressive clearances. At 24, he has time to grow into our system, and represents a better cost to time ratio than say, Thiago Silva, who, similar to comparing David Villa to Aguero, would provide a few seasons of excellence with the other player a much better long term investment. While not the speediest player, our fullbacks provide cover while a Pique-Hummels partnership would form a wall of aerial dominance. Expect the 25m rated Dortmund CB to transfer for around 30m.
3. Marc-Andre ter Stegen-Borussia Monchengladbach. The perfect keeper for Barca. Exceptional handling, great positioning, can operate as a sweeper, you guys know all of this. What it comes down to is transfer fee, and I'd expect ter Stegen to move for around 15 million.
Now recall the earlier statements about transfer budget. 40m existing with possibly 45m coming in from transfers out of the club. There's a realistic possibility that we could knock out a keeper for the next decade and a half as well as a 10 year center back AND Neymar and still have nearly 50 million remaining for other transfers. The hypothetical question is how to put that money to use...
4. Inigo Martinez-Real Sociedad. For around 10 million we could have an incredibly impressive, Puyol-like, left-footed, 21 year old center back who could partner Bartra for years.
5. Stevan Jovetic-Fiorentina. In 2012/2013's most exciting tactical team, Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic would be an ideal Barcelona signing. He's adept as a #9 in a possession based system, and he can also operate as a left winger. Both a lethal finisher and playmaker, Jovetic would provide much needed size to the team as he's over 6 feet tall. There's great versatility here, since we can place him in the center as a point man with Messi behind, deeper as a #10, or on the wing. His size would help in defense too, specifically when there are set pieces. He'd be expensive, 35-40 million or so, but damn, the idea of Neymar-Messi-Jovetic is incredibly enticing.
So here's my 2013/2014 Barcelona squad:
1. Pedro Rodriguez - winger
2. Cristian Tello -winger
3. Gerard Deulofeu- winger
4. Neymar - winger
5. Lionel Messi - center forward
6. Stevan Jovetic - striker
7. Andres Iniesta- central midfielder
8. Xavi Hernandez- central midfielder
9. Sergio Busquets - defensive midfielder
10. Cesc Fabregas- central attacking midfielder
11. Thiago Alcantara - central midfielder
12. Alex Song - central defensive midfielder
13. Javier Mascherano - defensive midfielder/center back
14. Jordi Alba - left back
15. Adriano Correia - left/right back
16. Eric Abidal - center back/left back
17. Carles Puyol - center back
18. Gerard Pique - center back
19. Mats Hummels - center back
20. Marc Bartra - center back/ right back (in the mould of Abidal on the left)
21. Inigo Martinez - center back
22. Martin Montoya - right back
23. Daniel Alves - right back
24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen - goalkeeper
25. Jose Pinto - goalkeeper
26. Oier Olazabal - goalkeeper