Here we go again?
The start of the season is nigh and Barca are yet again without a centerback signing. That sense of deja vu you're probably feeling right now is because last season, after failing to buy Thiago Silva and not nabbing Jan Vertonghen, Barca gave up and got a defensive midfielder (Alex Song).
Centerback has been identified as a primary weakness in the squad. While a legendary defender, Carles Puyol is old and injury-prone. And while extremely talented, Gerard Pique suffers from lapses of concentration.
Javier Mascherano is a great player but he considers himself a midfielder despite being played almost exclusively in defense. Though he reads the game well, his lack of height and pace can be problematic. Adriano Correia is fast, but small and considers himself a left-back primarily. Marc Bartra is promising, but inexperienced and hasn't given the coach a lot of confidence in the preseason friendlies. Frank Bagnack is an exciting prospect, but has barely featured in the B team.
Barca spent a very long time in a failed attempt to convince the mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain to sell their captain and possibly best player, Silva. Barca also wanted young Marquinhos from AS Roma, but he joined Silva at PSG instead.
Even though Luiz is reportedly ready to come, Chelsea want 50 million euro to allow the Brazilian to make his switch to Catalonia. Barca will not offer more than 35 million.
Agger is perhaps not as enthusiastic to join Barca, and Liverpool are unwilling to let him go. Anyway, buying from Liverpool owner John W. Henry this window does not seem easy unless you smoke a special substance that allows you to see clauses in Uruguayan players' contracts, and even then it's no picnic.
Even more of a herculean task is buying from Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy. Currently asking for approximately all the money on planet Earth in exchange for Gareth Bale, Levy won't let Jan Vertonghen go cheap.
Further down the list of Barca's wanted transfers, Eliaquim Mangala of FC Porto has lots of potential, but his buyout clause is high and Barcelona have not made any real overtures to get him.
There are more accessible targets still on the board. Jeremy Mathieu of Valencia has a specialized buyout clause that is said to be around 8 million, while Mamadou Sakho is unhappy at PSG and could cost less than 15 million. But so far, the deals have yet to materialize.
Even if Barca signed up a player this very moment, there would still be issues.
First, the preseason is over and there would be very little time to adjust for a new recruit. Defender is a particularly difficult position to adjust to because it requires the player to be in sync with his teammates.
He has to be able to make quick decisions based on mutual understanding, when to switch responsibilities, when to step up in an offside trap, etc. On the other hand, he won't get many late, minimum pressure run-outs like a new forward.
A new forward can step in the last 10 minutes of a game where the team is leading by two or more, run around for a bit, and adjust with little pressure. A defender can't do that as easily. First, other defenders are usually wary of breaking up the rhythm of the backline and defenders are rarely substituted. Second, the new defender may make a mistake, and then receive lots of complaints since it would most likely lead to a goal.
The other issue is that Bartra is reportedly considering leaving on loan if another defender is brought in. Bartra is the most promising defensive prospect of his generation, but he's still down in the pecking order. He has yet to impress in preseason and his contract is winding down.
Barca have to make a choice whether to appease him or not. Ideally, he would stay and play enough games through squad rotation. But as the Thiago Alcantara example proved, things don't always play out that way.
In the end, Barcelona may postpone the issue altogether and look to buy a CB in the January transfer window. But if their recent record is anything to go by, what makes anyone think they'll succeed then?