On Wednesday morning, my alarm woke me up and everything seemed routine. I did what most people do every morning: check my phone-yes, before going to the bathroom. To my delight, I had tweets from many Twitter followers telling me the good news: FIFA has suspended the transfer ban that was imposed on FC Barcelona on April 2.
FIFA released a statement saying:
"The chairman of the Fifa appeal committee, Larry Mussenden, took into consideration the sanctions imposed against the club, the complexity of the matter, the start date of the next registration period - 1 July 2014 - and the fact that the Fifa appeal committee does not seem in a position to take a decision on the main issue early enough so that an eventual appeal of the club against its decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport would still be decided before the beginning of the next registration period.
"Consequently, the chairman considered that the appeal lodged by the club is to be granted suspensive effect."
Thank you, FIFA!
With the transfer ban suspended, the ball is now in FC Barcelona board's court-in particular-Andoni Zubizarreta and Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Wrapping up ter Stegen and Halilović
One of, if not, the first thing Bartomeu and Zubi need to do is wrap up the Marc-Andre ter Stegen deal-if the deal is not already wrapped up. Fly out to Germany, sign every document needed, and make it official. With Victor Valdes leaving, the signing of ter Stegen has been a long time coming, and is the first true signing of the new FCB era.
There is no need to worry about Alen Halilović's signing, as the club wrapped that signing up and made it "official" (Halilović as well) a while ago. Halilović's Dinamo Zagreb recently won the Croatian league title.
A new signing already?!
Shortly after the announcement that the transfer ban was lifted, Marca.com and ESPNFC.com reported that FC Barcelona has an agreement in place to sign 15-year-old Hungarian midfielder Matyas Tajti from Puskas Akademia. Matyas' father told Hungarian outlet Blikk that they had agreed to a three-year contract with Barça prior to the transfer ban being imposed. Real Madrid was also in the race to sign Tajti as well.
Who to sell?
It can't be all signings this summer. Some players will have to go. Below is my list of players I believe should either be sold, or be shopped around to other clubs.
Pedro: As much as I love Pedro, he's been too inconsistent for nearly three years now. I'd rather keep Alexis Sanchez. Sorry, Pedrito. Business, not personal.
Alex Song: Sandro Rosell made a mistake by signing Song and not a CB in 2012. Alex should go to a team that will give him more playing time. Plus, it will open up money for FCB.
Dani Alves: I like Dani, but it's time the FCB back-line commits to being more like a regular defense. Plus, Dani is in the latter part of his prime, and FCB could still get a nice amount of money for him.
Cristian Tello: The kid had his contract renewed this past year, but his inconsistency is unbearable, and with Gerard Deulofeu coming back next season, there may not be room for Tello. Plus, Deulofeu has impressed at Everton; Tello at FCB hasn't.
Jonathan Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto: Sorry to Johnny Two Saints and Sergi, but with Rafinha's great season on loan at Celta Vigo, there is truly not going to be any playing time for either player. I can see FCB sending Sergi on loan, but Dos Santos' time at FCB has got to come to an end for his own sake. Like his brother Giovanni, Jonathan needs to leave FCB because he's never going to get the opportunity to prove himself, and needs to move on with his young career.
On the Bubble: Javier Mascherano: I like El Jefecito, but with offers from Napoli and other clubs coming, Mascherano could be gone this summer. I hope not, personally. I think he shows lots of heart, and if Song is sold, Masche could go back to being a CDM whenever Sergio Busquets isn't playing. Barcelona could use Mascherano as utility player as a CB and CDM when needed. I'd keep Javier Mascherano, but I wouldn't be shocked if he was sold to bring in money for new signings.
On the Bubble: Cesc Fabregas: There are some that would say Barcelona should consider selling Cesc Fabregas. Cesc's game has been non-existent these past weeks, and it feels that he always has a second-half-of-the-season falling out. I'm sure Manchester United and other clubs would be interested in Cesc's services and would pay a good price for it. But with Xavi getting up there in (football) age, can FC Barcelona really afford to sell Fabregas? If JDS and Sergi Roberto are sold/loaned out, that leaves Andres Iniesta, an older Xavi, and a returning Rafinha as the team's midfielders for 2014-15. In essence, it really only leaves Iniesta as the lone consistent mid, as Xavi and Rafinha would probably rotate time. Does FCB call-up Denis Suarez or another Barça B mid with no big-game experience? With all of this, I'm not sure Zubi and Bartomeu would sell Cesc Fabregas this summer.
Alexis Sanchez's name has come up in recent transfer rumors. Sky Italia reported on Tuesday that Sanchez has agreed to personal terms with Juventus. Then again, Sky Italia also reported a few months ago that Xavi was leaving Barcelona for the New York Red Bulls of the MLS, a report Xavi denied.
I can see Barcelona selling Alexis Sanchez, but I don't think it would be a good idea at all. He's been the second best forward this team has had all season, and unless the FCB board has Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero committed to joining Barcelona, I don't see any logic in selling Alexis.
Others: Ibrahim Afellay, Issac Cuenca, Bojan, and Oier Olazábal should all be sold for their own sake. They need playing time, and they won't get that at FC Barcelona.
Returns and Call-ups
As mentioned, Rafinha Alcantara is expected to not be loaned out again, and will re-join Barcelona's first squad this summer. Rafinha has impressed at Celta Vigo, and his game will be needed next season. Gerard Deulofeu is also expected to return this summer from his loan stint at Everton as the kid has had a solid season in England.
As far as Barça B call-ups, there are a few options. Denis Suarez and Sergi Gomez seem like top contenders to be called up. Jordi Masip deserves to be called up and be the first-squad's second goalkeeper, in my opinion. I doubt Alen Halilović would be called up anytime in 2014-15, but he does has first-squad experience in Croatia and he even has Champions League experience, so being called up midseason or even for just one game is very possible.
Who to sign?
The million(s) dollar question: Who to sign? In an interview in March, Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu suggested the club could spend over €100 million on signings. "Each year we have an EBITDA [Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] of about €120 million," Bartomeu told El Periodico (via Goal.com). "We generally use half of that to fund transfers and the other half to reduce our debts. But there could be a year where we spend the entire €120 million on transfers."
Mr. Bartomeu, 2014 is the year that spending that much amount of money on signings is needed.
With ter Stegen locked up, the obvious position where Barcelona need to spend their money on is at centre-back. Some of the candidates include Chelsea's David Luiz, Roma's Mehdi Benatia, Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels, FC Basel's Fabian Schär, Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Club, and Éder Balanta of River Plate just to name a few.
Switching to the offensive side of the ball, perhaps the name most Culés want to see at the Camp Nou next season is Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund. The German sensation has had a great run as of late, including his performances in the Bundesliga and against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup. There are many reports and rumors that say Reus has had a verbal agreement with Barça for some time now. His buyout clause with Dortmund is reportedly around €35 million.
For me, I'd love to see Reus in a Barcelona kit. But two CBs are needed first, then Reus. Other teams like Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are two teams that will compete to try and sign the German, but Marco Reus prefers a move to Barça, according to reports, and with his dynamic play, he's something this team needs on offense.
As far as other signings, a central defensive midfielder may be needed if Mascherano leaves (deciding not to stay and be the back-up CDM behind Busquets). If Dani Alves is sold, a new RB will be needed.
Time to redeem yourselves, Bartomeu and Zubi
This FCB board has been a disappointment, to say the least. The list of their sins is a good-sized list, but it looks like new elections will not happen this season, so we are stuck with them.
If this FCB board and especially Josep Maria Bartomeu and Andoni Zubizarreta want to in a sense "redeem" themselves a bit with the Barça socis as well as all Culés, their summer signings have to be swift and spot-on. Yes, it's impossible to know whether a signing will work out or not at the beginning, but Bartomeu and Zubi owe it to the socios, fans, and to the club to get things in right direction.
FIFA has essentially given Bartomeu and Zubi a second chance to make things right for the immediate future. Do I trust Bartomeu and/or Zubi?: No. Not with their history. But I am hopeful that they prove me and all Culés wrong. I want them to prove me wrong! The past is the past, and their mistakes will not be forgotten. But Bartomeu and Zubi have the opportunity to at least make their remaining time in office a better one for the club with good, well-thought out signings.
Am I asking for too much? Perhaps. I know this FCB board are/have been a nightmare. But call me crazy, but I am hopeful that SOMEHOW they will redeem themselves just a bit with their summer signings.
For now, let's all be happy that the transfer ban is suspended, and that FC Barcelona will have the opportunity to rebuild for 2014-15 and beyond.
Let the new era begin.
Xoel, The Voice of els Culés