What an exciting time to be a Barcelona fan! Barca is currently fighting for another treble, something which hasn’t been done since Pep Guardiola did it in the ’08-’09 season. The team is currently ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid in a tight title race for la Liga. At the end of May, they will be playing Atletic Bilbao, at Camp Nou, in the Copa del Rey final. The team seems certain to have booked their spot in the Champions League semifinals after running rampant against PSG this past Wednesday. Luis Suarez and Neymar are back to top form, giving Lionel Messi more space and time, which allows him to play the provider role. Key players in the midfield and defense are healthy and giving the team rhythm and confidence. Claudio Bravo and Marc Andre ter Stegen have been phenomenal all season between the polls. Luis Enrique has found his favored starting eleven. His job seems secure, as rumors of falling-outs with players and a lack of confidence from the board have long been forgotten. Job well done, Lucho.
Now forget what the current squad is doing. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but I question whether Luis Enrique will be able to maintain this level of success in the future. How will the transfer ban and the utter chaos surrounding the upcoming Presidential elections affect Lucho and the board’s decisions making in the future?
I am not able to answer those questions. I, as a fan, can only hope that those in charge will do what is best for the team.
Something that I can look at, regarding Barcelona’s future, is the performance of the player’s that have been loaned out this season. Depth is one of the most important aspects for a team, like Barcelona, who competes in multiple competitions over a long season. With ageing players and several members who will be probably leaving this summer (Pedro, Xavi, and Dani Alves for example), it is important that Barca looks towards options, other than the transfer market, to be able to compete in the long term.
There are several players in Barca B squad who have been called up to the first team this season, such as Munir El Haddadi and Sergi Roberto. They have performed well, gained valuable experience and will most likely be used more next season. The younger players, such as Alen Halilovic, Sergi Samper and Adama Traore, to mention a few, still need time before they can hope to become first team regulars.
There are five players who are currently on loan; Gerard Deulofeu (Sevilla), Ibrahim Afellay (Olympiacos) and Alex Song (West Ham United). Cristian Tello (Porto) and Denis Suárez (Sevilla) are on two-year loans. It seems unlikely that Alex Song and Ibrahim Afellay will return to Barcelona next season, but the others will be asked to step up to the first team in upcoming seasons.
Here are some current statistics for the 2014-2015 season. (I could not find detailed stats for the Portuguese and Greek domestic leagues)
Cristian Tello (Porto, 23 years old, Midfielder)
Primeira Liga: 24 appearances (8 subbed on) and 7 goals
Champions League: 7 total appearances (2 subbed on), 1 goal, 57% shot accuracy (7 attempts), 14 chances created, 84% pass accuracy (174 attempts), and 58% avg. duels won
Gerard Deulofeu (Sevilla, 21 years old, Midfielder)
Liga BBVA: 16 appearances (6 subbed on), 1 goal, 44% shot accuracy (9 attempts), 13 total chances created, 72% pass accuracy (231 attempts), and 48% avg. duels won
Europa League: 5 total appearances (1 subbed on), 0 goals scored, 80% shot accuracy (5 attempts), 5 total chances created, 76% pass accuracy (85 attempts), and 68% avg. duels won
Denis Suárez (Sevilla, 21 years old, Midfielder)
Liga BBVA: 25 appearances (6 subbed on), 2 goals, 38% shot accuracy (21 attempts), 21 total chances created, 80% pass accuracy (518 attempts), and 39% avg. duels won
Europa League: 8 appearances (2 subbed on), 3 goals, 71% shot accuracy (7 attempts), 3 total chances created, 84% pass accuracy (202 attempts), and 38% avg. duels won
Ibrahim Afellay (Olympiacos, 29 years old, Midfielder)
Greek Super League: 19 appearances (3 subbed on) and 4 goals
Champions League: 6 appearances (2 subbed on), 2 goals, 80% shot accuracy (5 attempts), 4 total chances created, 85% pass accuracy (124 attempts), and 62% avg. duels won
Europa League: 2 appearances, 0 goals, 0 shots, 0 chances created, 86% pass accuracy (64 attempts), and 44% avg. duels won
Alexandre Song (West Ham United, 27 years old, Midfielder)
English Premier League: 25 appearances (2 subbed on), 0 goals scored, 25% shot accuracy (4 shots), 24 total chances created, 76% pass accuracy (1,061 attempts), and 47% duels won
Cristian Tello has been the most productive player, with 8 goals in 31 appearances, for a mighty Porto team. Porto is currently second in their domestic league and has upset German giants Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Tello will return to Barcelona in the summer and can be a possible long-term replacement for the outgoing Pedro.
A lot was expected from Gerard Deulofeu after his loan stint at Everton last year. He has a boatload of talent, but he struggles with inconsistency and motivation. He is still young and is learning to deal with the pressure of being a professional soccer player. As Sevilla’s Sporting Director Monchi said about the player, "Deulofeu is a great player, but he has to learn to live with the elite." His numbers are a bit disappointing, as he has only scored one goal so far. Barcelona fans will hope that this is not a repeat of Bojan Krkic, a star prodigy from la Masia, who, after much expectation, did not pan out with the first team.
Where Deulofeu has faltered, Denis Suárez has made a name for himself. If you watched Sevilla’s Europa League win against Zenit St. Petersburg this week, you will have noticed the immediate impact that Suárez had when he came off of the bench. Barcelona fans will be hoping that he can bring the same energy and skill in the future, as depth will be important for the team if they wish to compete at all levels.
Ibrahim Afellay and Alex Song have been, for a lack of a better word, disappointments. They are both having average, yet inconsistent, seasons at their respective clubs. It seems highly unlikely that they will return to Barcelona after their loan spells. They underperformed while at the Camp Nou as they were not able to adjust to Barca’s style of play. Barca will hope that Alex Song's current form continues as several of the teams in England are vying for his signature. Barcelona will be hopeful that they can make some money from his potential sale.
As the season comes to an enthralling end and Barca fights to accomplish their treble dream, the future of the club does not look so clear. Real Madrid will spend crazy amounts of money this summer on big name signings, as they always do. Athletico Madrid, with Diego SImeone signing a contract extension, will maintain the pressure on the top Liga teams. Valencia and Sevilla, fighting for Champions League qualification, will want to keep growing from this season’s successes. The pressure is on at the Camp Nou.
Without the luxury of buying players in the transfer market for the next year, Barcelona must find other alternatives to make the current squad more competitive. They will look to their players who are returning from loans to add depth to an already talented team and to continue Barcelona’s winning culture for years to come.