Welcome to the first in a new series here on Barca Blaugranes; it’s a concept you will have undoubtedly seen before – the whole power ranking idea is as old as sports reporting itself, but seldom has it been done like this: ranking the members of a single squad.
For those few unfamiliar with the whole principles of power rankings, let me quickly elaborate: essentially, this series will be dedicated to ranking each member of the Barcelona squad, typically based on their performances over the previous week. Of course, with no competitive fixtures played thus far this season, we’re in a bit of a difficult position. Doubly so if you consider that a group of Blaugrana players are yet to take to the field in pre-season.
So, this week’s edition will serve as the "delta" – the starting point for a glorious journey across the 2015-16 season. For now, we’ll include a few of the B team players as well – but remember, this is just my opinion, feel free to counter my rankings with an edition of your own in the comments.
We straight with the whole concept? Good, let’s get into it:
1) Lionel Messi
Expecting someone else? Of course you weren’t; Messi is the undisputed king of the hill, the leader of the squad and an all-round footballing deity. Just look at how terrible our pre-season results have been without him! Wait, maybe that’s not entirely related…
If Messi is Barcelona’s Batman, then without doubt, Neymar has to be our Robin – although to label Neymar as a sidekick would be to somewhat miss the point. In his own right, Neymar is one of the best in the business and is expected to be rewarded as such at this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony – and I think his performances in last season’s biggest matches prove, Neymar is our most important player not named Lionel Messi.
3) Ivan Rakitic
Now here’s where the controversy can begin – I’m putting Rakitic ahead of Iniesta and Suarez and I challenge anyone to argue with that decision. The Croatian midfielder has been our most consistent performer in pre-season, and generally revolutionised our midfield last season. Without Xavi on the bench to cover, Rakitic’s importance to this side just increased tenfold.
4) Luis Suarez
I guess Suarez could be higher or lower, depending on your view. On the one hand, he’s been critical in getting the very best out of Lionel Messi and Neymar, helping them reach the top two places. On the other hand, he still doesn’t quite feel as integral as Iniesta or Pique. I’ve left him here anyway, but expect this spot to be up for grabs as we start the season.
5) Andres Iniesta
5 was Carles Puyol’s number, and now it’s our current club captain’s number in this list; I could have easily put Iniesta in second spot, but appreciated the symbolic nature of placing him here. Subject to rise or fall with each passing week.
6) Gerard Pique
2011: Pique reaches his peak, Barça win the UCL. 2012-2014: Pique falters, Barça struggle in the race for honours. 2015: Pique returns with a vengeance, Barça win the UCL. That’s why he occupies the Xavi berth.
7) Sergio Busquets
Part of me wants to put Sergio at number one to recognise just how freaking awesome he is, then the more grounded part of me remembers that he still isn’t on Messi’s level. So, eventually I settled on 7th – because damn, our squad is stacked with superstar talent.
8) Javier Mascherano
You just know that we wouldn’t have conceded half of the goals we have in pre-season with Mascherano in the line-up. The slacking off stops this Wednesday against Roma, El Jefecito is back y’all.
9) Claudio Bravo
Mr Consistent is now Señor Copa America campeón; Claudio Bravo has had a standout year by all accounts and deserves his spot in the top ten. Sorry to the MAtS fanclub.
10) Dani Alves
A new contract means we get a few more years of Dani – bad crosses and dubious fashion sense included. At his best, Dani is a tour de force – but he could quite easily slide down this list if he gets complacent once again.
11) Jordi Alba
Sorry Jordi, I just don’t think you’re as important as Dani Alves.
12) Jeremy Mathieu
To be honest, Mathieu still gets to ride the wave of that Clasico winner – oh, and his very profile is going to be important this season – tall, pacy left-footed centre-backs don’t join this club all too often.
13) Marc-Andre ter Stegen
We’ve seen some good saves this pre-season and he started in the UEFA Champions League, but you just know his status will remain the same this season – a middle of the road ranking seems about right.
Rafinha is kind of here by default; he isn’t pushing on quite as much as some might have hoped, but he’s been relatively solid nonetheless. Look for the younger Alcantara to push on as the season draws on.
15) Sergi Roberto
Sergi is one of those terribly inoffensive players, happy to play his role, whatever that might be. His work ethic and versatility could be useful pre-Arda and Vidal.
You know what? Getting €30 million for Pedro might just qualify as good business, especially if it means fast-tracking the development of Munir and Sandro.
Sandro might just be the new Pedro; discuss.
18) Marc Bartra
A few disappointing pre-season displays has relegated Marc quite a long way down this list, but he’s got enough potential to rise as the season progresses.
19) Adriano Correia
Will he, won’t he? While rumours about his future continue to swirl, Adriano has reprised his least popular role as "glass man" only this time, I don’t think we’re missing out on a lot.
20) Munir el Haddadi
Technically, he’s better than Sandro, but is he as natural a fit to this system at this stage of his career?
21) Thomas Vermaelen
It could be worse; he could be Douglas.
22) Alen Halilovic
I get that the kid has talent, but he struggled to impress in the Segunda last season with the B team and hasn’t done much better with the big boys. Needs experience.
24) Gerard Gumbau
At least we didn’t buy Gerard Gumbau! Oh…this is awkward.
25) Jordi Masip
I considered promoting him for punching Gary Cahill in the face, then realised he cost us the win and generally looked out of depth as a third-string keeper.
(Unranked: Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Alex Song)