Looking at Barcelona’s current squad, it’s a far cry from last season. The additions of Clement Lenglet, Arthur, Arturo Vidal, Malcom and having Philippe Coutinho available for the Champions League have strengthened the squad greatly in terms of depth and variety. However, injuries to Samuel Umtiti, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets this season and great drop-offs in the consistency and quality of important first-team players such as Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, along with daddy-time knocking on the door, is a reminder that Eric Abidal has his work cut out next summer.
Starting with the goalkeepers, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will undoubtedly remain the first choice and is happy. His future is already locked with Barcelona, and there is no speculation he will leave. There is however doubt in the backup spot. Jasper Cillessen is a great deputy, perhaps even the best back-up in the world, but has voiced displeasure at his lack of game time and there is a chance Barcelona may let him go. In such a situation, we should look into a few good options. The most likely might be André Onana from Ajax considering he is a La Masia product and still only 22. However, Cillessen has a contract till 2021 and the Barcelona directors will not let him go if they absolutely don’t have to.
In defense, the core will remain the same. Umtiti, Lenglet, Pique, Sergi Roberto and Semedo have long contracts extending to 2022 and they remain indispensable. Jordi Alba’s contract runs to 2020 and, having expressed confusion at the lack of a new contract, the front office need to take this into serious consideration. However, knowing Alba’s form, age and wish to finish his career at Barcelona, his contract will inevitably be extended. In terms of a backup to Alba, with Ernesto Valverde not showing much faith in young Juan Miranda yet, Barcelona will look to sign a more experienced option, possibly Felipe Luis, Alberto Moreno, call back Marc Cucurella from Eibar or maybe even sign Alex Grimaldo back from Benfica, but all these options seem highly unlikely. It could just be that Barcelona let this position remain without a designated deputy next season. Now coming to the exciting news, Matthijs de Ligt may sign for Barcelona. He has spoken recently about how he has a similar style of play to Gerard Pique. His price tag is a problem but it’s a position that Barcelona need to strengthen considering Pique is losing his touch fast, as indicated at the start of the season, and the team’s consistently shaky defense. Thomas Vermaelen’s ever-lasting injury woes have greatly diminished his reliability, and he has an expiring summer contract. Barcelona most probably will not be able to get any money back for him and will be out of a fourth centre back this summer. De Ligt is wise beyond his years, expressive and can command the next generation of the team for more than a decade. More likely than not, Barcelona will splash the cash and pay any fee that Ajax asks.
Again the major objective of the upcoming summer transfer window will be to sign younger players to boost the squad while letting the veterans rest and retire gracefully over the long term. The midfield core will again remain the same. Busquets, Rakitic and Arthur will still remain members of the squad this summer. In the case of Vidal, his earlier dissatisfaction at mostly coming off the bench and his age cast doubt over his future. His future also largely depends on how Barcelona do in the Champions League this season: his only elusive club honor. However I do predict that he will most probably remain a Barcelona player this summer. With rumored interest from Arsenal, Denis Suarez could leave this summer becoming another what-if in Barcelona’s list of highly-touted La Masia prospects that didn’t make it. Rafinha on the other hand is so injury-prone that Barcelona will have no choice but to let him go most probably on a loan, but there is doubt over whether teams will want to gamble on the Brazilian after another serious injury. In the case of possible incoming players, Adrien Rabiot and Frenkie de Jong seem the most likely. Rabiot’s contract expires this summer at PSG and he will be available for free. Depending on whether PSG offer him an appetizing salary, I predict that we will sign him this summer and hopefully give him another chance at making the France squad again. In terms of signing De Jong from Ajax, it largely depends on how a deal for De Ligt, the priority, goes through. Considering Ajax will demand a large fee for both their young prospects, this may be an obstacle. Barcelona seem to have already pegged De Jong as the next Busquets, I predict they will opt for both players which creates a problem, blocking the route into the first team for Carles Alena and Riqui Puig. Sergi Samper’s contract expires this summer and Barcelona will certainly not re-sign him.
Now concluding with the forwards, this may see the least changes in the transfer market. The Barcelona faithful will not let Ousmane Dembélé leave despite all the media speculation surrounding his future. Malcom is a doubt considering his play time but he has a contract and is adapting humbly every game. He will not leave either. Now with Messi, Suarez and Coutinho, there is no need to even talk about them leaving but there is a problem. Suarez is getting older and a large drop-off in quality will inevitably come. Munir’s contract expires this summer and it’s highly likely Barcelona will not renew his deal. In that case they will look to the young Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek or Nicolas Pepe from Lille. I predict that Barcelona will sign one of them next season, most probably the Poland international.
This isn’t to say that there are a lot of things that could go differently. Maybe Barcelona finds a cheaper alternative to De Ligt, and he turns out to be the next Carles Puyol but as of now, this is what the squad may look like next summer:
Probable 2019-2020 Squad
Goalkeepers: Ter Stegen, Cillessen
Defenders: Umtiti, Lenglet, De Ligt*, Pique, Sergi Roberto, Semedo, Jordi Alba
Midfielders: Busquets, Rakitic, Vidal, Arthur, Rabiot*, De Jong*, Aleñá
Forwards: Suarez, Messi, Dembélé, Coutinho, Malcom, Piatek*
*indicates expected new arrivals