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Who was Barcelona’s most valuable player in 2021-22?

In spite of his limited appearances the impact of Pedri was huge

FC Barcelona v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s another anxious summer in Barcelona.

Rumors have been flying for months, but the cold reality is setting in that Barcelona will likely miss out on the biggest names, while potentially losing several of their most important players.

There are many areas of need for the president to address. But it may be a healthy exercise as we wait in limbo for the transfer action to begin, to appreciate the players who made the biggest impact last season, and will be here to lead the team over the long term.

Let’s start by asking the question, who was Barcelona’s most valuable player?

To answer that, you have to start by identifying the team’s biggest accomplishment, which was qualifying in the top four, and ensuring a place in the Champions League. Getting into second place was icing on the cake, and had some modest financial benefits associated with it.

It’s crazy to think back on how the season started, and how Barcelona tumbled so far down the table that Ronald Koeman had to be sacked with his side in seventh place, and on the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League.

If you ask Koeman about those struggles, he may say it came down to losing Messi. He would also remind you of the many injuries. Ousmane Dembele was out, who under Xavi was certainly a candidate for team MVP, but the Dutchman would likely cite the injury of Pedri as the main culprit for his early season failures.

Levante UD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Ironically, Koeman may be most responsible for Pedri’s injury record in 2021-2022 after playing him virtually every minute of every game the season prior, followed by Luis Enrique doing the same thing with the national team at the Euros.

Under Koeman, however, we did see the emergence of Gavi. The 17-year-old had his most impactful games with Pedri out, and is now doing the same thing this summer with Spain. Fans will be yelling at Luis Enrique and Xavi to give him a rest from time to time in order to not repeat the same mistakes in back-to-back seasons.

But with Xavi in, and Pedri ready to make his return as the calendars turned, Barcelona were preparing to go on a run that would rescue the season, and the club’s future.

No doubt Pedri had help. Dembele was locked in and ready to show the club what has been missing for years. The winter signings were like a shot of adrenaline.

But Pedri was the conductor. He is the man who gave the team an identity again. An ability to dominate opponents on the ball. In just 13 La Liga games, he was the leader by example who reminded the world that Barcelona, when playing to their potential, is the scariest team in Spain.

FC Barcelona v Sevilla FC - La Liga Santander Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

When Pedri went out injured again, the team lost its life. You could also argue that at that point it was already, for the most part, mission accomplished. Barcelona did enough to live another day. They would get their chance to compete with the best in Europe again.

Pedri will be the heart of this team heading into the uncertain future. But he needs help to make the most of his talents, and for the team to win trophies again.

It seems certain Dembele will leave, but Barca needs to find a replacement that can equal what they are losing. That person is not currently on the roster.

More important than that, Barcelona needs to start to build the best defense in Europe.

Liverpool and Manchester City are famous for their attacking prowess, but both of them were held back until they signed Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias, who are joined by four of the best full-backs in the world in Trent Alexander Arnold, Andy Robertson, Joao Cancelo, and Kyle Walker.

Barcelona have Ronald Araujo. That’s a very good starting point, but they have three more defenders to go, and no real solutions in sight. Araujo in my mind could become one of the best defenders in the world, but he can’t spend every game making up for the shortcomings of his teammates.

FC Barcelona v A-League All Stars Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images

But what Pedri provides up the field, the Uruguayan provides downstream. He is the defensive leader who will guide the team forward and back to the top.

There is so much work to be done in building out the team of the future. Xavi and Joan Laporta will need to be savvy, but it is encouraging to know that there are pieces in place to build around.

Job number one will be keeping these superstars healthy.

Then, give them some support so their talent can really shine.

We’ll be waiting to see who joins them on the journey ahead.