It’s the season of rumors, and by Barcelona standards, the grapevine is quiet.
Xavi and his team made significant progress, with player signings from a year ago making the difference.
Robert Lewandowski was the leading scorer in La Liga, and has become the de facto captain with his winning pedigree on the field, and a calming presence in the dressing room.
Defensively, where most of the improvement was made, Joules Kounde and Andreas Christensen were the difference makers.
Even Raphinha, who struggled to fit in during his first season at the Camp Nou, found ways to contribute with his industrious playing style.
The summer of 2022 was a success, but let’s not forget the risks that were taken in order to make the investments that made it possible to win trophies again. Without pulling the “financial levers,” it’s likely that none of it was possible.
At the moment, there isn’t talk of selling off any more of the club’s assets, and that’s a good thing. There is speculation that Joan Laporta could be striking a deal to bring in money from Qatar or Saudi Arabia, so watch that space, as it may be the best path to making a splash on the market as the summer goes along.
As things stand, however, a less is more, do no harm, approach may be the best direction to go in.
No doubt there are areas of need that must be addressed.
Xavi needs a right full-back he can trust, but if he finds one who is good enough to immediately insert himself into the starting eleven, it will come at a big price.
It would be unacceptable to go into the season and ask Kounde and Ronald Araujo to deputize, or to have to fall back on Sergi Roberto.
There is intrigue about how to improve the forward line, which arguably was the weakest point of the team in the last campaign.
Part of me wonders, however, if it’s so bad after all, or at least whether the guys who are currently there can’t run things back and make improvements this season.
Raphinha in particular, I wouldn’t write off too quickly. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, although I wouldn’t rely on either to be starters at this point, do provide the team with important depth. Making a sale at a good price for any of the three makes sense, but only if it helps the club make an investment to strengthen in critical areas. I for one will be rooting for the return of Ez Abde, who for my money is a natural fit on the left wing in Xavi’s system.
The biggest question that Barcelona faces this summer is how to replace Sergio Busquets.
The answer appears to be Frenkie de Jong, which I have a lot of confidence in.
But Xavi will want to have another option to experiment with given the uncertainty around replacing a club legend who gave Barcelona an identity for more than a decade.
Finding a new pivot on the market, along with a full-back, will be a challenge, and it will be expensive if Barca wants to bring in one of the known commodities.
Which is why maybe Barcelona will take a low-key approach to spending. Fill in some gaps, bring in some depth to provide competition at all positions, and let the players fight it out.
There are rumors that Newcastle is willing to swap Bruno Guimaraes, plus cash, for Raphinha. This would be a coup for a player in Bruno who was one of the most influential in the Premier League, with the versatility to play anywhere in the midifield. Yet you’d have to say that the chances of such a deal actually happening looks extremely unlikely.
Ultimately, Barcelona will be paying close attention to the moves being made by Real Madrid, who have much bigger questions to answer this offseason, none bigger than replacing Karim Bezema.
Seeing their rivals add the likes of Joselu won’t strike fear into Xavi’s heart, but a player like Jude Bellingham could be a wildcard as Los Blancos seek to bring their midfield into a new generation.
Will Eduardo Camavinga continue as a full-back, where he surprised many with his competency, or move back alongside Aurelien Tchouameni to build out the midfield of the future alongside Bellingham?
Compare that to Barcelona, who have the proven combination of Frenkie, Pedri, and Gavi, that makes the team go.
Like Real Madrid, the defensive line at Barcelona was the strength and the most likely to continue on in 2023/2024. It would be a bomb if Barca decided to sell Kounde or Christensen, but you can’t put it past them if a massive offer is made. For me, there is realistically no number big enough that will come in to justify such a move.
But in the big picture, Barcelona are the reigning champions, and they are on solid footing. The pressure is on Real Madrid to make the next move to put themselves in a position to dethrone the kings of Spain. That’s not to say, however, that Barca is out of the woods and can just sit idly by.
Right now, I’d rather be Barcelona than Real Madrid.
Barca needs depth, while Real Madrid needs to figure out what their plan A is going to be.
So maybe less is more. At least for now.
But behind the scenes, keep all your options open, and look for good deals wherever they can be found.
A Ilkay Gundogan or a Joshua Kimmich could be a difference maker, but Laporta and Alemany will need to be shrewd to pull it off.
When it comes to Barcelona, expect the unexpected, and expect them to make news.
Maybe this is just the quiet before the storm.
Who am I kidding, that’s probably all it is.