Despite the infinite rumors, this has actually been a quiet summer transfer window by Barcelona standards. Almost too quiet.
Where’s all the hustle and bustle? All the exciting new signings that give hope to the fans that the club is moving onward and upward?
Perhaps it’s a sign of prudent leadership. You can’t just spend your way to success.
The club is still feeling the aftershocks of learning that lesson the hard way.
But in this new era of Joan Laporta as president, and Xavi Hernández his chosen manager, investments have been made.
With the departure of Ousmane Dembélé, Raphinha and Ferran Torres will have to step up and repay the confidence of a coach who hand picked them. Robert Lewandowksi, in Year 2 of his tenure in the capital of Catalonia, will be called upon to score goals and provide leadership to a young group who has yet to have success on Europe’s biggest stage.
Xavi will surely be feeling the pressure after losing his favorite forward suddenly, and then getting bullied on opening day against Getafe.
This campaign will be a grind, and it will require mental and physical fortitude in order to persist and obtain trophies.
With only two weeks to go in the transfer window, and the season picking up, what does Barcelona need to do in order to strengthen the squad to the fullest extent?
The biggest obstacle to bringing new players in has been the struggle to get unwanted players out.
Xavi is very clear about who he rates and who he doesn’t; the problem is that many of the players he doesn’t count on are still around and holding back the club from doing the critical business of strengthening in critical areas.
Barça’s defense is quite strong, but only if the starting back four can stay healthy. That’s a big if.
Ronald Araujo has had several injuries that have cost the team in recent years (including a new hamstring issue), and Alejandro Balde is coming off a significant ankle injury. Iñigo Martínez has yet to make his debut, and likely still won’t be able to for a few weeks at best.
Like it or not, that means we’ll be once again counting on Sergi Roberto, Marcos Alonso, and Eric García much more than we should feel comfortable doing so.
But the thing is, Roberto and Alonso are Xavi’s men. Alonso is another one he was adamant about bringing in, and Roberto was given a new contract and finds himself as the captain.
Sergiño Dest and Clément Lenglet are the outcasts Xavi is desperate to rid himself of, but there are few takers with their careers and reputations in freefall. That’s what happens when you sign players, give them really nice contracts, and then decide after the fact that they are so bad they can’t be anywhere near the pitch.
At least Franck Kessie was a free transfer with reasonable wages. His treatment was morally questionable, but good business was done nonetheless. But how many more of these low-cost free signings will the club be able to pull off?
On the other end of the pitch, the biggest question of all is whether Ansu Fati stays or goes. No matter what Xavi says to the press, it’s clear that he doesn’t rate the young Spaniard, and that it would be an uphill climb for Fati to earn regular minutes.
The club, however, won’t let him go without receiving a big offer, or at least the opportunity to buy him back at a reasonable cost if his career takes off.
Ez Abde may be the other player at a crossroads, but for now his services appear to be needed with few natural wing options for Xavi to turn to.
What does all that add up to? Not a whole lot of opportunity for outgoing sales, which means not a whole lot of opportunity for bringing new players in. Barça will need to be surgical with the few moves they can make.
Say it with me now. Three times to make it come true.
João Cancelo. João Cancelo. João Cancelo.
Two years ago he was in my opinion the most exciting full-back in the world, had Pep Guardiola’s confidence and was showing off his versatility on both sides of the pitch and even as a midfielder at times.
He would no doubt be a great addition to the Barcelona lineup but the cost may be prohibitive, especially with Manchester City going through an injury crisis and looking to replace many outgoing players. Guardiola may be forced to have plans for Cancelo after all.
Staying on the topic of full-backs — which is clearly the greatest area of need for Barcelona, especially considering it was the defense that delivered the La Liga title last season — we turn to less expensive options. But that’s not to say that they are cheap.
Iván Fresneda is an intriguing young prospect after a breakout season at the young age of 18 at Real Valladolid.
Once again, however, it’s about how much Barça will need to pay in order to take a risk — which is exactly what this is — on an unproven young player. Sergiño Dest cost 20 million, and it didn’t turn out well. Fresneda will cost the same. Will history repeat itself?
The truth is any full-back will be expensive, and there’s no guarantee once they will prove to be a better option than Ronald Araujo or Jules Kounde. Juan Foyth is a more proven player, but Villareal won’t budge on his €50 million release clause.
Where that leaves Barcelona, I really don’t know.
The biggest hole to fill, however, is the one Ousmane Dembélé left.
Like him or not Xavi counted on the Frenchman and was relying on him to make the attack go this season. With him gone, it will be a rotating cast of characters and the hope that someone emerges with enough talent and determination to be a success in Blaugrana colors.
Could João Félix be useful? He certainly doesn’t lack confidence and creative ability. He’s no longer wanted by Diego Simeone, so maybe a reasonable deal could be reached.
I for one am skeptical that this Barcelona team, as it currently stands, is built to win trophies.
Jude Bellingham has already announced himself with Real Madrid, and Barcelona will need more leadership, talent, and depth, in order to be competitive with their rivals across all competitions.
It’s a precarious time for Mateu Alemany to be making his exit as well. Is he going out on top before things start going downhill again, or has he laid the foundation for Barça to succeed for years to come?
Time will tell, and time is ticking in this transfer window. Let’s see if Alemany has one more trick up his sleeve before he leaves.