Welcome to the first part of our series ‘keep, sell, buy’ where I will give my take on who deserves to stay at Barcelona, and more importantly, who needs to leave, as well as a few realistic signings. We start with the goalkeepers and defenders (excluding new returning loanees (Todibo, Miranda etc) which will be covered later).
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
While he had his worst performance in a Barca shirt in the humiliation against Bayern, Ter Stegen is undoubtedly one of the most important players for the club and has saved his side on so many occasions. He will be a key figure in the rebuild, so expect him to bounce back from this performance the only way he knows how: on the pitch.
The Brazilian shot-stopper is an adequate backup, but that’s all he’ll ever be. If he stays, he will continue to play in unimportant matches and sit on the bench the rest of the season. For his sake, he should leave, as he will waste his career here. The other reason, though, is that we already have a ready-made replacement.
That ready-made replacement is, of course, our very own Peña. Having been the third-choice keeper for a few years already, but primarily staying with Barca B, he showed his immense class in the youth team’s run to the promotion playoff final, where they unfortunately lost by the narrowest of margins. He is ready to make that next step, and what better way of getting back to the La Masia way than by promoting him into the first team?
Decision: KEEP and promote
His situation is very tricky. Out of the Barcelona “old guard”, he is the youngest at 31, but he has never been the same since that night in Anfield, and he was even more atrocious against Bayern. However, if he can recapture his form, his pace and crossing accuracy is still a powerful weapon. Keep him, and start him at the beginning of the season, but he must be on very thin ice. If he hasn’t improved on this nightmare season, he’s done, simple as that.
Decision: KEEP and give him one last chance
With all the hype surrounding his signing, it’s safe to say that Firpo has not impressed us this season. However, he is 23, and the youth need to be given more of a chance in order to get back to an era of success, so he could be important at left-back. He has taken the one year to acclimatize himself with the Barcelona culture, now he must build on his Real Betis form. He can do it, but just like with Alba, he’s on thin ice (albeit not as much given his lack of development).
A very sad case of injuries ruining a player’s career, although this one may have been partially his fault. Knowing his knee was in bad shape, Umtiti decided to play the World Cup with France in 2018, and although he won, he has never been the same again. Knee injury after knee injury, with doctors fearing it may be chronic, which would spell an end to his football career. At the end of the day, despite his terrific early form he is not the same and never will be. Sell if there are any takers but a loan might be more realistic in the first instance.
Our best defender this season, without a doubt. The 25-year-old combines immaculate passing with an excellent vision of the game, always in the right place to make the right play. He is one of the few players who started last season that we can get excited about, as he will only get better and better as he reaches his prime. One of the key pieces of this team.
Pique graciously offering to leave Barcelona showed he truly cares about his club, something that cannot be said about the people running it. But while he is heading towards the end of his career he offers experience that is invaluable. It’s clear he has lost his pace, and he may not be able to compete at the top level anymore.
However, he could be the one to mentor the next generation of defenders, and help make them as good as he once was. Similar to the role John Terry played in his last season at Chelsea, Ronald Araujo, Jean-Clair Todibo and Eric Garcia have a lot to learn from one of the greatest defenders of our generation.
One of the most promising youngsters at the club, Araujo combines his massive stature and incredible pace with silky-smooth play, and he will surely be promoted to the first team this year. He showed his class in the promotion playoff semi-finals for Barca B, putting in a dominant display worthy of Carles Puyol himself to will his team through. My candidate to start next season alongside Lenglet, provided he shows he deserves it, which I’m sure he will.
The hero of La Remontada. I will always remember and will always be grateful for that goal. He has the tactical intelligence that many times puts him in the right place at the right time to stop attacks, but his lack of pace/strength means he’s always up against it against quick, skilful wingers. He says he’s a midfielder, but his performances disagree, and he’s not good enough to start at right-back either. However, he is a good backup player to have, exclusively at right-back, NOT in midfield.
Decision: KEEP (but not as a starter)
Semedo is a signing emblematic of Barcelona’s downfall in recent years. He is a symbol of accepting mediocrity, which is part of the culture that has changed at this club. Ten years ago, he never would’ve even been considered as a signing.
Now it’s true, he’s been our best fullback this season. However, that is as much down to his performances as it is Alba and Roberto’s woeful ones. He is usually solid, but he can switch off at any given moment, much like he did when Alphonso Davies absolutely bamboozled him against Bayern.
He was named on Josep Maria Bartomeu’s list of “untouchables” so it seems as though he will certainly be staying but I’d sell if a good offer arrived.
Ever since Pep Guardiola confirmed that Garcia wasn’t extending his Manchester City contract and that he “assumes he wants to play somewhere else”, it seem his future is back at Barca. The question is not if he will sign, barring extenuating circumstances, but when. For some of the chiefs, the club should wait until next season in order to save money and get him on a free, but I think it’s worth it to sign him this summer.
Another player currently at City, Cancelo has not adjusted to life in the Premier League very well. He has failed to provide adequate competition for Kyle Walker and the €60m spent on him has not paid off, at least not yet. While City could look to cash in, it’s unlikely they would accept a straight swap with Semedo, but maybe an extra €10m or so could tilt their heads.
It is not guaranteed that Cancelo would fit in excellently, but he has the potential to be better than Semedo, and a better fit for the Blaugranas. Joshua Kimmich would be the dream but is unrealistic, however Cancelo could be an improvement at right-back.