Champions League failure and defeat in the Copa del Rey cast a shadow over the season for the Catalans, who are already thinking ahead to 2019-20
Runaway La Liga champions, Copa del Rey finalists, Champions League semi-finalists. And yet, all is not well around the Barcelona camp.
Ernesto Valverde’s men still carry the scars of failure to see out a seemingly unassailable advantage over Liverpool, with the coach still liable to pay the price for that 4-0 drubbing at Anfield.
But whether or not Valverde stays, there is bound to be plenty of movement around the Catalan giants as they begin to look ahead to 2019-20.
Barca, however, will not have a blank cheque to strengthen their ranks. Any new signings will have to be paid for by similarly lucrative sales, a fact that means more than one established star could be lining up away from Camp Nou come the end of the summer.
Will Philippe Coutinho pay the price for humiliation against his old club? Will Frenkie de Jong be joined by more of his former Ajax colleagues in Catalunya? Goal takes an in-depth look at Barcelona’s transfer plans for what is sure to be an extremely busy window.
Alongside Lionel Messi, Marc Andre ter Stegen is perhaps the Barcelona player with least cause for concern over his place in the team. The Germany goalkeeper continued his steady progress over yet another excellent season and is considered untouchable in the Barca’s starting line-up.
It is behind Ter Stegen that some doubts have begun to creep in. Jasper Cillessen is almost certain to leave after two years deputising, leaving the No. 2 keeper position vacant.
If the Dutchman ends his links with Barcelona, the Liga champions are ready to turn to an ex-Espanyol player. Pau Lopez played the entire season as Betis’ first choice and the fluid dialogue between the two clubs should make negotiations for the 24-year-old’s signature pleasingly straightforward.
IN: Pau Lopez.
OUT: Jasper Cillessen.
When it comes to the middle of defence, there is only one name under consideration. Either Matthijs de Ligt arrives from Ajax or Barca will stay out of the market for new centre-backs.
The young Netherlands international is a unanimous target for the club’s authorities, but the intense competition for places at Camp Nou means he remains uncertain, with Juventus looking to take advantage with their own approach.
Thomas Vermaelen, meanwhile, is out of contract and will be leaving the club, as is Jeison Murillo, who returns to Valencia; while doubts over Samuel Umtiti’s suspect knee could lead Barca to consider offers for the Frenchman.
IN: De Ligt.
OUT: Vermaelen, Murillo, Umtiti.
Having strengthened heavily in the middle with the likes of Arthur and Arturo Vidal last season, Barcelona will be looking primarily to trim their numbers rather than reinforce this summer.
Frenkie de Jong is already on his way to Camp Nou and is likely to be the only high-profile midfield arrival, unless the exit of one of the club’s stars funds further activity. Going the other way could be Denis Suarez and Rafinha, although Barca will have to find suitors willing to meet the pair’s asking price of €10-15 million.
Barcelona are also prepared to listen to offers for Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic. The Brazilian has struggled to impress since his blockbuster transfer from Liverpool, while Rakitic is now on the wrong side of 30.
Both could leave, though much depends on what interest emerges from the market over the next few months.
IN: De Jong (confirmed).
OUT: Rakitic, Coutinho, D. Suarez, Rafinha.
A quality centre-forward who is ready to challenge Luis Suarez for a starting spot and also grow in the future is Barca’s sole priority in their offensive line. Their options, however, are thin on the ground.
President Jose Bartomeu is the only man pushing for Antoine Griezmann’s arrival from Atletico Madrid, the rest of the Barca board wary after last summer’s soap opera. No move will be made for the Frenchman until July 1 in any case, when his release clause from Atletico decreases to €120 million (£110m/$140m).
Elsewhere, Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic has been ruled out as too expensive, leading to a €25m offer for Celta’s Uruguayan forward Maxi Gomez.
The possibility of bringing in a more experienced face – a gamble that paid off handsomely with Henrik Larsson back in 2004, and rather less so with Kevin-Prince Boateng this season – is also being considered.
Another Uruguayan, Girona veteran Cristhian Stuani, Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder and Fernando Llorente of Tottenham are all potential fits for that role, with each of the trio a proven Liga goalscorer.
So far there is just one forward who is almost certain not to line up at Camp Nou next season: Boateng, who did little to convince Barca of his talents during his brief stay.
IN: Griezmann, Gomez, Stuani, Ben Yedder, Llorente.
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