FC Barcelona: 6 Summer Transfer Targets for Pep Guardiola
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Over the past few years, Barcelona have made a number of marquee signings. Every summer, it seems, fans of the Blaugrana have been able to count on Pep Guardiola to secure a massive signing, and often more than one.
In 2008, it was Gerard Pique and Daniel Alves. In 2009, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 2010 saw the arrivals of David Villa and Javier Mascherano. Summer 2011 brought Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez to the Nou Camp.
Who will it (or they) be this year?
With the Catalans currently sitting a massive 10 points behind Real Madrid in the league table, count on Pep doing everything he can to right the ship. If he can't, some real changes may take place heading into next season.
As a fan, I see an aging core hurting Barcelona at the moment. With superstars constantly injured, Barça's depth is being tested each and every week. Now is the time to invest in that depth.
Hopefully, Guardiola is keeping tabs on these six players.
Bale is one of the hottest young stars in England.
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Left back has been a position of some uncertainty over the past couple of seasons for Barcelona. With longtime starter Eric Abidal going through serious medical issues last season, the bulk of the work was left to Adriano and Maxwell.
While they performed admirably under the circumstances, Barça can certainly afford an upgrade.
According to The National, Barcelona and Real Madrid may both be vying for Gareth Bale's services this summer.
Should they secure the rights to Bale, Barcelona will almost certainly look to utilize him at that left fullback position, opposite Dani Alves.
Bale started his Tottenham career at left back, but has made a name for himself primarily in attack down the left flank.
Barcelona's tactics of shooting their backs up the pitch will certainly appeal to Bale's sense of aggression, and his physical tools will allow him to get back in defense quickly when Barça suffers a counterattack.
Thiago Silva could replace longtime Barça defender Carles Puyol.
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This move actually began to circulate last summer, but it never materialized.
Over the past few seasons, Barça's lack of depth, especially in defense, has really been on display. With their core of talent quickly aging, they need to look to invest in young replacements for many key players.
Puyol is one of those players.
With Puyol suffering a rash of groin and leg injuries, the Catalans have often been forced to slide Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano back into central defense. Sometimes both.
They do a decent job, but a club of Barcelona's stature should not be forced to play defensive midfielders in central defense. Especially when one of them stands only 5'8" tall.
Thiago Silva would be a huge signing for Barcelona.
Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Junior
Oscar's young career is about to blossom. Photo courtesy of Footballzz.com
Xavi and Iniesta are two of the greatest footballers on the planet. Their skills are incomparable to other players around the world, and they have long been praised as the greatest midfielders of their generation.
However, their generation is getting old.
With both players missing extended stretches more and more frequently, Barcelona have already begun the process of replacing them.
With Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona have two quality young players who can help to fill the void. But having two players to replace two players is not enough.
Barça should look to add depth to a midfield that has aged rapidly. By signing the 19-year-old Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Junior, they would be securing one of the upcoming great midfielders the world has to offer.
In 2011, Oscar became the first player to ever score a hat trick in the U-20 World Cup final. He would be a fantastic addition to a squad that will look to continue its winning ways.
Gregory Van Der Wiel
Gregory van der Wiel has attracted the attention of many top clubs.
Last year, Barcelona were reaching a stage in contract negotiations with Dani Alves that led the team to begin looking outward for a replacement.
Eventually, the team and player reached an agreement, with Alves being secured by contract until 2015.
However, with his advancing age (Alves is 28) and the club's possible movement for more youth in the side, it makes sense for Pep Guardiola to look at Gregory Van der Wiel. According to Goal.com, he's doing just that.
The Dutch international plays a very aggressive, attacking style that mimics Dani Alves'.
Though they both surge forward from defense, the Dutch youth looks to score far more often than Alves, whose primary goal is to send in crosses for his teammates.
Van der Wiel's contract is up in 2013, so Ajax should look to move him if they can't get a long-term commitment from him soon.
Neymar may be entrenched in Brazil, but everybody has their price.
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Barcelona does not have a glaring need at forward. With Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez, David Villa and Pedro up front, they are quite set. Throw in recently productive Barça youth Isaac Cuenca, and there seems to be little urgency to sign a new forward.
However, Neymar is a rare talent.
With David Villa still recovering from a broken leg, and already 30 years old, the Catalans may be willing to part ways with the Spanish international soon.
And the possibility of Messi and Neymar up front is enough to raise the eyebrows of any team in the world.
Barcelona's reasoning behind acquiring Neymar should be two-fold, though. If the Catalans cannot persuade him to join them, he may instead be joining their bitter rivals in Madrid.
Barcelona looked to sign Jose Enrique last season, and should continue their bid.
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Obviously, this would not apply were Barcelona able to snatch Gareth Bale from England first.
If not, Jose Enrique isn't a bad second option.
While he's certainly no Bale, Enrique was a solid defender at Newcastle before joining Liverpool last summer. It was rumored that Barça had pursued Enrique last summer, but any truth to the rumor was unproven, as Barça likely backed out after their two major signings were completed.
If Tottenham cannot be persuaded to sell Bale, I still think Enrique would be an upgrade over Eric Abidal.
His recent transfer to Liverpool makes it a tad unlikely he would be for sale, but he's certainly not untouchable for the Catalans.
For the right price.