Transfer Talk: 5 Players That Would Improve Barca's Attack
FC Barcelona rarely delve into the January transfer market, but if there is one particular area the club's technical team will have an eye on improving, it is their attack.
Of course, in Lionel Messi, Barca have one of the most devastating and effective forwards of all time. Barca's problems, however, lie to the flanks of Messi, with his support team if you like.
Indeed, for a while now, critics have argued the Blaugrana have an overbearing dependence on the Argentine maestro, particularly in the final third.
One can hardly argue with the statistics. While La Pulga has already scored 35 goals this record-breaking season in all competitions, Barca's other four forwards (Pedro, Villa, Alexis and Tello) have only combined for 15 between them.
Returning from injury, David Villa has played in fits and starts and has cut a frustrated figure as he struggles for consistent time on the field. Cristian Tello remains a raw and unrefined product of La Masia, while Pedro and Alexis have looked toothless in front of goal.
Firstly, one must understand a slight change in the play of Tito Vilanova's wide forwards this term. Positionally, they have focused more than ever on stretching the opposition, laterally and in behind.
While there is certainly a reluctance to shoot from some players, they are also not regularly getting into the same scoring positions as in previous seasons. Pedro, for example, who has previously thrived on his finishing, is managing just 1.4 shots per game in La Liga.
However, the problem has not just been this season. There has been a steady decline in goals from sources other than Messi since the '08/09 season, which saw 51 league goals scored by Eto'o, Henry and Bojan.
Let us take a look at five players who have the potential to improve Barcelona's three-pronged attack.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Neymar is the name on the lips of all cules, and has been for a while.
Despite the Brazilian's immense potential, he has wisely waited patiently, plying his trade in Brazil before making the big move to Europe.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell's Brazilian connections have the Catalans down as favourites to snap up the 20-year-old Santos striker. In fact, there are rumours that Barca have already made a down payment to guarantee the star's future signature.
But why is Neymar Rosell's top priority?
A Unique Talent
Well other than the Blaugrana president's obsession with Brazilians, Neymar is simply one of those players that you do not miss when given the opportunity.
Technically, the youngster is absolutely superb. He caresses the ball with his delightful touch, he passes well, he possesses an excellent shot and of course, he dribbles quite unlike any other player in football right now.
However, the word flair perhaps best sums up why Barca fans are so interested in Neymar. He has the confidence, the ability and the imagination to do things other players would never dream of. Things the Camp Nou faithful have not seen since the mythical Ronaldinho wore the blue and claret.
His ability to back himself, beat a player and have a shot on goal is one thing that Barca's forwards sorely lacked in 2012.
Recently, Pedro Rodriguez wisely remarked that "you never know if he [Neymar] would fit with the team" [via Goal.com].
Nonetheless, that is a risk worth taking.
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Now for quite a different suggestion, the German sensation Marco Reus.
In 2012, the 23-year-old flourished and has only gone from strength to strength since his move to Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund.
The ex-Gladbach talisman has managed six goals and six assists to match in just 15 league starts while also catching the eye in the Champions League. His three goals against Real Madrid, City and Ajax helped Dortmund to the top of the Group of Death, in which he was arguably the star player.
Reus is an intelligent and flexible player, capable of playing as a winger, a striker and an attacking midfielder. His speed and excellent positional awareness perfectly compliments his technical abilities: close control, two-footedness, dribbling and excellent shooting.
Combination with Gotze
His intelligent movement off the ball and sharp interplay has particularly caught my eye, traits that would see him fair well at the Camp Nou.
In particular, he has formed a deadly combination with Mario Gotze. Their interchanges have even earned the praise of the legendary Franz Beckenbauer, who has said that "as a classic duo there is nobody better" [via Goal.com].
Which brings me to my next suggestion...
Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
As Neymar has been South America's most hyped prodigy, Gotze has been that of Europe for some time now.
Since bursting on to the scene as a 17-year-old under Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, the German prodigy has done nothing but impress.
Strictly, most would consider him an attacking midfielder in the mould of David Silva or Andres Iniesta, but Gotze improves as a goal threat every season and is very comfortable operating on the flanks.
This campaign, he has already equalised his tally of six league goals, which he managed in last season.
A comparison with Iniesta is hardly a bad thing as well and highlights the fact that Gotze could comfortably slot into midfield, or even into Messi's "false-nine" position if needed.
As a technician, Dortmund's No. 10 is the best youngster around. German football director Matthias Sammer even called him "one of the best talents Germany's ever had" [via Goal.com].
When on his game, his incisive creativity in the final third is something to behold, and something that Barcelona would surely welcome.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Back in 2009, Barcelona seriously considered the possibility of signing Luis Suarez from Ajax. In hindsight, it was a move that should have happened.
The Uruguayan found himself transferred to Liverpool, but would have thrived in Guardiola's three-man attack.
Three years on, and nothing has changed. In fact, Suarez is enjoying perhaps the best form of his career as he leads the renaissance at Anfield. In just 20 Premier League starts, he has managed an impressive 15 goals.
The Perfect Fit
Theoretically, Suarez would fit Barca like a glove. He is well-educated thanks to the Ajax football system, technically-gifted and works incredibly hard on and off the ball.
Most importantly, the former Ajax forward has been dribbling defenders for fun this season. He boasts an impressive 3.2 successful dribbles per league game, almost as good as Leo Messi's 3.6.
His willingness to take on defenders from wide positions would be particularly refreshing in Tito Vilanova's system in which Alexis Sanchez has underwhelmed.
Liverpool, however, would be incredibly reluctant to let Suarez go. Recently, Liverpool gaffer Brendan Rodgers likened his influence at Liverpool to Messi's at Barca.
Of course, then there is the diving, the alleged racial abuse and a number of infamous incidents involving biting and memorable handballs which make the Uruguayan one of the most hated players in football.
There is a flip side to everything...
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
If any doubts remained over whether Kun Aguero was a bona fide superstar, one of the best strikers on the planet, they were put to bed on May 13, 2012.
With the Premier League title at hand and mere seconds on the clock, the Argentine produced a moment of magic worthy of his talent.
Aguero has always produced in the big games and boasts a wonderful scoring record since moving to Europe from Independiente in 2006.
Built for Barca
Diminutive, yet quick, agile and determined, El Kun has a lot in common with the existing Barca strike force.
While he prefers to play centrally, like David Villa, he is very comfortable cutting in from wide positions. From the wing, he makes perfect use of his close control, dribbling and explosive acceleration with powerful driving runs.
The Messi-Aguero Connection
The hidden bonus in acquiring Aguero, however, would be his close relationship with Leo Messi, the godfather of his son Benjamin. Messi has always enjoyed having a compatriot among the ranks at the Camp Nou, and keeping Messi happy must be high up on Barca's list of priorities.
Further, at international level, the two have always linked together marvelously. While the combination of Neymar and Messi might be mouthwatering, an Argentine duo might be even better.
The main problem would be prying him from the rich hands of Manchester City. Some might say it would be easier to rob the White House.
What do you think? Who would you like to see at Barcelona alongside Messi and why?
Leave a comment below and also check me out on Twitter for more Barca updates at Follow @palabrasBarca
Also check out of my recent article on the Catalan National Team, who played a friendly midweek.