Breaking Down Barcelona's Biggest Transfer Needs and Potential Targets
What do you get the team that already has it all?
That's the question we ask ourselves when analyzing Barcelona during the January transfer window. The Catalan side currently sits atop the La Liga table, eight points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, and 15 points ahead of hated rivals Real Madrid.
They will be favored to win the Copa del Ray. They will certainly be expected to dispatch of AC Milan in the Champions League quarterfinals. The roster is arguably already the most talented in the world.
But you don't stay the best by staying stagnant. And while Barcelona probably doesn't have any needs, there are areas it could certainly reinforce and players it should target to do so.
Let's break down Barca.
There has been plenty of buzz surrounding Victor Valdes' decision to leave the team after the 2013-14 season, and the manner in which he chose to do so. Francesc Tomas of ESPN shed more light on the situation:
The way in which his agents approached the first contract renewal meeting with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was shocking. Reportedly, they simply came in, informed him of Valdes' irrevocable decision to leave, refused to hear any potential offers from the club and walked out.
Sure, everyone has the right to choose their own future and the company they want to work for but, ultimately, my feeling is the club that has given him everything in his professional life deserved the chance to at least share the contract offer which could have seen his career out as a Camp Nou legend.
As Tomas notes, Valdes' decision to then go public with his desire to leave the club put Barca in somewhat of a pickle. Now, every club in the world knows the Catalans are looking for an eventual replacement, seriously damaging the team's negotiating leverage.
But you could argue that even before Valdes chose against signing a contract extension, the club needed to consider upgrading the position. Now, there is no question a long-term solution must be found. Thankfully, Barcelona has 18 months to address this issue, so it's possible the team won't be too focused on doing so this month.
Barcelona is stacked in the midfield, with Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Alex Song all available. The team is also fine out wide defensively, with Jordi Alba, Dani Alves and Adriano.
But the team might look to bolster at centre-back. Carles Puyol is still the captain, but he has become injury-prone and isn't the player he once was, while an upgrade over Javier Mascherano wouldn't hurt. Obviously, Gerard Piqué is holding down the other centre-back spot quite well.
If David Villa in fact stays put, the team is probably good at forward as well. Fabregas, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez are dangerous playmakers out wide that set up Messi's magic, while Villa can either play centrally or out wide himself.
The two names most associated with a move to Barca have been goalkeepers. Liverpool's Pepe Reina is rumored to desire a return to Barcelona, while Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois—currently on loan at Atletico Madrid—is thought to be a long-term replacement for Valdes that the Catalans would love to have.
Neymar is always going to be linked to a Barcelona move, but that won't be happening this January. And even if Neymar were to join Barca, I think he would need to tweak his game to fit the Catalans' tiki-taka style.
Right now, Neymar is a bit too selfish and focused on beating players one-on-one to be the ideal fit.
Then again, if he bought into the style of play he could become a legend in Barca's flowing attack. Imagine him starting out wide, cutting in and overlapping with Messi. Frightening stuff.
Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels is desired by most clubs in Europe, and he would certainly solidify Barca's defense. Dortmund probably doesn't have a realistic shot to repeat as Bundesliga champions this year, currently trailing Bayern Munich by 12 points, but the team could win a Champions League title this year.
Thus, I can't imagine Hummels being moved in January. Frankly, I can't imagine the Catalans prying away any top defenders at this point in the season.
That seems to be the theme for Barca here. The team might make a small tweak here, a little sale there, but it's hard to imagine it doing anything big in the window. Remember, this is a team that has lost just three games in all competitions this season, and just lost its first La Liga match on Saturday.
This team is fine. You could argue they're the best club in the world right now. Don't expect any major moves in January.
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