How do you improve the finest team in world football? How do you enhance a squad as decorated as Barcelona’s?
You target a specific need and address it.
Last summer Barcelona signed just two players. Versatile Cameroon international Alex Song was acquired from Arsenal to boost depth in both midfield and defense; Spain’s Jordi Alba was purchased from Valencia to fill a very obvious hole at left-back.
Song has been used exactly as intended—sparingly, when a spot opens up in the starting 11—while Jordi Alba has entrenched his reputation as one of the best full-backs in the world.
Barcelona rarely spend foolishly in the transfer market, and they’ll likely use whatever funds are made available on just a few players again this July and August.
But which players will they be? Which players could actually be meaningful additions to a team that will win La Liga in two months’ time and may also lift another European Cup as well?
The following slides reveal five players who could make a difference for Barcelona, whether coming right into the lineup or serving some time in the rotation before replacing an aging defender, midfielder or forward.
Let’s get to it.
With Victor Valdes heading for the exit, Barcelona require a goalkeeper who can come and backstop the team on a game-in, game-out basis immediately. And they’ prefer to buy Spanish.
Real Betis, presently seventh in La Liga, have been one of Spanish football’s pleasant surprises this season, and one of the major reasons for their success has been the play of 26-year-old goalkeeper Adrian.
No doubt Barcelona will be having a look at him this summer.
Another option is Villarreal and Spain Under-21 ‘keeper Diego Marino, although at 22 years of age he would likely require some seasoning before being ready for the first team.
There could well be a fire sale at Athletic Bilbao this July.
And while Fernando Amorebieta just recently signed a contract extension with the Basque club, he is certainly one of their most valuable assets and has long been coveted by some of the biggest teams in Europe.
At 6'4", Amorebieta is a powerful central defender with good instincts as to when and when not to come off his line. And although his disciplinary record is somewhat checkered, Barcelona could use a bit of an edge in defense.
Carlos Puyol won’t be around forever and has already missed extended spells both this season and last due to injury. The Catalans don’t have much in the cupboard as far as defensive prospects are concerned, so they may snatch a few this summer.
But they could surely use the experience of the 27-year-old Amorebieta.
Barcelona have been keeping tabs on Inigo Martinez since last spring, when he was just 20 years old.
Considered one of Spanish football’s top young centre-backs, he has been integral in Real Sociedad’s stunning campaign, which currently has the Basque side fourth in La Liga and two points up on Valencia in the race for the final Champions League spot.
Martinez could likely come in and play for Barcelona immediately, and if the Catalan brain trust is of similar thinking, he would make an even better purchase than Amorebieta.
Then again, Barcelona could certainly use both defenders.
Malaga midfielder Jeremy Toulalan recently said that Barcelona could have their Messi, as Malaga has Isco.
Well, the Blaugrana may have both Messi and Isco before long.
Xavi and Andres Iniesta won’t be around forever, and as Isco is still only 20, it would make sense for Barcelona to pick him up this summer or next—either before one of their premiere playmakers succumbs to injury or a rival snatches Isco up.
Isco can play a variety of attacking positions, which makes him a perfect fit for Barcelona.
He would never operate as deep as Xavi, but in Iniesta’s more advanced role or to Messi’s left, he would likely fit right in.
More than half of the Neymar transfer rumours involve Barcelona, and while none of them have proven true, there’s still a reason for it: The Catalans are the Brazilian prodigy’s most amorous suitor.
Neymar has often said he intends to remain at Santos until after the 2014 World Cup, but he has hinted that he could be persuaded to uproot a year earlier in recent weeks. If Santos decide they can get top dollar for him this summer, he’ll be even more likely to make a move.
A left-sided forward, Neymar would work alongside Messi in an attack that, on paper, boggles the mind.
David Villa has never been the same after suffering a serious leg injury early last season, so whether it’s Neymar or Isco or Iker Muniain, someone will likely be brought in to do the replacement job Alexis Sanchez was never up to.