With La Blaugrana's transfer kitty of 30-35 million euros and sporting director Txiki Begiristain's assertion that he intends to buy three or four quality players, it seems it is going to be a summer of both entries and exits at the Camp Nou.
Last season, we had seen a strenghtening of the full-back and defensive midfield areas with the signings of Dani Alves and Seydou Keita respectively. Both these players went on to perform well and contributed in no small part to the treble success.
However, the other two signings of Aliaksandr Hleb and Martin Caceres can mildly be called "flops", with neither of the two players really able to contribute on the pitch.
As a treble winning team, it seems difficult to envisage that Barcelona have any weak links. But over the course of last season, careful observation reveals the following chinks in Barcelona's armor:
Defense: This season's major concern for Barcelona has been the lack of defensive cover, especially in the left back area, where Abidal and Sylvinho are the only players that Barcelona had.
With Milito injured and Caceres unpredictable, there were only three reliable candidates for the CB role, Pique, Puyol and Marquez. And with Marquez injured and Alves suspended for the Champions League final, it was left to Yaya Toure and Pique to fill in the CB slots while Puyol covered in for RB.
Luckily Alves never got injured last season, but Barcelona cannot rely on luck for another year. The defense has to be strengthened in this window, and it is the absolute priority.
Eto'o: Pichichi runner up and scorer in the Champions League final. With that on his CV, it seems hard on Eto'o to call him a weak link. But it is true, that for the last three months of the season, the only way Eto'o seemed to be able to score was if the goal was handed to him on a platter.
Sorry, that sort of finishing cannot be acceptable at this level. Particularly poor games of his include the 2-1 away defeat against Mallorca, during which his performance was atrocious. Barcelona need to get rid of him, and quickly.
The left flank: Henry has been really good this season, no doubt about it, none at all. But once again, what happened when he got injured? Barcelona shifted Iniesta to LW and had to shuffle around the strongest midfield in Europe. Not ideal.
Which brings us to whom Barcelona have to buy. With the first eleven looking pretty strong, it is my belief that Barcelona should focus mainly on buying a quality striker, a brilliant left back, and one player to cover in midfield. The ideal candidates for these roles are:
David Villa (striker): Villa is a consistent striker with lots of goals in him. Despite being in an average club like Valencia, he managed to get himself to third on the scoring charts. A top draw buy for a club that has two aging strikers in Eto'o and Henry. Price: 50 million euros plus Bojan, Caceres (loan).
Yuri Zhirkov (Left Back/Wing): "Russian Ronaldinho", enough said. Zhirkov is a brilliant player and would solve Barcelona's left wing woes. He can play at left wing or at left fullback.
Having him would have another advantage because then Alves on the right flank could be given a few games off while Zhirkov would create havoc, similar to what Alves creates, down the left wing, and also keep to Barca's style of having one wing back patrolling up and down and the other three defenders sitting back to cover him. A great purchase for 25 million euros.
Filipe Luis (Left Back, second option): In case CSKA Moscow are unwilling to let Zhirkov leave this summer, Filipe is a good replacement. He is a Deportivo La Coruna left back, Brazilian, 23 years of age.
The disadvantage of having Filipe is that Alves would have to work far harder throughout next season, because he is not a wing back, but a purely defensive player. Nevertheless, he would be a good purchase for less than half the price of Zhirkov. Price: 10-12 million euros.
Javier Mascherano (Midfielder): A brilliant signing in all respects. Masch can play as a DM or a CM. He would provide the perfect fall back plan during the month long African Cup of Nations which will see Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita away on national duty.
He also provides a lot of rotation options for midfield, without actually weakening it in any way. But a hurdle, and a major one at that, is his price. Rafael Benitez is refusing to let him go for less than 50 million.
Samuel Eto'o: Sorry, but with his inconsistent form, refusal to sign a new contract and ridiculous behaviour on and off the pitch, he has to leave. Txiki Begiristain has recently placed a tag of 60 million on his head, but I think a more realistic figure would be 25-30 million euros.
Aliaksandr Hleb: Done nothing of note at all. It would be a big risk to keep him. His role at the club is so insignificant now, that he was not included in the Champions League final lineup. Youth players Muniesa and Botia were selected ahead of him, so his time is definitely at an end. Price: 10-15 million euros
Eidur Gudjohnsen: His peak has been reached, and now he is no more than a squad player really. He has also made barely any contribution this season. There is no real chance of him having any future at the club.
Jorquera: No future at the club, with Valdes renewing his contract and Pinto doing very well in Copa games.
Bojan and Caceres (loan): Bojan on loan is reportedly the reason why Valencia are willing to accept the deal.
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