Javier Mascherano’s words in the immediacy of Barcelona’s draw with Elche on Sunday night paved way for the emotive feelings which many involved with the club have been trying to avoid for too long now.
“For some of us, it may be our last game at the club,” the Argentine, who has never been one to shun the media during his time in Catalunya, revealed to reporters (per Football Espana).
“So [winning the title] will be a very nice way to say goodbye.”
Xavi had given a similar hint the week before when, with La Liga seemingly lost after a draw with Getafe, he told the press (per Football Espana) that Barca have to be “self-critical and start over again next season.”
If reports are to be believed, Luis Enrique, per Ben Hayward of Goal.com, will be the man in charge of the revolution.
Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol, two of the rocks in Barcelona’s recent domination of European football, have already confirmed that they’ll be leaving the club at the end of the current season, but who else could Mascherano have in mind?
Presumably himself, for one.
Spanish language publication Sport report that both Juventus and Napoli will move for the 29-year-old upon the season’s climax, while they also refuse to rule out a return to his former club Liverpool, who will be back in the Champions League next season.
Staying with the back four, Dani Alves has, according to Pete Jenson of the Mail Online, already told his Brazilian colleagues at Paris Saint-Germain he will join them this summer; you wouldn’t be surprised to see Adriano seek a new challenge somewhere else either.
It also seems certain that Alex Song will leave. The Mirror's Darren Lewis and Alan Nixon reported that both Manchester United and Liverpool are keen to pay £8 million to bring the midfielder back to the Premier League.
Even Cesc Fabregas and Xavi could, in theory, be part of a summer cleanse.
Paul Hetherington of The Daily Star has sensationally implied that Xavi could move to either of the Manchester clubs or Arsenal this summer, which seems implausible, while a day rarely passes without talk of Fabregas heading back to England.
Throw in Isaac Cuenca, Ibrahim Afellay and Jonathan dos Santos as well, and Barcelona could be looking at up to 11 players leaving Camp Nou this summer.
Rumours even stretch to one of Pedro or Alexis Sanchez being sold, too, with John Drayton of the Mail Online reporting that Arsenal would be keen to take one of them should they become available:
Sanchez, 25, is aware his days at Barcelona are limited and would consider swapping La Liga for the Premier League in a deal likely to be worth £20million.
The Chilean, who has scored 20 goals and contributed 15 assists for Barcelona this season, would suit Arsenal's style, but they would face competition from Juventus for his signature.
Pedro, 26, has scored 16 goals so far this season and would be another option as Wenger tries to bolster a strikeforce that has misfiring at times this season.
If one of those two were to leave, that would take the tally of departures up to as many as 12—and what about Jose Pinto?
It’s hard to criticise this crop of Barca players: They stand on the cusp, despite being widely regarded as in decline, of securing back-to-back titles, which would elevate them to five league successes in the past six seasons.
That demonstrates just how good this crop has been and still is.
However, the wider stream of thought is that they are no longer as good as they were, and that a shuffling of the pack needs to take place; it probably should have taken place over the past two summers.
Instead, it looks likely to come down to one summer of extreme wheeling and dealing.
Of course, not all of those listed will definitely leave, but that all the stories carry a degree of believability says a lot about the club’s future.
For too long, the club have been stubborn, too set in their ways, but it at last seems like they are set to admit now is the season for change.
With Mascherano’s words came a great deal of emotion, the thought of a squad overhaul isn’t necessarily a nice one, but they also came with plenty of realism.
Definitely leaving: Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol
Likely to leave: Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Alex Song, Isaac Cuenca, Ibrahim Afellay, Jonathan dos Santos
Undecided futures: Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Adriano, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Jose Pinto
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