Ashley Cole and Marcos Rojo could provide Barcelona with much-needed defensive reinforcement next season, according to reports.
Both are said to have caught the eye of newly installed Blaugrana boss Luis Enrique, who is looking to rebuild a Barca squad that failed to win any major silverware last term. Cole, who was released from Chelsea at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign, may be the subject of a contract offer from the Camp Nou, reported by Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail:
Barcelona are struggling to fill the left-back position and relied on Brazilian Adriano towards the end of last season.
But it remains a problem position following the sale of Eric Abidal to Monaco last summer and Cole has been targeted by new manager Luis Enrique.
Which defender should Barcelona pursue?
AC Milan are also said to be interested in landing the English left-back, whose quality remains intact. He performed admirably during the recent Champions League semi-final first-leg against Atletico Madrid and remained sharp throughout other fleeting performances, but his future remains a mystery.
Enrique could opt for Cole, a cheap option, or he may tempted into trying to land Sporting Lisbon's Marcos Rojo, who is "interested" in the prospect of linking up with Argentinian team-mate Lionel Messi at club level.
Spanish newspaper Sport (via Marca) provides quotes from the defender whose ambitious play is sure to have won plenty of fans during Argentina's opening World Cup match:
I don't know anything, I'm relaxed about it, I'm focused on the World Cup.
Of course I'd like to play [with Messi], but to tell the truth, I haven't spoken to Leo about it. I just know that I've performed well in the last year. We will see what happens after the World Cup.
Rojo is a more versatile defender than Cole. He can play left-back or in central defence, but if his impressive performances continue at the World Cup, Barcelona may be forced to spend lavishly on the 24-year-old, who is strong, quick and aggressive in all phases of play.
Enrique has already strengthened the battling spirit of Barcelona's midfield by capturing Ivan Rakitic's signature, per BBC Sport, but it seems the ambitious coach isn't going to stop there. Alongside the need for defensive quality, an out-and-out striker wouldn't go amiss.
Gonzalo Higuain is widely believed to be the man Enrique wants, but Gazzetta dello Sport believes "Napoli are actively working on blocking" a move, reported via AS. Barcelona could face a tug-o-war with certain Premier League giants for the Argentinian's future, per Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News:
Also, Tuttosport reporting today that Man United (and Chelsea and Barcelona) are interested in Gonzalo Higuain pic.twitter.com/lKRGgkRFRZ— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) June 18, 2014
Like Rojo, Higuain also wishes to play with Messi more regularly, reported by the Press Association (via the Guardian):
Of course. I enjoy playing alongside him for the national team. Obviously it would be an enormous pleasure, but for now I'm focused on the World Cup. I'm flattered by the interest from Barça. Any player would be.
All three linked players would certainly improve Barcelona's overall prospects. Cole and Rojos could offer vital cover to the energetic Jordi Alba, while the latter's versatility makes him a tempting acquisition for a plethora of different roles. Higuain, while a proven goalscorer in La Liga, may cost an absolute bomb to secure.
Enrique is certainly ready to put his spin on the Barcelona squad. The former club captain knows exactly what it takes to succeed in Catalonia and should be given time to develop a brand of football that doesn't necessarily need to slot in with Pep Guardiola's long-missed tiki-taka.
The aforementioned targets are all viable selections if Enrique is looking to add pace and physical power to the club's game. While change will be greeted with a mixed reaction from supporters, it is a necessary development as the club look to catch a battle-ready Atletico Madrid during the next title race.