Who Should Be Barcelona's Priority in Contract Talks?

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Who Should Be Barcelona's Priority in Contract Talks?
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Barcelona will have several players wanting new contracts soon. The vast majority of the squad are on deals that expire on or before June 30, 2019.

Only Jordi Alba, Rafinha, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal's deals extend beyond that date.

The other stars' contracts expire in batches: six in June 2017, six a year later and eight the year after that.

Marc Bartra, Dani Alves, Munir El Haddadi, Adriano, Sandro Ramirez and Jordi Masip are the six who reach the end of their contracts first, but Barcelona won't feel under any pressure to organise new deals.

Jordi Masip and Adriano have minor roles, Dani Alves, who will turn 34 before the expiration of his deal, will likely not be given an extension and the futures of Bartra, Munir and Sandro are still to be decided.

The former of the final three, having turned 25 recently, is still without a place in the starting XI and has even fallen behind Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu in the pecking order.

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Meanwhile, Sando looks to have been usurped by Munir in Luis Enrique's plans and has been linked with a move to the Premier League, per the Evening Standard.

Munir, while improving, isn't showing anything to convince the club he will be a key part of its future, so there's no pressure to tie him down.

Of the batch whose deals are set to conclude in June 2018, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu, Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano won't cause any problems for different reasons.

Mascherano recently told Clarin he does not believe he will retire at Barcelona (h/t Sport), saying he would leave when he can't stand up to the physical demands of the club.

When his contract ends he will be 34 and is likely to head back to his native Argentina for a final fling.

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Mathieu will be well on his way to 35 when his deal ends, and if he does not leave beforehand, he will not be needed beyond that.

The long-term thinking at Barcelona is that Marc-Andre ter Stegen will take over from Claudio Bravo, who will be 35 when his contract ends. Although goalkeepers have more longevity than outfielders, the expiration of his contract will mark the end of Bravo's career at the Camp Nou.

Iniesta, meanwhile, will be 34, but as a club legend he will be able to stay at Barcelona as long as he likes. There is no need to fuss over his contract renewal because he and the club both know how much he means.

The other two players whose contracts run out in June 2018 are in different situations: Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Messi's deal is renewed frequently, and before long, it will be time for him to pen a new agreement. Neymar is a far more urgent candidate.

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Noise and speculation surrounding a move away from the Camp Nou is rising. The likelihood is he will sign a new deal at Barcelona, but before he does, rumours surrounding possible exits to Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and other sides will not stop blowing in.

He has encouraged these at times, but the majority of the fuss is kicked up by his father, Neymar Sr. The elder Neymar even used a recent court case to highlight a world-record bid made by Manchester United for his son, per radio station Cadena COPE (h/t MailOnline).

Neymar, who finished third in the 2015 Ballon d'Or vote, surely wants a new deal that reflects his increased standing in the football world.

He is arguably the second-best player around behind Messi, given Cristiano Ronaldo's decline, and one day he will be the best.

Barcelona's present and future lies with Neymar, so the club would be best advised to sort out his contract situation quickly.

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In 2019, several important players' contracts expire.

Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique, Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Vermaelen and Douglas' deals are all set to end.

With the exception of the latter two, all will need to be renewed, providing they are still at Barcelona.

The most pressing of these deals is Busquets'. Pep Guardiola gave the midfielder his Barca debut, and Busquets recently told ESPN (h/t Sport) that only his wife and the soon-to-be Manchester City manager could persuade him to leave the club.

"It’s clear I owe him a lot and for me to work with him would be an honour," he said.

He added he was also happy at Barcelona and didn't think Guardiola would ask him to leave, but those words were seemingly just to placate the club's fans. If he wasn't trying to put pressure on Barcelona to give him a new deal, he wouldn't have said the first part, which both he and his representative, Josep Maria Orobitg, knew would be picked up by the world's media.

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Busquets is essential to the way Barcelona play and cannot be replaced. Nobody else has the same qualities he does. Extremely accurate and increasingly daring in possession, he is also a master of helping Barcelona get the ball when they don't have it.

Barcelona's three strikers get the credit, understandably so, but there aren't many attacks that Busquets doesn't help instigate.

A unique player, and one Barcelona need to keep happy.

Sport recently explained how a new deal is in the pipeline for the midfielder as soon as Barcelona sign a new sponsorship deal.

But given how Neymar could dictate Barcelona's level of success in the next decade, the whirlwind of speculation surrounding his future and the fact his deal expires first, he needs to be first in line when it comes to contract talks.

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