6 Players Who Are Fighting for Their Barcelona Futures in Rest of Season
Barcelona are the reigning champions of Spain, Europe and the world. Last season, they won a magnificent treble, followed up by the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
However, that doesn't mean their squad is perfect and unable to be improved upon.
There are several players whose position at the club is at risk. Here are the men who will be desperate to impress in the next three months or so.
Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen and Marc Bartra
Barcelona have long had a problem in the centre-back position, and they still do, but it has changed in nature considerably.
Previously, they had a string of defenders who weren't good enough, from the likes of Dmytro Chygrynskiy to Alex Song recycled from defensive midfield.
Now they have a partnership that has led them to glory and doesn't look like being displaced any time soon, in Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.
That makes things uncomfortable for Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Veramelen and Marc Bartra. There is a three-way battle to be the first reserve to the current first-choice pair at the moment.
Mathieu and Vermaelen are winning, based on the opportunities they get and the size of the games Luis Enrique picks them for, in contrast to Bartra.
Mathieu has played 22 times this season, and his appearances have been split between centre-back and left-back, with this added versatility another tick in his plus column for the coach.
However, with the news Adriano will take up the option to extend his Barcelona deal by one year, per Sport, being able to play at left-back isn’t as big an advantage as it might have been for the Frenchman.
Also according to the Barcelona-based newspaper, Bartra has decided to leave the club. Lluis Miguelsanz writes:
The player, who has fallen out of Luis Enrique's plans, has decided to end his era as a Barcelona player and will move away in the summer. His agents met with the club to discuss the situation - his lack of minutes. Both sides are sure the best option for the defender is not to put down his arms this season yet, because he could still be useful, but to look for an exit in June. Barcelona will listen to offers from €12million and retain a buy-back fee clause - this is not Bartra's moment, but nobody doubts his quality.
It is clear that Bartra loves the club, and he has stayed here until reaching 25 years old to try to make an impact, but it doesn’t seem to be coming.
It seems the only way for him to stay is by making a huge effort in the final months of the season, ending every training session with nothing left behind and capitalising on any opportunities that may come his way.
Miguelsanz says in Sport Barcelona’s priority is to sign a defender in the summer, so it could be two of these three losing their place and the third fighting with Pique, Mascherano and whoever they choose to bring in.
Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi
Luis Enrique made it painfully clear in the January transfer window that he wanted attacking reinforcements.
The Barcelona boss moved for Nolito, but the deal never went through, although Lluis Miguelsanz writes for Sport that the Celta Vigo star will join in the summer:
Nolito would accept a secondary role without problems, and economically it's possible for the club in the summer. The outcome of the story will be different in July than in January, when Celta refused to loan him to Barcelona. The club know they can't keep their star and it's logical they put him on the market. And Nolito wants to come to Barcelona. He's rejected Premier League offers and has a huge offer from China, but will stay and hope he can wear Blaugrana from the summer onwards.
This means Nolito is likely to be the next in line behind the fearsome attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
In turn, options will therefore be limited for Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi. The latter seems to have won the battle with his fellow La Masia graduate and is the first back-up to the star striking trio.
When someone is unavailable, it’s usually Munir who gets to fill in, and he did just that against Eibar at the weekend. The forward opened the scoring, just as he did in January in his last La Liga start before that.
On both occasions, he was playing in Neymar’s stead, on the left side, which is where Nolito would fit into the attack. With the deal for the Celta wide man not sealed, Munir has a chance to show Luis Enrique he merits continuity as the fourth musketeer.
It is harder to see Sando getting to stay at Camp Nou. Only if he plays out of his skin in training and gets a stroke of luck with an injury or suspension to Luis Suarez, will he get the chance to prove himself on the pitch.
There is virtually nothing Douglas can do that can save him at Barcelona. His signing seemed strange from the start, and he has largely spent his time at the club injured.
When he isn’t on the treatment table, he’s still usually left out of the matchday squad.
Sport labelled him “the king of not being selected in the squad,” having been left out on 13 occasions while not being injured this season.
Esther Blasco wrote: “He has only been picked four times. The club tried to find an exit for him in January but could not reach an agreement with any other club.”
It is quite possible that we will not see Douglas play in a Barcelona shirt again.
The club have reached the Copa del Rey final and are one step from being in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Douglas’ only option to play will likely come towards the end of the league season, if Barcelona have already wrapped up the titles and Lucho wants to give some of the squad a rest.
If he wants to stay at Barcelona, he must do his utmost to be physically fit in those games and give his very best on the pitch. It is still unlikely to be enough.
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