January Transfer Window: Barcelona's Best Bet
The January transfer window is about to open, and for once, it seems likely that Barcelona will indulge in a few additions to their playing staff.
Even the recent addition of Ibrahim Affelay, who will officially be plying his trade in Barcelona shirt in 2011, will bolster their first team squad to just 20 players. There can be no doubt that these are 20 of the finest footballers in the world right now, arguably in history, but strength in depth can never harm a side.
Sandro Rosell however, appears to be far from a big spender, with Mascherano and Affelay both being signed relatively cheaply so far under his reign. So how much more progress can we expect to be made, and how much more money can we expect to be spent?
Realistically, due to their small squad size and lack of creative back-ups in midfield, Barcelona could certainly do with one or two extra players. The Blaugrana should be looking to acquire a versatile full-back and a creative midfielder. These are the areas Barcelona seem to lack depth the most, and will allow their already more versatile players to shift around, for example, Eric Abidal can play at centre-back more often, and Iniesta can be used further upfield without the creativity in midfield being compromised.
Rather than focusing on the players being linked by the media, this list will look at the players who could actually improve Barcelona's already fantastic squad.
This list is in no particular order, simply a collection of ten players.
Pastore is one of the highest rated young central midfielders in the world. Undoubtedly a classy player, this is one of the most likely transfers to occur. Pastore would fit into the side seamlessly, and would prove a short term solution to Barcelona's lack of depth in midfield, as well as a long term solution, as one of Barcelona's all-important midfield pairing.
Palermo don't want to sell, and Pastore apparently doesn't want to leave. However, Palermo could be tempted by a big enough offer, and I can't help but feel that Pastore is simply buttering up Palermo to keep his options open. All of the talk of connecting with Lionel Messi is encouraging for Barcelona, and this is a real possibility.
Here is a man who, rather unfairly, still requires introduction among many. The Croatia captain currently plays in the Ukrainian Premier League with Shakhtar Donetsk, where his reputation can be likened to that of Winston Churchill. Srna is as close as they come to completely irreplaceable for Shakhtar. Probably the greatest Croatian player of all time, the dynamic right-back is the highest scorer currently operating for Croatia, and their second highest scorer of all time. This sort of return for a right-back says a thing or two about his attitude.
Srna would be a top signing for any team in the world. One of the finest attacking full-backs in the game, he would make a more than capable understudy, or considering his recent contract issues, replacement, for Dani Alves. Unfortunately, he seems happy at Shakhtar, and Shakhtar are about as likely to let him leave as Roma are to allow both De Rossi and Totti to go. That is truly how important Srna is to his team.
This man certainly does not require any introduction. The name on everyone's lips since his fantastic display against Inter. The Welsh winger can stand in in midfield and left-back capably, and could be worth Barcelona splashing out.
And splashing out is exactly what would be required to snap him up. Tottenham claim that he is not for sale at any price, and Barcelona would be competing with just about every top team in the world. Bale has been a revolution this season, and is getting the attention to prove it.
Another Croatian hero. Modric is a model professional, and certainly in terms of attitude. The attacking midfielder would easily be up to the task of covering for Iniesta/Xavi, and indeed either of the wings.
Tottenham's capture of Van der Vaart in the summer, tied in with Gareth Bale's exceptional run of form have caused Modric to drop out of the limelight. In theory, this would make a potential move to Barcelona simple enough. But Harry will surely want to keep hold of him as a backup, and it is uncertain if he would even want to leave Tottenham.
After a fantastic showing at the World Cup, Coentrao is another name that seems to be on everybody's lips. At only 22 years old, the Portuguese left-back has already proven himself as one of the worlds' finest players in his position.
Along with good reputation comes transfer rumours, and Coentrao has been linked to many of the top clubs throughout Europe, most notably Chelsea and Man United and a move to England looks more likely than Barcelona, although it is far from certain where will go, if he leaves Benfica at all.
Another Benfica player, David's reputation in football is growing at a rapid rate. After making only two appearances at youth level, Luiz is beginning to establish himself as a regular selection for the Brazilian national side. He is a player in the same mould as Eric Abidal, and can operate from centre back or left back positions.
Many teams appear to be looking at Luiz, but nobody seems to be putting any real muscle behind their interest. Luiz could be available for Barcelona at a fairly cheap price for a player of his standing, though if Coentrao moves anywhere, it is very unlikely Benfica will sell on Luiz as well.
One of the most overshadowed players in football right now. Currently plying his trade at Ajax, the Uruguayan international has never really been able to display his talents to the world, largely due to the misconception that Uruguay captain Diego Forlan carries the side. Forlan is certainly their best player, but Suarez does not fall far behind. If Suarez were Spanish or Brazilian, people would surely recognize him as the fantastic player he is.
Suarez has been on the radars of many top clubs for a long time, yet nobody seems to have been willing to table a solid offer to date. Ajax certainly rate him very highly, which would prove a stumbling block in any circumstances, but if Barcelona could reach an agreement with Ajax, I have no doubt that Suarez would be a huge success. It's certainly not an area of the team that needs strengthening, but passing up the opportunity to sign a player like Suarez would be sinful.
For anybody that has watched Premier League football in the last four years, Torres needs absolutely no introduction. A fantastic start to Torres' Liverpool career has seen his reputation rise massively, and is now considered one of the top strikers in the world. This season however, he has struggled. There can surely be no better way to recover his form than to link up with international strike partner David Villa.
Roy Hodgson is yet to experience the joys of Fernando at his best, and if the right offer is tabled, he might look to replace him, though he is known as a patient manager. The right offer could well be way over what Barcelona can offer, and given the strength of their current strike force, it could be considered foolish for Barcelona to fork out so much money for a player who may well see a lot of the bench. But who wouldn't drool at the concept of seeing Spain's magnificent pairing at club level?
Jack Wilshere is truly a fantastic player. Already breaking into the England setup at the tender age of 18, Wilshere is an explosive, dynamic centre midfielder, with all the class in the world. In theory, he could fit into the Barcelona setup with ease. However, English players do have a reputation to stay in England, and to flop when they do decide to leave. The last English player to play at his absolute best in Spain was Gary Lineker. Beckham was good, but he was better at Man United.
Arsenal rate Wilshere extremely highly, and he is breaking into the first team with gusto. Wilshere certainly would not come cheap. If Barcelona were to make an approach for Wilshere, Arsene Wenger's love for buying young players and building them up could prove a major advantage. Though Wilshere is a player Wenger can still build up, perhaps two decent prospects, or Jonathan Dos Santos, along with a tidy transfer fee could bring Wilshere in. It is unlikely they will make a move, but given the rapid rise of Thiago, the two could provide a quality replacement for when Xavi and Iniesta either pass their prime, or hang up their boots entirely.
Sorry. Couldn't resist. This is the perfect fit. This transfer has to happen, for the sake of football. It simply has to. Arsenal will disagree, as will nearly every devout Premier League fan, and so will most fans of other La Liga teams. Barcelona fans and neutrals however, want this transfer, and know that it is necessary.
It seems hugely unlikely in January. Barcelona may make another approach, but Arsenal are sure to shrug off the offer once again. Arsene Wenger has put it in no uncertain terms that he is growing tired of Barcelona's efforts. Barcelona seem to be taking a Shawshank Redemption style approach to signing Fabregas. Persistence is key. Please, Arsenal, allow the inevitable.