You Can Sign Any 2 Players in the World: Barcelona Influencers Take Their Pick

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2017

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 26: Marco Verratti of PSG in action during the French Ligue 1 match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at Stade Velodrome on February 26, 2017 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

After a season of underachievement by Barcelona's enormously lofty standards, the Camp Nou club are entering a period of regeneration.

For some teams, in other leagues, that period might be accepted to be a year or more: changing manager, adding playing personnel and even possible tactical alterations can all take their toll and see the team take some time to jell.

But that isn't as permissible at Barca as at other clubs; the board and the fans, and the players themselves, will expect the changes to yield instant results. They want to catch up with Real Madrid again and overhaul them, at home and abroad, and to do so, they need to sign the right players this summer.

Barca manager Ernesto Valverde has his own thoughts on the matter, with Nelson Semedo already in and Gerard Deulofeu bulking the squad with a return home, but what of the fans, the journalists, those who watch Barcelona most often?

We've spoken with five social influencers to gauge who they'd bring into the squad if money were no object and obstinate clubs didn't refuse to do business—and the results are as varied as they are interesting.

        

From the back

With Samuel Umtiti the resounding success story of last summer's transfer window, Barcelona are almost set in defence—but fan social account @WeAreMessi sees room for further improvement.

"Aymeric Laporte, of Athletic Club Bilbao—he's one of the best young centre-backs in La Liga," they declared to us.

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 07: Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Club in action during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Athletic Club at Estadio de la Ceramica on April 7, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by fotopress/Getty Images)
fotopress/Getty Images

"He's tall, fit and fast. He can be a future replacement for Gerard Pique and link up with Umtiti. Not to forget, having played under [new boss] Valverde before, it won't take time for him to get used to the manager's idea."

Laporte has long been a target of many teams, Barca included, but he has thus far resisted the urge to leave the Basque country. The now-23-year-old has the style and intent to play from deep, which would appeal to the club—but pairing him with Umtiti would mean one of the two would have to relocate to the right side of centre, against their natural inclinations.

               

Heart of the matter

There's no question where most viewers think Barcelona need most attention: right in the centre of the pitch—the former stronghold of the club, which Luis Enrique neglected at times and shifted the focus away from.

Journalist Simon Harrison points out precisely why:

"I'd probably highlight central midfield, after the Nelson Semedo signing sorted out a right-back. I think that finding an heir for Andres Iniesta should be their priority—but it's hard to point out any signings in particular."

Covering Barcelona day-to-day for Sport has given Albert Roge a clear view on who the best fits would be—and which would hurt Barca's biggest rivals in the process.

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 19:  Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain runs with ball during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain and Toulouse FC at Parc des Princes on February 19, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

"I'd pick Marco Verratti," he said without hesitation. "Verratti is necessary for the centre of the park and also to give Sergio Busquets time to rest. Not to mention, if Neymar leaves it's the big hit you have to give PSG for them to respect you."

He's not the only one to side with Verratti, who has been linked with a Camp Nou move for several years—and is once again on the club's hit list this summer, per Sport.

Journalist, fan and social mover Alex Truica also said it's clear that the Italian midfielder is a must-have.

"In the last two seasons, Barcelona evidently lacked a creator in midfield. Even with Iniesta in the squad, the Catalans seemed to miss a further orchestrating brain in the middle of the pitch.

"To get back to their best, with their usual dominance of play, what they need most is a ball playing, smart, technically gifted midfield maestro as an addition—and clearly Verratti ticks all these boxes (and some more). He'd be my first-choice signing; it's the type of player they need now."

One additional alternative was offered by La Masia-following social account @YoungCules—and perhaps it's no surprise that the potential option goes back to the club's roots.

MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - MARCH 19: Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Muenchen controls the ball during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Muenchen at Borussia-Park on March 19, 2017 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by TF-Ima
TF-Images/Getty Images

"The first one must be a midfielder. Between us, it was a toss up between Verratti and Bayern Munich's Thiago.

"Some are done with Thiago and won't take him back, while others would take him back within a heartbeat."

Given the players in the squad who have left and returned later—Pique, Deulofeu, Denis Suarez, Aleix Vidal, Jordi Alba—there's the potential for a Thiago return to be on the cards, but it would take a mammoth effort.

Whoever the eventual signing is, it's not just apparent, it's imperative, that Barcelona boost midfield control and creativity this summer.

         

Link to attack

Further forward, there are two areas to consider: a link between midfield and attack, and the front line itself. It's not yet clear how Valverde will line up, whether he'll stick with the Barca 4-3-3 template or look to integrate his own variation of 4-2-3-1, but either way, there's scope to find a player who can play between the lines and join up either in midfield or attack as needed.

Roge has his own viewpoint on who would be the best fit in those circumstances...and while a controversial transfer if it ever were to happen, it's tough to argue against the stylistic fit.

CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 03: Isco of Real Madrid in action during the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid at National Stadium of Wales on June 3, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"I'd sign Isco, to hurt Real Madrid. He's a spectacular player and soon enough he'll be one of the best in Spain. His style of play is 100 per cent Barcelona, and his arrival would boost Barca enormously."

Isco's upsurge not just in form, but also in consistency and shouldering responsibility, in the second half of 2016/17 makes that assessment spot-on.

But the deal itself would be near-impossible, surely—unless Isco allows his contract to wind down.

There's an alternate option, though, according to @WeAreMessi.

4SO KON PO, HONG KONG - MAY 26: Tottenham Hotspur Midfielder Dele Alli in action during the Friendly match between Kitchee SC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Hong Kong Stadium on May 26, 2017 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)
Power Sport Images/Getty Images

"The Premier League's Young Player of the Year will certainly be a perfect addition to the squad. Dele Alli can play as a centre midfielder, attacking midfielder or from the left side.

"He's a [tactical] joker like Sergi Roberto. A perfect dribbler like Alli will provide key passes in the final third, and he has a superb instinct for the goal with his late runs."

Dele scored 22 in all competitions last season from the second line of Spurs' system—either a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-3—which only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez bettered. Neymar hit 20, then the highest-scoring Barca midfielder was Arda Turan, with just 13.

          

Neymar

It should be noted that the choices of our social influencers were largely made before news broke during the course of the week that PSG were seriously pushing for a £196 million move for Neymar. That may not yet occur, but if it does, it's natural that Barcelona would, in turn, look to make an enormous attacking move of their own.

It's a safe bet that the sole name who cropped up for the attacking line among our respondents would figure prominently in that case.

"We found it very hard to find a second player we'd like to sign," @YoungCules said. "We considered Ousmane Dembele, but we don't really have [a consensus on] one player that we'd really like to see in the team."

DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 29: Ousmane Dembele of Dortmund , controls the ball during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Koeln at Signal Iduna Park on April 29, 2017 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Truica was more forthright on the Borussia Dortmund starlet—but as an option for the future rather than to immediately be in the XI.

"Looking more to the future than the present, I'd go for Dembele. For now, Barcelona have covered that position in taking Deulofeu back, but it's still doubtful if he has the quality needed to make it the highest level, let alone at Barça.

"A pacy, skilful and more natural winger would give Barça a lot of opportunities. Since he's two-footed and very versatile, Dembele can cover at left-wing in Neymar's absence, or at right-wing if Messi needs a break or is shifted in a more central role behind Luis Suarez.

"Dembele is one of the biggest talents in world football right now, and he already even expressed his desire to play for Barcelona one day. And with Messi drifting more and more to the centre, Dembele is the best bet as his long-term successor on the right wing.

"Or, one never knows, as Neymar's successor on the left wing."

It could yet turn out to be somewhat prophetic, albeit in a much more short-term scenario than most Barcelona fans would be happy with, if the Brazilian heads for Paris and the French international is elected as the successor.

Already there are talks of a bid for Philippe Coutinho, too, per Sky Sports.

An attacking addition may end up being more of a necessity than ever, but for now Barcelona's primary focus—in the eyes of fans and journalists alike—has to be in the middle of the pitch, making a move to not only bring back control of midfield but also control of La Liga and beyond.

All quotes obtained firsthand.

Facebook.com/karlmatchett.football

Related

    Watch Every Europa League Game

    Take your pick from Thursday's games on B/R Live

    FC Barcelona logo
    FC Barcelona

    Watch Every Europa League Game

    Take your pick from Thursday's games on B/R Live

    via B/R Live

    Spectre of Mourinho Lurks as PSG Put Zidane's Future in Doubt

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Spectre of Mourinho Lurks as PSG Put Zidane's Future in Doubt

    The Independent
    via The Independent

    Tuchel: Not Having Neymar and Mbappe May Have Helped

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Tuchel: Not Having Neymar and Mbappe May Have Helped

    Gianni Verschueren
    via Bleacher Report

    Pochettino: Players Didn't Respect My Plan vs. Olympiakos

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Pochettino: Players Didn't Respect My Plan vs. Olympiakos

    Evening Standard
    via Evening Standard