Potential Barcelona Transfers There Have Been No Rumours About That Make Sense

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2017

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (L) celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal with Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Watford at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 6, 2016. / AFP / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Barcelona are never far away when it comes to summer signings and transfer rumours, with the Catalan club more reliant on incoming stars than a decade ago when their La Masia academy was flourishing and pumping world-class stars on to the first-team scene.

They're also happy to spend whatever it takes to snare each signing, as the big-money deals over the past few years for the likes of Andre Gomes and Luis Suarez have shown.

This summer, a big outlay has already been taken care of by bringing in Nelson Semedo, re-signing Gerard Deulofeu and making Marlon Santos' move permanent, but there's probably more to come.

Paulinho remains a key target according to Sport, while the same outlet suggests Philippe Coutinho is "one step away" from joining—though that step happens to be agreeing a fee with a club that doesn't wish to sell.

So where else could Barca look, if not to these two Brazilians? Where can manager Ernesto Valverde upgrade his squad, and who would fit the bill—tactically, stylistically, with quality level—who hasn't yet been mentioned in the gossip columns?

We'll keep it realistic, so no Real Madrid stars etc., but we're looking for completely new names in conjunction with the Camp Nou side.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

              

Holding fort and attacking depth

It's safe to say that the goalkeeper position and defensive line are taken care of. Barca have two for each role, plenty of quality and a range of traits covered, including physical as well as technical.

Further forward it's a different matter.

They still need an option to cover for Sergio Busquets as the holding midfielder and starting point for attacks. Naturally, for the new signing in question it would be beneficial if he could also play as one of the No. 8s as a more advanced midfielder.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JULY 29: Sergio Busquets of FC Barcelona during the International Champions Cup 2017 match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium on July 29, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty I
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Then there's the Paulinho chase: It clearly highlights the need for a more physical, strong-running option in the centre of the park, one who can run the channels when needed, surge through the middle and be a good tactical addition.

Finally, despite the arrival of Deulofeu, another addition in the front line should be at least considered, given Arda Turan's inconsistency and the lack of productivity from each of Paco Alcacer, Munir and Denis Suarez.

                 

Illarra

How to irk your rivals, rule one: Sign a player they either wanted or discarded and have him play a prominent role.

Asier Illarramendi never really got the chance to make the grade at Real Madrid, but he showed last season at Real Sociedad that he's a complete midfielder and capable of operating at a higher level.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 15:  Asier Illarramendi of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Camp Nou Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by fotopress/Getty Images)
fotopress/Getty Images

Aggressive in the challenge, full of running and utterly committed to the team cause, Illarra is a Champions League-standard performer. He excels as the holding midfielder, with great athleticism to his game, but he's also a good passer of the ball and can surprise teams with his sudden surges forward.

He might not be a creative No. 8 in the manner of Andres Iniesta, but as an additional controlling force in the centre, Barca could do a lot worse—and he would be a tremendous option to cover for Busquets.

Add in being Spanish, being keen to prove Real Madrid wrong—as his performances against them have shown—and having a reasonable shot at making the Spain squad if playing for a big club, and Illarra might prove a shrewd addition for Barca.

                    

Renato

Looking for an athletic, powerful presence in the middle who can drive forward in possession, has a good range of passing and can filter wide to cover Lionel Messi's infield runs?

Step forward Renato Sanches, a starlet at Benfica, a European Championship winner with Portugalbut now an outcast at Bayern Munich, available to sign this summer on loan, per the Evening Standard, and quite possibly on a permanent deal at a reduced fee.

SINGAPORE - JULY 27: Renato Sanches #35 of FC Bayern Muenchen looks during the International Champions Cup match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Internazionale at National Stadium on July 27, 2017 in Singapore.  (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images
Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

Barca would have to move quick to capture him, but Renato was on the cusp of being one of Europe's best youngsters before he fell by the wayside last term and barely featured for the Bavarian club.

The 19-year-old is worth taking a gamble on, especially on loan without obligation.

               

Firmino

The reports of Barca looking at Coutinho remain ongoing, but what of his Liverpool and Brazil team-mate?

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 29:  Roberto Firmino of Liverpool FC runs with the ball during the Preseason Friendly match between Hertha BSC and FC Liverpool at Olympiastadion on July 29, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Roberto Firmino would be a smart addition: capable of playing along the entire front line, from the sides and centrally, as well as deeper for those occasions when Barca need to go looking for goals or when Valverde switches to the 4-2-3-1 system he used at Athletic Club Bilbao.

While not as prolific as Barca's usual front three, Firmino is incredibly good with his link-up play, and his movement is selfless and intelligent. He would cover the front three starters far better than either Paco Alcacer or Deulofeu.

A centre-forward who drops deep is ideal for letting Neymar and Messi run riot centrally, making the in-from-out runs they're known for, and Firmino out wide has shown he can be a creator for the main striker.

                

If Neymar leaves...

There's one additional consideration: the ongoing speculation that Neymar will leave, with Paris Saint-Germain reportedly ready to pay over €200 million, per SportMarca have already reported Antoine Griezmann is on the list of targets to replace the Brazilian, but are there better fits around?

Chelsea's Eden Hazard has to be one.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the Emirates FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The Belgian wide forward was back to his scintillating best in 2016-17, freed largely of defensive responsibility in Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 system and making use of his roving role by tearing opposition defences apart.

He perhaps needs more consistency inside the penalty box to be considered a true candidate to replace and replicate what Neymar offered, but the individual talent is there.

Alternatively, Thomas Lemar of AS Monaco should be considered.

MONACO, MONACO - MAY 17: Thomas Lemar of Monaco during the French Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco and AS Saint-Etienne (ASSE) at Stade Louis II on May 17, 2017 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

He's an outrageous talent, who was somehow overlooked last term in his importance due to the phenomenal rise of Kylian Mbappe. But this playmaker-turned-wide-man has all the tools to reach the top: speed, one-on-one ability, vision in the pass and breathtaking set-piece prowess.

Having already sold several starters from last year's XI, Monaco might be unwilling sellers—especially if PSG improve by signing Neymar—but €200 million carries a lot of weight.

There are options out there for Barcelona to consider beyond who they've already targeted and who the papers link them to; and it could well be that value for money, on-pitch production and ease of integration into the team could be better found in some of the above names.

                 

Facebook.com/karlmatchett.football