Influencers Pick the Deadline-Day Deals Barcelona Should Hijack

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2017

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: Thomas Lemar of Monaco and Kylian Mbappe (left) in action during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Barcelona have taken one big step toward rebuilding the post-Neymar attack by completing the signing of Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele, but most fans—and surely new coach Ernesto Valverde—both want and expect further names to follow.

The Catalan club have been tracking Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool all summer and have been knocked back at every approach—three bids rejected at the last count, per BBC Sport—with the price tag rising higher at every turn.

With Thursday's transfer deadline drawing closer, Barca have to decide whether to pursue the Coutinho deal with greater finances, hoping to tempt the Reds to sell, or to look elsewhere for inspiration.

We've spoken with four Barca influencers of different types—social accounts, journalists and supporters—to find out what direction they'd prefer the board to look if it came down to the last day and jumping in on other potential deals was the only route left to take.

        

Break records, start fires

Now, Barcelona aren't a club who can just go out and hijack any potential move going; not for financial reasons but because there are only limited numbers of players who might improve the squad, let alone the XI.

But sometimes such players switch clubs, even the best in the world do that, as the recent departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain showed.

And social fan account @totalBarca knows exactly where they'd go as a result.

Monaco's French forward Kylian Mbappe applauds after the  French L1 football match between Monaco (ASM) and Marseille (OM) on August 27, 2017, at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco. / AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/
VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

"@totalBarca would cackle with glee if Barcelona was able to hijack the deal between PSG and Monaco for Kylian Mbappe," Dave S. from the site told us.

"Nasser Al-Khelaifi's PSG now vies with Real Madrid as Barcelona's mortal enemy.

"The way he seduced Neymar is still an open wound with Barca fans and, to add insult to injury, the Paris club is rumoured to have scuttled the deal between Barcelona and Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri. Revenge: a dish best served with Cava.

"Plus, can you imagine an attack including Mbappe, [Luis] Suarez and Dembele, with [Lionel] Messi orchestrating from midfield? It would be mind-blowing!"

Barcelona's new player Ousmane Dembele (2ndR) poses with his new jersey and relatives at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, during his official presentation at the Catalan football club, on August 28, 2017.
French starlet Ousmane Dembele agreed a five-yea
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

With the Seri deal off the cards—partly thanks to PSG attempting to drive the price up without real intent to sign the midfielder, as reported by the Guardian—Barca's midfield may still need restructuring, but it doesn't have to be a central option who fills the void.

Messi has become more playmaker and less centre-forward over the past three seasons, and giving him a free, roving role in behind an attack which provides goals and movement will certainly appeal to some.

It's a big departure from Barca's 4-3-3 template, but closer to Valverde's own usual 4-2-3-1.

Clearly, there is animosity over back-and-forth negotiations with the French club, not just with Neymar and Seri but longer-lasting with Marco Verratti, too, and it wouldn't be the biggest surprise to hear fans would like to see the Parisian club come off second-best in transfer dealings with one of the world's most talented youngsters.

Mbappe was also a big Real Madrid target over the summer, per Marca, and Barca would dearly love to come out on deadline day showing off a prized asset who was so coveted by their biggest domestic challengers—and they'll have to move fast to head off a loan-to-buy move from Monaco to PSG, per Sky Sports.

       

Feuds all over

PSG and Real Madrid aren't the only clubs Barcelona have struggled with this summer, with Liverpool refusing to negotiate on the Coutinho bid.

MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 01:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool FC controls the ball during the Audi Cup 2017 match between Bayern Muenchen and Liverpool FC at Allianz Arena on August 1, 2017 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Goal.com's Melissa Reddy reports, "Barcelona will find no receding in Liverpool’s resolve not to sell Philippe Coutinho this summer," so perhaps the alternative is to jump in on targets the Reds have identified.

That's the path that social account @WeAreMessi chose, identifying another Ligue 1-based talent as being one Barca should look to.

"Having missed out on Seri and maybe Coutinho, if there was one deal which we could hijack then it can be Liverpool's target Thomas Lemar." Lemar, part of the midfield quartet that lifted the French league title for Monaco last season, is the subject of a club-record bid from the Premier League side, per the Telegraph's Jason Burt.

"A player who can play on both wings and in the centre at times will complement Messi well, who tends to play deeper when the team needs him.

"Also, Lemar's impressive season for Monaco last year does talking for sure. With all the Di Marias that the board may want to bring in, it's best to invest in young, dynamic players."

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

Lemar would fit that template, with the strong and quick attacker capable of doing his work in the channels or roving from central, and the current price tag—the Reds' bid is estimated at around €70 million—is well within Barca's reach.

Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Thomas Lemar, with Paulinho and Andres Iniesta as further options in midfield? It doesn't sound the worst, that's for sure.

                      

Shopping on a higher shelf

One problem with Barca looking for players, as mentioned, is that there are few who fit the bill in terms of cost, availability and—importantly—ability.

Journalist Alex Truica doesn't believe any of the players rumoured to be on the move to other clubs before deadline day are good enough or present reasonable value—and includes the Liverpool No. 10 in that regard.

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 25: Neymar Jr of PSG during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and AS Saint-Etienne (ASSE) at Parc des Princes on August 25, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

"Coutinho is heavily overpriced, someone else should hijack that move!" he said. "I wouldn't want Barca to hijack any currently ongoing rumours."

Truica notes that many of the players meant to be pressing for transfers simply don't have the profile for Barcelona, or are out of the market value...a market value that has, of course, been heavily distorted by Barca's own sale of Neymar.

But that's also an area to exploit, as Truica goes on.

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 25: Julian Draxler of PSG during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and AS Saint-Etienne (ASSE) at Parc des Princes on August 25, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

"Also, since it looks like PSG will indeed get Mbappe and therefore they have to sell players to avoid financial fair play troubles, I'd try to get either Julian Draxler or Angel Di Maria off their payroll—but by playing hardball, offering €30 million to 40 million, because now PSG are in a bad position to negotiate, since they need to sell."

What goes around comes around, perhaps? Or maybe it's lessons learned?

Either way, limited time and limited players who fit the bill mean Barcelona's choices are limited.

    

Back to the future

What about those who have left the club previously? Barca fan Dale Anders believes that might be the way to go, even if it means a reasonably short-term measure compared to signing the likes of Lemar or Mbappe.

"I would probably go with Alexis Sanchez," Anders opined. "I know it's not the primary area we need strengthening, but the gap between our starting front three and our backup forwards will again be huge.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal in action during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on August 27, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

"But with the added problem that Suarez will probably need to be rested more this season, it would also give the coach a lot more options because Sanchez is so versatile.

"Also, with Messi playing false nine at times, we only have two natural wingers in Gerard Deulofeu and Dembele; adding a third wouldn't be a bad idea at all."

Alexis, out of contract in a year at Arsenal and linked with Manchester City this summer, is to be the target of a late-window bid from Pep Guardiola's side, per Goal.com's Chris Wheatley.

The Chilean previously left Barcelona because of a lack of guaranteed game time; would that now be addressed with Neymar gone and Dembele in? Perhaps, as he'd be a more senior figure—but it would mean a big outlay, high wages and the need for an instant impact.

Again it's a pointer to the fact there are few players who could genuinely impact for Barcelona, and returning to those who starred previously might not be the worst idea in the final days of the window.

Either way, they desperately need to ensure one or two more faces come in before Valverde is left to challenge Madrid with a side in need of regeneration and relying on Dembele to become a star from day one at the Camp Nou. 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless stated.

Twitter.com/karlmatchett

Facebook.com/karlmatchett.football

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