With 2020/21 in their rearview mirror, Barcelona can now look ahead to next season and the summer transfer window.
This season was one of transition that started and ended poorly but for a while in the middle there things looked really good. Ronald Koeman laid the groundwork for a fantastic, winning team to emerge. The club needs a new coach to bring that team to life, and will probably get that, but what about the players?
Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero are all but confirmed to be joining this summer on free transfers from Manchester City. Neither move is official but Pep Guardiola has let his inner-Barca fan slip and enthusiastically announced both deals. Aguero will be a solid bit of depth in attack while Garcia returns to his hometown club with eyes on replacing Piqué as the defensive leader.
But who else is arriving? We’ve come up with a list of dream, realistic and wildcard transfer options for Barcelona as they look to shine in summer 2021.
Striker: Erling Haaland
Barcelona need a goalscorer. Both for their attack (see how anaemic they can be in attack when opponents key in on Leo Messi, no one else is a credible goal threat, especially in big games) but also for their defence; because having a credible goal threat makes opponents too scared to attack in numbers which protects Barcelona’s defence when they play halfway up the pitch to facilitate the passing and pressing game that creates chances they need a goalscorer to finish.
See how it all fits?
41 games. 41 goals.
Erling Haaland is a machine this season. ? pic.twitter.com/sFT1JzK80s
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 22, 2021
Anyway, Erling Haaland is the most brutal and ruthless finisher the world has seen since prime Cristiano Ronaldo or prime Adriano before him. There is no physical feat that is beyond him, no chance he can’t massacre into the back of the net. He’ll cost a king’s ransom, but he’ll deliver unto Barcelona a kingdom of success and glory. Pair him with Messi, the greatest player in the world, and watch opponents get folded like space-time in a wormhole. Messi wants it so bad he’s willing to take a massive pay cut, allegedly.
This would be galaxy-bending stuff if they could pull it off, a dream within a dream.
Erling Haaland transfer odds: To sign for before 3rd September (via Sky Bet)
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)
Left wing-back: José Gaya
Jordi Alba is not what he used to be. Obviously still capable of producing fantastic moments of attacking play, he’s not as consistent and is also a disaster defensively with a questionable winning mentality. A back-up, who could also replace him, would boost the left side of Barcelona’s attack significantly (by pushing Alba to always be at his best, if nothing else).
José Gaya is the presumptive heir to Alba’s place in the national side, and Barcelona are said to be interested in bringing him to Catalunya from the beleaguered Valencia much like they secured Alba himself back in 2012. This would be an ideal scenario as Gaya would move a bit up the Spanish coast and into a side ready-made for his pace, energy and creative prowess – but maybe Valencia don’t want to lose him?
Left centre-back: Pau Torres
With Eric Garcia’s arrival and the emergence of Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza, the right side of Barcelona’s defence is sorted. On the left, however, it’s a bit more ropey. Samuel Umtiti’s knees are now only theoretical and Clement Lenglet is in a strange phase of his career where he routinely undoes all his good play with inexplicable moments of defensive calamity brought about by hideously bad luck.
So an upgrade is needed, and the big name in town right now is Pau Torres. The gigantic Villarreal centre-back is a real stud of a defender who brings the ball out from the back with an almost insulting ease. He’s helped guide Villarreal to a Europa League final and will surely start for Spain at Euro 2020. He would be a perfect fit for Barcelona
Wing-forward: Memphis Depay
Realistically, Barcelona won’t sign a striker this summer given they have secured Aguero’s signature and Erling Haaland’s price is astronomical. However, they will still want a forward of some kind so they have the option of shifting Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé (to lighten the load on the wage bill). And thus we have Memphis Depay.
The Dutchman was wanted by Ronald Koeman a year ago but the Blaugrana wouldn’t stump up a fee for him. Now if they make any additions in attack it’ll be securing Memphis on a free transfer after his contract expires.
Even though Koeman probably won’t be around, Memphis’ quality cannot be denied. In 2020/21 across Europe’s top five leagues only three players had 70+ shots, take-ons and chances creates and at least 20 Big Chances created. Those three were Messi, Rodrigo de Paul and Memphis. He can play left-wing and up-front and would allow Ansu Fati time to recover at his own pace.
Left centre-back: Lisandro Martinez
Realistically, Barcelona won’t spend any money to sign a left wing-back because Jordi Alba still attacks at an elite level and the club have teenage Alejandro Baldé coming through. So a season of young Baldé backing-up the veteran Alba seems likely.
Left centre-back is different, however. If they are priced out of the market for Pau Torres (which seems likely) then Lisandro Martinez emerges as a much cheaper, perhaps even better option. The Argentine joined Ajax as part of their rebuild following the departure of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, and has blossomed into an elite defensive force for the Dutch champions.
Lisandro is a leftie who is better in the air and faster across the ground than Clement Lenglet and would offer a significant upgrade on the Frenchman. Moreover, thanks to the good relationship between Ajax and Barcelona, a transfer would probably be relatively painless and his rumoured fee of €25m would definitely appeal to the cash-strapped Catalans.
Striker: Patson Daka
Everyone is after Erling Haaland and understandably so, he’s a miracle, but he’s also exceedingly expensive. So instead of joining Mino Raiola’s magnificent auction, why not go to the source and get “the next” Erling Haaland? RB Salzburg’s Patson Daka.
Obviously Daka isn’t quite on Haaland’s level (for one thing he’s two years older) but the Zambian forward has been explosively prolific over the last two seasons scoring 61 goals in 86 games for Salzburg. He has pace, skill and finishing ability and would be an excellent mobile goal-getter for a side like Barcelona. This is obviously a wildcard because it would be a huge risk for Barcelona to sign Daka straight from Salzburg (more likely he makes an interim move, like Haaland did) but it could pay off handsomely.
Left wing-back: Alex Grimaldo
One of the great mistakes of Luis Enrique’s time in charge of Barcelona was the neglect shown to Alex Grimaldo, the young phenom the club had at left-back. Lucho showed no care to bring him through, so he stagnated in the physically overpowering Spanish lower leagues before leaving for Benfica where he’s really made something of himself.
Now 25, Grimaldo is at the peak of his powers and could be a very interesting choice to replace Jordi Alba. He’s quick and intensely skilled with the ball at his feet; he loves going on long runs and of course has absurd crossing power. He created 20 Big Chances in 2020/21 and the only full-back to top that is converted winger Filip Kostic at Frankfurt. It’s not likely, because if Barcelona wanted to bring him “home” there would have been noise about it, but it’d be great.
Left centre-back: Sven Botman
Sven Botman is dominant in the air and on the deck. He’s also quick in a way that Clement Lenglet isn’t and a back three of him, Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza would be one of the most athletically dominant in Barcelona’s history. He just won Ligue 1 after starting the whole season so we know he’s made of the right stuff, mentally.
He was an Ajax youth product so would have an easier time transitioning to the Barcelona system than most; and he’s been mentored by José Fonte at Lille, just as the Premier League’s previous two defensive colossi (Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias) were. The only downside to Botman is that he’s used to playing in a low block at Lille and it’s unknown how he’d adapt to playing 40-50 yards from his own goal as Barcelona do, and that’s why this move is a wildcard; but it could be excellent.