Barcelona are one of the great football clubs in the modern era, with arguably the greatest player to have ever laced up their boots, but time is running out for Lionel Messi to win another Champions League title — can you be the man to deliver it for him?
Ernesto Valverde has proven a methodical tactician during his Camp Nou tenure, but he remains a polarising figure in Catalonia.
The 55-year-old has constructed one of world football’s best squads, adding to the already superb talent on the books, but European glory has thus far eluded him.
With players like Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets at his disposal, the makers and shakers of Blaugrana may feel a change is needed if the Champions League goes begging once again this season.
No doubt the club’s hierarchy are a difficult bunch to appease, so too are the passionate Barca fans, but they can be won round if you play your cards right.
So, if you fancy your chances in the dugout of a 99,000-seated cauldron, as well as following in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola, Johan Cruyff et al. and managing a squad teeming with world-class talent, then read on for Squawka’s team guide to managing Barcelona on FM20…
Your first port of call will be to meet Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who immediately outlines what will be expected of you in the dugout.
Unsurprisingly Bartomeu demands that you follow the four key philosophies that pretty much embody the Spanish giants. Those include:
- Play possession football.
- Play attacking football.
- Sign high-reputation players.
- Develop players using the club’s youth system.
Three out of four of the above philosophies shouldn’t be difficult to uphold, but signing reputable players may prove an initial teething problem, which we’ll get into later on.
As for the style of football and nurturing young players, this will be a relatively straightforward task; you have a squad oozing with passing virtuosos and attacking devastation, while Barca’s esteemed La Masia academy is well-stocked with precocious talent.
Moving on to the transfer budget and this is where things become slightly trickier. Barca spent precipitously in the summer, with a £211m outlay going on no fewer than four players, so you will be given just £8.6m from Bartomeu with around £5m p/w on wages to dish out.
So, if breaking the bank and waving a chequebook is your modus operandi then you will first have to sell.
However, you’re at Barca. You won’t need to sign in the first place, as your squad is more than capable of competing on four fronts, which is exactly what will be expected of you. Bartomeu has outlined reaching both the Spanish Cup final and Champions League final as two of your top objectives.
Again, no one said this job will be a walk in the park, but you’ll be aided in your quest for continental dominance by a backroom staff of nine coaches, including the great Patrick Kluivert, as well as superb training facilities, a state of the art academy, exceptional youth recruitment and excellent youth coaching.
Your goal here is simple: to get the best out of Messi. If you can unleash the diminutive genius and get him firing on all cylinders then you’re all set.
Well, not exactly. As good as Messi is, you will, of course, need to construct an organised and well-drilled side around him in order to break teams down and stifle opposition attackers.
Barca are famed for playing a 4-3-3 formation, a system in which Guardiola famously brought home two Champions League titles, so you’re probably best to not stray far from his illustrious blueprint.
It would make sense, of course, to select the Tika-Taka tactical style, a system almost synonymous with the club, and one which can be traced back to Total Football — a tactical theory with two Barca legends in Rinus Michels and Cruyff being its most prominent exponents.
The defensive line pretty much picks itself, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen starting in goal, while Jordi Albi and Nelson Semedo operate as complete wing-backs either side of ball-playing duo Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique.
In the famed midfield trident, Sergio Busquets takes up his habitual defensive midfield role, looking to dictate the tempo, while Sergi Roberto will bring the box-to-box dynamism and Frenkie de Jong will be your forward-thinking midfield fulcrum.
In attack, Messi will start out on the right as an inside forward, with Greizmann on the opposite flank and Suarez through the middle as a deep-lying forward. The roles here can be tweaked for your own preference, of course.
An absolute given here, the six-time Ballon d‘Or winner is your talisman, catalyst and goalscorer. He will be imperative to everything you do and achieve in the Camp Nou dugout. Build a fluid system around him, and watch the Argentine phenom wreak absolute havoc and devastate petrified La Liga defences.
Frenkie de Jong
The Dutch magician is a Barca player down to a T and will ultimately prove central to your midfield plans. The 22-year-old operated as the metronome for Ajax, but that tempo-setting role with be taken by Busquets, so this is a perfect opportunity to unleash the passing grandmaster further up the field. He can pick an eye of the needle pass and unlock even the most watertight of defences.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
“In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker.” These famous words from Cruyff have effectively seen the goalkeeper develop into a virtual playmaker between the sticks. Few possess the requisite marriage between dexterity and ball-playing competence to pull off the role at an elite level, but Ter Stegen is certainly one of those rare cases. He is an excellent shot-stopper and can certainly pick a pass.
Best young players
One of the surprise packages of the season, Fati has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to prominence and looks set to don the colours of Barca for many years to come. He became the first 16-year-old in Barca‘s history to score a La Liga goal for the club and is being tipped for superstardom. Were you to take charge of Barca, you will have one of the best teenagers in world football at your disposal.
The Frenchman is quite literally the heir to Pique’s centre-back throne. He’s physically-imposing, quick, athletic, intelligent and good with the ball at his feet. With Lenglet only 24 and Todibo just 19, you’re pretty much set for an elite-level centre-back partnership for seasons to come.
Fati’s potential is good, Todibo’s is even better, but arguably the best of the bunch on FM20 is Moriba. This 16-year-old central midfielder is mature beyond his years, boasts the attributes of a man 10 years his senior and would not look out of sorts in the first-team already. A true star in the making.
As mentioned, your transfer budget will be slim, plus you have at least two top-class players in each position, even the goalkeeper, with Neto waiting in the wings. So, this is your chance to scour the market for hidden gems and pip your rivals to the post. Almada is a versatile Argentinian attacker who fits the profile of a Barca player, as well as becoming one of the best playmakers on the game — and most importantly, he is within your budget.
This one is a long-term goal, with Eriksen available to negotiate with in January and ultimately sign on a free transfer come next summer. As a freebie, it’s really a no-brainer, plus the Dane possesses the creative and technical excellence to acclimatise perfectly to La Liga football.
Now this one is only an option if you sell. As mentioned your budget won’t be huge, but there are a number of players you can offload for big bucks without jeopardising the quality of your squad. Should you go down this route, then Luis may be the way forward. As an all-out midfield destroyer, he would bring a completely new element to your midfield – think N’Golo Kante but much younger.
No longer needed
The 21-year-old is a very tidy and capable midfielder, but this is an area where you are well-stocked, and let’s face it, he’s not going to get in the side ahead of Arthur, De Jong, Ivan Rakitic, etc.
There can be no denying that Wague is an exceptional talent and can develop into one of the best right-backs on the game, but with Nelson Semedo and even Roberto ahead of him in the pecking order, you may as well look to earn some cash with both Man Utd and Spurs interested in a transfer.
Vidal is certainly one of Europe’s best central midfielders, but he is now arguably past his prime, and your midfield, as mentioned, includes five players ahead of him in the pecking order. He brings a different dimension to the midfield, granted, but then Roberto is currently the best box-to-box midfielder at Barca. Vidal would prove an expensive benchwarmer so it may be best to try and sell on.