I’m going to cut straight to the chase. The squad we currently have, not counting the loanees and Barça B players:
Goalkeepers: Marc-André Ter Stegen (25), Jasper Cillessen (28), Jordi Masip (28)
Ter Stegen will be our goalkeeper for the next 8 years or longer and Cillessen is a solid backup.
Central Defenders: Piqué (30), Mascherano (32), Umtiti (24), Matthieu (45)
Only Umtiti is young. Pique set foot on the third floor, on which Mascherano is two steps ahead.
Fullbacks: Jordi Alba (28), Sergi Roberto (25), Aleix Vidal (27), Lucas Digne (23)
None need to be replaced right now, however only Jordi Alba can be considered world class and he’s the oldest of the bunch.
Midfielders: Iniesta (33), Busquets (28), Rakitic (29), Rafinha (25), Gomes (23),D. Suárez (23)
Midfield is a priority this summer. Having lost Thiago, Xavi and soon Iniesta, a high quality injection is urgently needed.
Forwards: Messi (30), Suarez (30), Neymar (25), Alcacer (23)
Messi will turn 30 soon yet shows no signs of slowing down, but while Neymar is entering his prime, Luis Suarez might just have exited his.
YOU CAN LEAVE ME BUT I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU
Marc-André Ter Stegen (6.85 whoscored.com rating / 22M transfermarkt.com value)
Had it been up to me, Bravo would have stayed one more year. Nevertheless, after a rocky first couple of months, MATS has been very solid this season. He stopped passing the ball to opposing attackers, improved his 1 vs 1 skills and put in an elite performance in the Clasico at the Bernabeú. Suffered a relapse at home against Villareal (bad MATS!) but I guess I’ll have to live with those for the seasons to come. Needs to work on corners / set pieces.
Piqué (7.20 / 40M)
I can’t think of a better defender in the world for this club than Piqué. Strong in the air, strong on the ball and strong overall. Important on the pitch, important in the dressing room, important on Twitter. Piqué is just like us, if we were handsome and supremely talented and earned millions for playing football at the club we’ve supported since childhood and were all married to Shakira.
Umtiti (6.98 / 28M)
When the signing was announced, he was just a name to me, a young CB from Olympique Lyon. Umtiti stood below Jeremy Mathieu (4 caps) in the pecking order to represent France in the Euros, but by the time he reached the knock-out phase he was an undisputed starter. The only successful signing of the, let’s call it, Robert Fernandez era. Ugh, I do not like the way that sounds… Robert Fernandez era. Robert, give us more Umtitis and less Dignes, please.
Alba (6.91 / 32M)
Not many full backs can run the length of a pitch in the 92nd minute of a game and play a perfect one-time cutback to Messi’s left foot instead of swinging it into the general direction any of the four teammates who just bombed into the penalty box. He grew up a 20-minute walk from the Camp Nou, is one of the best left backs in the world and yet there are those who say Jordi Alba doesn’t belong. They’re wrong.
Sergio Busquets (7.02 / 60M)
Culés act like somebody dissed their moms whenever high praise is given to a defensive midfielder not named Busquets. Kanté player of the year – a million crying Barça fans on my left. Sergio doesn’t make somebody’s top 20 list – a million whiney Barça babies on my right.
The truth is that Busi did not exactly flourish under Luis Enrique, whose lower emphasis on midfield control meant more space in between the lines, which left him isolated on both offense and defense. It is no coincidence he recaptured his best form since 2013/14 when the team switched to 3-4-3, which made him the center of all that’s good and lovely again.
For a Barça that wants to play like Barça, Busquets is essential.
Andrés Iniesta (6.93 / 30M)
Should retire at this club.
Neymar (8.52 / 100M)
The day Messi goes back to Argentina, he will leave a void that cannot be filled, but at least we have the next best thing in world football. Neymar’s growing into a complete player at 25 years old but has still not reached his full potential. Will he ever? We’ve seen him take over games, now he needs to get to where he starts to do this more consistently.
Luis Suárez (7.81 / 90M)
Luis played like crap for the first half of the season and just when it looked like he had climbed out of the hole, he went and dug himself back in. Then again, even when he plays like crap he still scores and assists more than any other number 9 in the world. Having missed out on Gabriel Jesus one year ago, there are no obvious replacements on the market this summer for an elite striker. This makes him indispensable even as he’s started his decline.
Lionel Messi (8.46 / 120M
Keeping the above players, our core will look like this:
YOU KNOW YOU LOVE ME
Mascherano (6.83 / 12M)
Notwithstanding the fact that he finally scored, this was not a good year for el Jefecito. He alternated strong performances with weak ones, and weak performances by defenders tend to lose us points. Still, as a rotation CB or as a RCB in 3-4-3 he is invaluable, and so is his leadership and locker room presence.
Sergi Roberto (7.01 / 25M)
Valverde needs to sit Sergio down and tell him that if he wants to remain a starter at Barça, the right back spot remains his. Sure, it’s not fun to go from “who is Dani Alves” to “Sergi Roberto sucks” in the space of a few months. Yes, being targeted as the weak link by Manchester City, Real M*drid and Paris Saint Germain sucks hind parts. But he has learned and will continue to learn at this position. That marauding run he makes from deep down his own right flank? His single greatest attribute as a footballer. He can’t make that run if he starts in the midfield, there’s no space to run into.
Long term it is difficult to see a future for him in a midfield traditionally as talented as ours. If Sergi doesn’t want to play right back at the club of his dreams, his transfer fee should go towards somebody who does.
Rafinha (7.15 / 15M)
Every time things look up for Rafinha, he gets his leg broken / ligaments torn / face ripped apart. Fans don’t appreciate little Rafael fully because they focus on the lack of an end product, and yeah, that frustrates me as well, but I see the complete picture.
His goals aren’t pretty but timely. He’s quick and dynamic and he recovers the ball in dangerous positions. He’s like an extra set of lungs for a team that needs an oxygen mask. If that final pass or shot become more consistent, that would be gravy.
Also, cough, he loves the club, which is more than I can say for some people, cough cough.
Cillessen (6.06 / 12M)
The way he plays, looks and acts…he could be Marc-Andrés skinny twin. I arrived at the last minuted for the Copa game against Atleti and it wasn’t until halftime I realized he wasn’t MATS. I would have much preferred his slot to be given to a Masía player, but now that he’s here he looks like a solid backup for years to come.
Jordi Masip (unrated / 1M)
Jordi Masip should do whatever Jordi Masip wants to do. If that’s to play the final of the Copa de Catalunya every year for the rest of your career, I will not stand in the way.
Aleix Vidal (7.34 / 7.5M)
He looked awful and then he looked good and then his foot went one way and his ankle the other. My line of thinking at this point is that one, he might still become a very useful player for us and two, we won’t make much money by selling him.
SIT DOWN, WE NEED TO TALK
André Gomes (6.65 / 30M)
People hate him but that’s only because he sucked a lot. The case can easily be made that we would have won three more points over the course of the season if he had started less games, but I don’t blame him. Lucho messed up playing Gomes where he shouldn’t have. Stubborn is as stubborn does. Too big and too slow to play in small spaces means we’ve only seen glimpses of why the club dished out such a large sum of money a player who my Camp Nou seat neighbor can’t stop calling “una patata” (a potato).
Those of us with a view that’s objective enough not to blame Gomes for everything that’s gone wrong see the talent and the skill set that can make him a very good player for us. We wouldn’t have gone down 2-0 in Turin if his confidence hadn’t been shot to pieces, because uhm, your coach would have started him in the position that makes sense for him.
On the other hand, rumors have it several clubs are offering the sum we paid for Gomes. I’m okay with him staying, but it will be a hard choice between developing Sergi Samper and thanking André for his services.
Lucas Digne (6.92 / 16M)
Lucas Digne impressed during the preseason and failed to do so ever since. It is hard to believe we paid 18M for a left back who at Paris Saint Germain couldn’t dislodge a 34 year old who we had sold when he was 29. I actually think he was our worst signing. At least the others have shown glimpses of talent, Lucas not so much.
He’s lucky that a left back is nowhere near a priority this summer. Bar an offer we can’t refuse, we might as well give Digne another chance to prove his worth.
DON’T CRY. IT ISN’T YOU, IT IS ME.
Arda Turan (7.15 / 28M)
Arda was very solid as a backup left forward during the first half of the season. That is not why we signed him, though. We hoped he would be solid as a left forward and as a right forward or in midfield either alongside Iniesta or as a worthy Iniesta light. In this regard he has failed me utterly. In the regard that his incredibly stupid and needless foul on Marcelo cost us the victory in the home clasico which turned out to cost us the league, he has also failed me utterly.
At this point Arda Turan is a big name squad player who is mostly useful if we are unfortunate enough to lose Neymar to injury. He will turn 31 in January 2018. The club needs to sell Arda while we can still get a decent transfer fee.
Denis Suarez (6.60 / 18M)
Great preseason and great matches against Bayern Monchengladbach and against Real Sociedad. It’s not that as much that he played badly in other matches, it’s that he made himself invisible. He seems to be worth quite a bit of money so if someone comes knocking, I’d open the door.
Paco Alcacer (6.73 / 20M)
We gotta hand it to Paco. He was as useless as a wall knob, but after half a season he started scoring goals and getting involved in overall play. Let’s be cold about this, however. Between Paco and Munir it is far from clear who is the better player. If the ex-canterano comes back for free, any money we can get back by selling Alcacer would be good. I don’t exactly like this option, because he seems like a nice guy and it would pretty much be a dick move, but hey, money talks.
Mathieu (6.79 / 5M)
For a 46-year old chain smoking vampire wannabe, he was not as bad as people say. I would not be upset if he stayed, but for the sanctuary of my Twitter timeline, let’s sell Jeremy Mathieu.
I LOVE YOU, BUT LOOK AT ALL THAT SETTLEMENT MONEY
Ivan Rakitic (7.18 / 45M)
Damn, people have been dogging Raki all year. Sure, he went through a rough patch, but players don’t shine by doing the donkey work. The problem is that if he doesn’t do it, his teammates won’t shine either, and the team needs Messi to shine. I’m going to hold up my hand and say he’s had some brilliant performances this season. Man of the match in the opening game against Bilbao, a vital header against Atleti and a dream goal in the Bernabeu. Rakitic is a man worthy of every praise he has gotten, and none gave so eloquently as Kevin in this piece.
So if Ivan Rakitic is so darn good, why is he not indispensable? One reason is because we can get a big fat bag of money for him if we sell him now instead of two years from now. Another is that of all our top players pushing 30 or beyond, he is the only one we can possibly replace. Last but not least, phasing out Iniesta means changes coming up in our midfield. Will Rakitic be the most compatible with what’s to come? In our current setup, his role is invalable. His skill set, however, is not unique.
After sales, we are left with the following squad members:
Please click here to see the incoming transfers.