In the previous article I discussed who of the 2016/2017 squad I would sell. I’ll now continue with the loanees, possible buy-backs and promotions. In brackets the age, rating and transfer value according to



Carles Aleña (19y, 6.13, promotion)

In the little minutes that he has played,  I have not seen the the spark some other talents show. However, we need to give more opportunities to our youth players and by all accounts he is up. Bring it on.

Marlon (21y, 6.72 / 6M option)

Barça would be crazy not to exercise the option to complete this signing. He looked so good last preseason that I was disappointed we didn’t see more of him during 2016/17. When he finally started a must-win game, I loved the contrast between the nerves on his face and the poise in his legs. I’m not 100% convinced of his defensive skills, but I’ll be happy if he is part of the squad as long as he gets significant minutes. If not, it might be better for him to be loaned out and face Liga strikers every week.



Munir El-Haddadi (21y, 6.69 / loan)

I remember his first match for us. A black cat walked on the pitch that day, but that didn’t stop  Munir from hitting the bar in the first half and scoring a breakaway goal in the second half. It’s fair to say (but not fair to him) that Munir never lived up to the promise of that game.

He was Valencia’s top scorer this season, which sounds very impressive until I started counting and stopped at eight. Is he better than Paco Alcacer? I don’t know. It’s impossible to judge because Paco’s adaptation period was so long and dire and he plays alright now. I still think Munir got wronged, but that’s in the past.

Looking at this with cold blue eyes, however, I say we get Munir back for free and sell Paco for a fee.



Sergi Samper (22y, 6.26 / loan)

Right at this moment, nobody knows how good Sergi Samper is. We all saw him play a full game of Champions League football against Apoel Nicosia and he looked like he had played in Barça A for years. Whatever LE saw in training that refrained him from integrating him in the first team, those 90 minutes against Apoel did not lie.

A lot of people criticize the loan to Granada now, but it made sense then. All agreed Paco Jemez was the perfect manager to give Sergi game time and develop him further. Six rounds into the season, Paco Jemez got fired. You know what they say, right? Everybody’s got a plan til somebody takes a shotgun to your kneecap.

So how good is Samper? The only way to find out is to play him, and nurture him, and teach him. Sergio Busquets would’ve been a third division player if it weren’t for Pep. Alas, Ernesto Valverde is not Josep Guardiola. Nobody is. At this point we have to choose between Gomes and Samper. One of those got significant playing time in Barça A last year. The other did quite poorly at one of the worst sides of the league.

It breaks me hard, kid, but I’m sorry. 



Deulo (23y, 6.99 / 12M buy-back option)

There was this boy who was really talented and whoe decided to work harder than anybody else. His name is Cristiano Ronaldo and he became one of the best football players in the world….

Deulofeu is a less talented version of that boy. He’s got a similar attitude but without the work ethic. Folks want him back because at Milan he played a decent couple of months and he is from our academy. He is also the only player the Masía has ever produced that does not want to pass the ball.

Douglas (26y, 6.92, 1M)

Yo, when we cheered your name in the Camp Nou whenever you came on and did something worth mentioning, you know we were just fucking with you, right?

Thomas Vermaelen ( / 0M -/- medical bills)

Out of sight for two years as part of the squad and out of mind the moment we loaned him out. Has he played at all this season? It was not Vermaelen’s fault, but paying 10M for a player who lives in a wheelchair was a truly moronic move. And to think I’d take Zubizarreta back as our technical director in a heartbeat… Oh, boy.




Before discussing incoming transfers, let’s agree upon what we do not know.

We do not know exactly how much the club can spend, although the answer is probably: a lot. There’s a new sponsor coming in and the combined sales of Arda Turan, Ivan Rakitic, Denis Suarez and Paco Alcacer should add another 60-90M to our war chest.

We do not know which player actually wants to come. Robert Fernandez could very well want to sign the second coming of Christ, but if J.C. prefers to play for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC and make more money than God, there is little we can do about it.

I will therefore discuss not only who I want to come, but also name some other options and even discuss some players I do not want to come. I’ll start with what we need most:


PRIMARY NEED: World class creative midfielder.

Rakitic was able to replace Xavi not because Rakitic was as good as Xavi but because Ivan’s role meant that other players could shine. Now that it’s time to phase out Iniesta, we absolutely need an elite player to compensate for the loss of quality this represents.



Thiago Alcántara (26y, 8.05, 40M)

Walk on by.



Marco Verratti (24y, 7.46, 40M)

When Iniesta told him he would be his successor during our most humiliating loss this side of Athens, culés hearts skipped with joy at the thought of Verratti making the jump from Paris to Barcelona. Such hope is more likely than not in vain, as not only does the young midfielder professes his loyalty to Paris Saint Germain at every turn, his paymaster is loathe to let his best player go.

Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Heck, send out some feelers and if he wants to come, go all out. Last thing you want is to not ask the guy in the one summer he chooses to leave and to then see him in a Juventus shirt next season – or worse, in a similar one without black stripes.

PS – Oh, and if the answer is “no,” fire Ariedo Braida. What has that guy ever done for us anyway?



Philippe Coutinho (24y, 7.56, 40M)

On a good day, Phillipe would walk into the gala 11 of any team of the world. For a transfer fee northwards of 80 million euros, he would undoubtedly be expected to walk into ours, and again, on a good day, even when playing in a position he rarely plays at Liverpool, this would be lovely.

It’s the bad days that should worry us. Also, note that Iniesta plays an important defensive role as well, which is another concern when you move Coutinho from his habitual left wing to the middle of the pitch.



Jean-Michael Seri (25y, 7.14, 12M)

He’s very recently held up as somebody who would be natural successor of Xaviniesta, but let’s be honest, players with the quality and potential to one day take over from two of the best ever midfielders to ever grace a soccer pitch are widely known and admired years before their 25th birthday. These players do not just come to light at the nearing of a transfer window.

Christian Eriksen (25 yrs, 7.45, 35M)

Strong on the ball, a good passer and a long shot threat, Eriksen was on Barça’s radar when he was still back at Ajax. One of the important players of a very strong Tottenham Hotspurs side these last couple of seasons, he is under contract until 2020. You know that means he’s cost a gazillion euros. I agree Eriksen is good, but even if he were good enough to run our midfield, which is not a given, he is not a gazillion euros type good.

Roque Mesa (27 yrs, 6.60, 9M)

Another hipster choice. I can see why people like him, I like him too, but guys, there’s a difference between doing it at Las Palmas and doing it at F.C. Barcelona.




A  quick recap: Verratti is not coming and Thiago even less. Coutinho has elite potential but so does James Rodriguez and, unlike Florentino Perez, if Barça spend >80M we cannot miss. Seri is still a relative lightweight. It seems that it is really, really, really difficult to find a replacement for Andrés Iniesta. You’ll be relieved then to find he already plays for us.



Lionel Messi (30y, 8.47, salary bump)

For years culés have been talking about Messi evolving from a pure attacker to a midfielder. Now that the need is there, the time has come. Give him a traditional number 10 slot and he will no longer keep that nominal right forward position hostage.

He’s the best passer in the world.

He’s the best dribbler in the world.

He’s the best scorer in the world.

It would not be a drastic change from where he already plays.

There. Solved. It does create two other prominent needs, as we now need to replace Messi at right forward and make sure that his partners in midfield are compatible.


PRIMARY NEED: world class right forward

This one is easy. I was disappointed when we did not get him last year while he was cheap, but the choice he made spoke volumes about his character. Take note that the number 1 target is miles preferable over options 2, 3 and 4. This is a get-him-at-all-costs player.



Ousmane Dembele (20y, 7.50, 28M)

The young Frenchman is one of the most exciting players in world football right now. He turned Barça down last summer because he wanted to develop. And so he did. With Neymar on the left, Ousmane on the right, Suarez on point and Messi coming through the middle, teams will have to park an Airbus to have a prayer at stopping us.

Dembelé will easily cost double of his market value and if Borussia is smart, triple, but he’s worth it. All we need is for Robert to pop the question, Ousmane to say yes and we’ll live happily ever after.



Luca Moura (24 yrs, 7.44, 37M)

Quietly one of the best wingers in Ligue 1, it is easy to forget Moura is still only 24 years old. He might not always shine in the city of lights, but on the right of Neymar, Messi and Suarez? 

Riyad Mahrez (26 yrs, 7.01, 30M)

Technically gifted, Riyad looked like a world beater when he helped Leicester to the title. Now his star has fallen along with his club’s descent. Seems to really like Barça, so depending on his perhaps not so outrageous salary demands and the who knows how high or low transfer fee, this might be a decent option.

Felipe Anderson (24 yrs, 7.62, 24M)

Perhaps not the most skilled winger, what Felipe lacks in scoring and artistry, he makes up for in overall contribution and heart. Should Barça break the bank for him? No. Could he accomodate Messi’s shift to the midfield? Worthy of consideration.




SECONDARY NEED: Central midfielder

Hey, if we’re selling Rakitic… We now need to be a midfielder who is quick and technical enough to combine with Messi and Busquets when in possession, but at the same time can compensate for Messi’s lesser focus on defensive duties either through skill set or sheer force and dynamism. Either of the following choices would please me. If you can’t get either, it might be worth it to hang on to Rakitic.



Ander Herrera (27y, 7.33, 28M)

I think we can all agree he would not be the sexiest signing in the world, but Herrera would be a smart addition to our midfield. His standout qualities are his defensive contribution and his passing. I can’t think of any other player who together with Busquets could provide Messi with as much freedom.

An added bonus is that of all midfield signings, Herrera would probably adapt fastest.



Naby Keita (22y, 7.60, 22M)

Possibly the greatest midfield prospect in world football right now, and for some reason nobody is talking about him. Naby can do it all.

Dribble past three guys + goalkeeper? Check.

Split the defense with a through ball? Check.

Make key defensive plays? Check.

Make fans dust off their old Keita shirts to wear to the Camp Nou? Check.

Keita was arguably the most important player of widely despised Red Bull Leipzig’s virgin run at the title. Comparing his individual stats to those of world beaters such as Thiago and Verratti at a similar stage of their careers, Naby definitely does not come off shabby (squawka). The drawback is he’s raw, very raw and as such, he would probably need time to adapt. The attraction is that of all the midfielders that can be got, his ceiling is the highest.




SECONDARY NEED: Central Defender

This is a difficult choice. You don’t know it by the way he is playing, but Piqué will become old sooner than we think. Robert struck gold with Umtiti, but he will need a partner. Their only reliable backup right now is Javier Mascherano and it’s easy to see how this could be his last year at the club. Of course we have Marlon, who is still, yes, after two full games, an unknown quantity. I will not bet my house on Marlon. This means we conceivably need a player to back up now, even though he might not get a lot of minutes and we would like that player to have the potential to become a starter in a couple of years.



Davinson Sánchez (20 yrs, 7.31, 7.5M)

Although he’s only a pup, Ajax’ Davison Sánchez is coveted by pretty much every team in Europe. This means he will cost 25M at the very least. He made a couple of mistakes during the lost Europa League final against Man U, but his speed and defensive prowess remedied these situations before an attacker could take advantage.

Could he be a future rock in our defense? Before he can even think about replacing Piqué, he would have to battle it out with Mascherano and Marlon for backup minutes next season. Limited playtime might not be what he has in mind right now.



Cesar Azpilicueta (27 yrs, 7.19, 25M)

With Cesar Barça would get a RB, LB and CB all in the same player. The question becomes whether he is skilled enough on the ball to be a starting right back for us and if not, why would he leave Chelsea to play second fiddle behind our starting CBs?

If Valverde decides 3-4-3 is the way forward, however, Azpilicueta would instantly become the perfect defensive signing. He is an excellent defender, of the energetic Puyol / Mascherano mold which so naturally complements the more laidback Piqué and Umtiti.



Yerry Mina (22y, n/a, 750k)

Another Colombian, Yerry could be Davinson’s older brother. Taller, more muscular, and… well, that’s it. An intimidating aerial presence who is, for his size, decent with the ball at his feet, Mina is yet to make the jump to Europe. He already starts for his national selection who are currently in second place in the South American World Cup qualifiers which, again, is impressive. Puzzlingly, Barça has an 8M preferential deal for a player whose supposed market value is 750k.

If minutes at CB are limited, this relatively cheap young prospect is worth serious consideration.



Mauricio Lemos (22y, n/a, 750k)


A talented defender and a lot of culés talk about him, which is to be expected from anyone who can pass the ball. However his profile is too similar to that of Piqué and Umtiti and as such, he won’t compensate for their (relative) weaknesses.

Thank you, but no thank you.




SECONDARY NEED: World class right back

The only position where we don’t have a player widely considered as one of the best in his position / role. So why is this not a primary need?

  • No clear option on the market.
  • A good option will still take a fair chunk of over transfer budget.
  • Sergi Roberto can still become a very good full back for us.

However, if we get an elite midfielder (meaning Verratti) or Coutinho, it might not make sense to move Messi to midfield. In that case, since Messi tends to drift towards the middle from his right forward position which leave his flank undermanned, we should to examine if there is a dominant right back available.



Héctor Bellerín (22 yrs, 6.82, 25M)

It appears nobody wants Bellerín at Barça, just as it seems inevitable Barça will get Bellerín this summer. He’s been accused of being a speed merchant, a headless chicken and even a right-sided Jordi Alba. I don’t get how comparing him to one of the best left backs in Europe is an insult. If a right-sided Jordi Alba joins our club while still getting better at the age of 22, I’m all for it. Rather now than after an additional season or two of Arsène Wenger’s loser mentality imprinted into his soul. Except that…

  1. Arsenal will charge us anywhere between 35-70M
  2. RB is not a current priority.

Bellerín the player is not as terrible as people make him out to be. However, unless we have money for a Manchester City type overhaul, Bellerín the signing makes little sense this summer.

Djibril Sidibé (24 yrs, 7.18, 14M)

The hipsters’ choice over Bellerín. Monaco won’t hold a fire sale this summer, but if it’s a right back we need and we have money to burn, we could do worse.

Nelson Semedo (23 yrs, 7.31, 14M)

Like most talented right backs, Nelsinho knows how to dribble and how to pass and how to tackle. He might be less expensive than Bellerín, but Benfica does not sell cheap. Again, do we need a right back?




Enough with the talk. My squad for 2017/18. This takes into account what I think is doable (players want to come for prices we are willing to pay). With unlimited funds, I would very much like to add Azpilicueta for a main lineup of 3-4-3 and I’d be willing to give up Mascherano to make space.


*In brackets their age by the end of 2017/18 season













Categorized as Barcelona

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. I don’t see Deulofeu in your eleven up there. Seems u don’t want him. You’d rather keep Munir?
    By the way, I think we should sell Rafinha. He’s injury prone and also Gomez; that guy is holding up the progress and playing time of other midfielders.

  2. Thanks for a very thorough discussion, Levon! Many good points to try to make some sense of this chaos. However, your final gala 11 is, to my mind, much to unbalanced, as Messi will never – despite our hopes – turn into a proper CM. He is not interested enough to make defensive contributions, and his genius is needed for attack (also, it seems he does not really have the stamina either, with his short, sprinter muscles). And with Iniesta as the second CM we would be amazing with the ball, but run (literally) over by quality teams without it. Of course, we could look at RM (sorry) and how they play Isco in a free role, leaving Suarez and Neymar up front, but then we need killer fullbacks.

    Problem is, that 433 will not work as it should without a RW, which means Valverde must consider other options and build around Messi as a 10 (or hope Vidal or, say, Bellerin could run the entire RW). So, 343 (or 3313) seems to best provide a natural position for Leo. But this requires quite the defensive contribution from the RW and LW – will Neymar continue to provide this? And would Dembele be able to do that? I have not seen him enough, so it’s a honest question. Gomes might do some good there, as he seems more comfortable on the wing (not quick enough for CM) or, as you out him, DM, since he gets more time on the ball. In a 343, I would not mind Roberto as RCM to possibly replace Rakitic (who I think will not leave, however). Possibly, Alba could fill in for Iniesta at LCM. Keita seems like an exciting possibility for L-RMC, too, if he is quicker and has a better first touch than Raki.

    I would not dismiss Samper so quickly, but it is a problem, I agree. We’ll see what Valverde and Robert will do, but they would not be worse off taking a few cues from your articles!

    1. Or… we could do the crazy thing and just let Messi play Iniesta’s position and get a VERY GOOD BALL HOLDING RCM. Makes him stay closer to Neymar. Of course this could leave our right side totally dead without a good winger if at all we get a VERY GOOD right back.

    2. … and apparently Keita stated in an interview that his dream was to play for Barca, whatever that’s worth!

    3. The answer to that is that Iniesta will be phased out. Teaming Messi with Keita or Ander Herrera will go quite some way to compensate for his lack of defense and if not, I am a big fan of the 3-4-3 (which is another reason why I am more than willing to give SR another year at RB).

      By all accounts Dembele seems to have a good head on his shoulders. If he sees Neymar busting his guts on defense, he’ll follow suit. If not, his coach and teammates won’t hesitate to tell him all about it.

    4. Alright, so you mean the two of them would rarely be fielded together? Perhaps I took your final 11 too literally. Herrera will not come, though, but the little I’ve seen from Keita (only highlights, I admit) looks quite impressive (much more so that Seri, whom you rightly dismiss, I think). Either way, I do think that 343 is the only reasonable solution to Messi’s position, unless some kind of 4213 would be viable. In that case, Keita, Azi and Dembele seems like priorities – none of them impossible.

  3. Is it sure Herrera will stay at Man U? You’re right to point out playing both Iniesta and Messi in midfield creates an imbalance. The diagram was indeed meant to be more of a fluid template than a literal “this is how we are going to play the whole season.”

    I think Iniesta is about 7 months younger than Xavi during his last season with us, so I hope he could contribute a bit more, especially during the first part of the season when a player like Keita (please, God, please) needs a bit more time to assimilate.

    3-4-3 is awesome and I am encouraged Valverde mentioned that formation today. For me, all three of Dembele, Keita and Azi would be a dream, but all are tied to long-term contracts, which is why I think Yerry Mina is a good pickup.

    I agree that both Dembele and Keita are possible, but the transfer fees will be quite high. Keita is only 22 years old, so for him to be a leader on a team that challenged Bayern for a good chunk of the season is impressive. Most of the games, RB Leipzig played some kind of weird 4-2-2-2 with Keita as one of the defensive mids, but the few times they lined up in 4-3-3 he actually played better (personally I think if a player can play 4-3-3, he can play 3-4-3). Another huge advantage is his nationality: he will rest most summers.

    1. Not sure, of course, but from what I have seen he does not seem too hot on the idea, as he is doing well at Man U. But if they follow your advise to sell Rakitic, and Herrera is promised a starting spot, who knows… it seems Keita has a €50 million buyout clause, but several PL clubs are ready to spend, and Dembele also has a massive clause (unknown). But both expressed their desire to play at Barca!

      I have to say, though, that this summer is of major importance for Barca on the transfer market, and we must be ready to splash large sums to make a statement. Messi has yet to sign his extension, and Real (apart from having more young prospects than Barca at the moment) as well as the PL clubs are very active. It is sad, but to remain on level some real reinforcements are needed. We must finally realise that the La Masia dream is but a dream.

  4. Ooph, that last sentence hit me hard., “we must finally realize that La Masia is a dream.” think the last transfer window in particular was pretty brutal. Gomes, Paco, Digne.

    Seeing as how Gomes is nowhere near Barça material at CM, I wonder how Samper would have developed as Busquet’s understudy.

    The Alcacer versus Munir decision which was just preposterous. I can see Munir leaving if we got Gabriel frickin’ Jesus, but to loan out Munir in favor of Valencia’s backup striker? That’s some serious wtf s… And I know Paco has been playing well the last two monitors but he’s sucked for lost of the year. Is he really that much better than Munir for us to forsake la Masia?

    This is nothing against Gomes and Paco, as I understand the argument for continuity and I agree that they improved immensely over the course of a season. This is why I would probably choose Gomes over Samper. The Masia player stood still while the signing developed. But it should’ve been the other way around. Surely nobody in their right mind would say that Gomes/Alcacer were worth 65M over Munir and Samper? We’re talking about BACKUP players. Never mind that Gomes took valuable minutos from Rafinha/D. Suárez in a position that he’s not even suited for?

    (And hey, I’m not even talking about Grimaldo vs Digne, because that’s another travesty right there.

    All in all, Gomes + Paco + Digne represent 73M that we could have spent on someone who would e made the squad BETTER last season. For roles that should’ve been covered by our cantera.

    (Rant over)

    1. Oh, absolutely. I don’t mean La Masia is dead and buried – but that we can’t expect to generate superstars every generation. I completely agree with your discussion and feel the same about those 73M. Maybe my comment was a bit off – we did after all buy Neymar and Suarez. It’s just a general notion, that Barca have been sloppy regarding transfers at times, due partly – perhaps! – to being a little smug about our La Masia core. I guess I simply mean that Iniesta’s replacement (*shudder*) most likely won’t come from La Masia. Squad players, on the other hand, are – just like you point out – just the thing that the cantera should offer regularly.

      Sorry to upset you! Careless writing…

  5. Most of the players you mentioned are pretty great but I totally disagree in the RB position.
    We need an actual RB not a CM converted to RB, Sergi Roberto is sick of playing at RB and I understand him. His skills are best set to run a midfield like he did against RM at the 4-0 at the Bernabeu. He was immense that game. Bellerin would be the best signing for me but also the most expensive. Wenger does not want to let him go by any means. I like Bellerin. He’s extremely fast, knows how to cross and pass, and simply having that extreme pace will make us a better defensive unit, because he would be able to bomb forward and recover like Dani used to do which is something Sergi Roberto just can’t do. He doesn’t have that kind of speed.

  6. Let’s see what happens. I have several Portuguese coworkers, not all of whom are Benfica fans, who tell me Semedo is the real deal and would be a quality right back for us.

  7. Nicely written Levon, also your discussion with Davour.
    Loaning out Samper was a very bad decision. My mind keeps on telling me he would have been a very good squad player and would have shown better improvement than shown by Gomes.
    It is also pretty disappointing that we are not discussing about any strong squad players for the midfield from LaMasia. Alena of course, but there is not that much surety he will be in the squad next season.

  8. Very nicely written, very funny (I especially like the Deulofeu bit). Also lots of useful information. Thanks!

    Two more things to consider:

    1. Most players who come to play at Barcelona turn out to do worse here than you would expect from their performances at other teams, their youtube compilations, whatever. Ibrahimovic? Sanchez? Arda Turan? The list is a lot longer. So we probably shouldn’t get too excited about that hot new player or that experienced veteran coming here, because everything can happen, from full-on breakthrough to repeated facepalms in front of the television.

    2. Which leads to my second point. Adaption is hard at Barcelona, where some of the world’s most brilliant players challenge each other with playstation football. André Gomes is a case in point, because I think he would have a good season at a different club where he wasn’t required to guess at the unexpected actions of his teammates within split-seconds. That will be true even if Valverde goes for a radical change of tactics, and it means the players aren’t totally interchangeable. Sell Rakitic for another player with his skillset, and make money? Sure, but don’t expect that the new player will do what Rakitic did right from the start. Same goes for Alcacer, who has just begun finding his feet and connecting to Neymar, Suarez and Messi.

    1. True. Though some do adapt quickly – the very Rakitic you mentioned (due to a very specific role), and Umtiti (due to awesomeness!), as did Luis Suarez and others. Actually, I think Alexis did quite well in the beginning, but declined after an injury and never found his feet to the same extent. It seems, as been discussed here before, that players who are put in a “tailored” position do well (see examples above), though of course not all players. But the creative CM-position is just particularly hard to manage – Gomes, to me, seems like a player finding space during counters rather than being a intricate playmaker – he does not have that quickness, it seems, and has been doing better on the wing and at RB(!) where plays are more straightforward.

      In other words, we need players who can not only slot in, but make their mark; who are well scouted to suit the team, and to make sure there is a clear plan how to utilize them. This year, I for one am not sure that plan was clear enough; it seems LE relied on Iniesta to stay healthy and Rafinha (and Arda?) to step up, hoping to break in Gomes and Denis slowly. That did not happen.

      Still, 2-3 quality transfers, letting some superfluous players go, perhaps cashing in on someone, combined with faith in Gomes becoming good enough for rotation… I would also bring Samper home (rather than keeping Denis, who is not good enough). Munir is trickier – this year Suarez will need more rotation, and at the moment Alcacer seems to me a better fit than Munir (though I think the transfer was a mistake). We’ll see. What is important is that we buy at least two players who are good enough, in theory, to step straight into the first eleven.

    2. I agree on needing players who can make their mark. However, players like Arda Turan or André Gomes at least to me DID look as if they could be those players when they came to Barcelona, so I’m cautious about “perfect” players now.

      I like Alexis a lot as a player, and his failure at Barca seemed much more of a mental issue than one of technical skills. He was able to do great things with the ball, but I remember him passing the ball back to wherever Messi was on the pitch rather than doing something himself most of the time, that awesome Clásico goal notwithstanding. Now at Arsenal, he always wants the ball, even to the extent of taking on three or four defenders himself instead of passing to an open player. Arsenal Sanchez at Barcelona would have been great, but maybe just not possible. And maybe Liverpool Coutinho or Dortmund Dembelé at Barcelona are also not possible.

    3. I’m sorry, but to me Gomes did not look like a world-beater at Valencia (nor did Paco), and he was surely signed as primarily a future prospect. Arda was on a different level at AM, but was their enough analysis regarding his role at Barca? I don’t think so. And I agree on Alexis, but as I remember it, this started a little later, after some injury problems. Still wonder what he could have done with a little more time as a CF.

      And of course, “prefect” players do not exist. But well thought-through transfers do.

    4. 1a) Ibra’s failure to adapt was down to Messi’s need to play in the middle and Ibra’s refusal to accept that and subsequent loss in form or will to play well.
      1b) I don’t think Alexis failed at Barça. He struggled during a big part of his second year but that was because of a goal drought which in turn affected his confidence. Then under Tata he was great for half a season and then Tata started doing crazy things like playing Cesc Fabregas instead of Sanchez… That messed up his confidence again.
      1c) Arda is a shame, he has the skill set / attributes to adapt. What I think people did not expect is that it is easy for a player to defend well if every player on your team goes after the ball like a mama crocodile protecting her nest of hatchlings. His bad defense was a biggest reason he can’t play in midfield for us.

      2. You make a valid point about Rakitic and I did take that into consideration. I don’t expect a new player to do what Rakitic did right from the start – actually, it took Rakitic a good half-season to adapt as well – but, like Rakitic, I would expect a new player to play some good matches while adapting and not to suck for most of the year.

      Getting back to Raki, there are two big reasons for selling him besides the money.
      A) his age
      B) I simply don’t seem him as a very good partner for Leo Messi in midfield. He would be the link in the triangle Busi – Messi – Raki and I just don’t think his skill set is the best choice.
      Herrera would be more fluid, I believe, and somebody else (Keita) might have a hard time adapting, but would at least have an upward trajectory.

  9. A good piece of work, Lev, especially for folks like me who don’t watch a whole lot of continental football. I’d agree with most of your ins and outs with only a little quibble here or there.

    The big issue for me, and I make no apologies for coming back to it, is Samper. If we choose to try to up our midfield, as I hope we do, we don’t have room for journeymen. They all need to be able to maximise ( or maybe stop?) time through instant control, ability to turn away from trouble instinctively and pass naturally. To me, he has ( had ?) all these attributes before the stupid loan to a doomed team. Nothing to do with the manager there, more the fact that we knew it would have nine or ten loanees and no style, certainly nothing like ours. I still don’t know why people couldn’t see that back then. Anyway, Although he was great as you mention against Apoel my own favourite was away in the CL against Leverkusen who had to win and pressed us mightily for most of the match. That is when you can tell if someone will make it at Barca, not easy games against poor teams who give you time. Vid below, warts and all ( because even I have questions about some aspects of his defence ) but when you think you’re watching a kid playing with half the team second stringers against a press and performs like this you’ve got a future Barca midfielder, either at DM or further forward. Not trying to be antagonistic but take a mental picture of Gomes et al with you as you watch this vid.

    1. Watching this video, it is hard to understand how Samper did not make the squad. He looks much more the part than, say, Alena, has during his brief cameos. Of course, it is hard to note movements and positioning and other tactical details. Apart from a few “warts”, that almost all seem to be typical youth-player mistakes, or acceptable ones (no one’s perfect), he looks to have great awareness and passing ability – quick mind, calm. Could perhaps manage CM, too, with a little experience. Only reason for loan would be that the club figured he needed playing time, and Granada was the only ones wanting him (and club thought Paco would be a good influence). In hindsight, as been repeated often, Gomes and Alcacer must lift themselves pretty radically for this scheme (sending Samper and Munir away) to be called successful. Hopefully Samper will get a second chance and a little patience this time, in acknowledgment of his skills suitable for possession.

    2. Gomes vs Samper is the most difficult decision for me. There’s no room for both, because essentially both need to back up Busquests.

      I’d keep Gomes on and sadly let Samper go. If the club gets good money for Gomes and decides to bet on Samper, I’m cool with that.

  10. Whoever we sign, in whatever position, I want to see the highest technical quality, the ability to manipulate the football, and the mental skills such as composure to go with it. The goal should always be 10 (make that 11) ballplayers and making football both simple yet an art-form.

    Like for pure example, I don’t think Sanchez of Ajax is a bad player, but give me his partner De Ligt (yes I know he is very young, and he is probably best served staying at Ajax for now – just a comparison) every time. I would always value that technical ability over physical attributes.

    Right back obviously is needed. I’m also hoping we go back to our ‘roots’ with midfield control under EV and so another cerebral central midfielder would be ideal.

    What I hope above all though is long term, that more money (yes, even more) and focus goes onto La Masia and we go back to having one system and a pathway for players o come through and, world-beaters or not, be comfortable and contribute.

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