January is looming, along with its attendant transfer window madness. This transfer season has a twist, in that we have a few players who are either due for a contract sweetening, or a renewal that might or might not reflect their real or imagined market value.
Dani Alves (Citeh, Chelsea) and Sergi Busquets (Chelsea) are the two biggest names that are in play on the rumor mill. And that stuff is all, for me, squarely in the “Whatever” category, because both want to stay. But it got me to thinking about our roster, who might be for sale for the right price, who would definitely be for sale and who would never, ever not for all the money on the planet, be for sale.
Not at all being sure how to do this, I’ll deal with the first-choice starting XI first, then the reserves. My first bit will be the club’s view (not that I would know, but it’s fun to speculate). The second would be my view on the matter, designated by a (K). Here we go.
Valdes: You bet. If the price was right, we’d ship him off in two seconds. Why? In part because keepers are never, ever, except in rare cases, given the love they often deserve. (K)For me, Valdes is the perfect keeper for us, and would make my “not for any price” list. Our system requires a sweeper keeper, and Valdes is exceptional in that role. When you think about our defense and the way it plays, and the keeper’s role in often functioning as another CB, it’s hard to imagine another player doing so as effectively as Valdes.
Alves: Yes, for the right price. Something north of 32m would prise him loose. We don’t want to sell him, but there are people on the market and in the pipeline who might alleviate the pain of his sale. (K)I’d sell him this summer, based not only on my Three-Year Brazilian theory. We have the likes of Bartra and Dalmau bopping about, Adriano as a short-term replacement, and Van Der Wiel could also be had for a price that would leave us with change from the Alves deal. What would we lose? No, what would we really lose? Good question.
Pique: No. He’s young, is part of the bright future of our back line and Barca to his lanky core. He’s world-class, and is still improving. (K)No way. Yes, we could get some extravagant sums for him, but where to find the next Piquenbauer? We have some hot B teamers, but they will be partnering Pique, not supplanting him.
Puyol: Are you CRAZY!? Puyol is the heart and soul of our club. It’s a question of loyalty. Puyol might decide that he is better off going into the sunset with some other, less demanding league/club, but we will never sell him. (K)Captain Caveman is essential. Full stop. As with Paolo Maldini, Puyol is the face of the club, and valuable in teaching young’uns.
Abidal: For the right price. A number in the 25m range would work him loose. He doesn’t have many French Greyhound years left, even as his pace and range allow us to play with three back, as Guardiola often does. He’s said that he wants to retire with us. (K) For the right price, I’d sell. Maxwell would be an excellent stopgap, and Adriano has LB skills. If we are going to sell, the time is now.
Busquets: No way in hell. Busquets is the tangible embodiment of Guardiola’s ideal DM. And for good reason. (K) No way, even though people are buzzing about him. What he does for us in our current system would be impossible to replace.
Xavi: Bwahahahaha!. No, seriously. The club would laugh. Xavi will, and deserves to retire wearing Blaugrana. He is also irreplacable. When his skill set diminishes to the degree that he is no longer magical, he can help coach. (K)Selling Xavi would be wrong on every level.
Iniesta: As hilarious as Xavi. He’s the midfield future when Xavi is done, and the system carries on. (K)Iniesta can not be replaced.
Pedro!: For the right price. The complexity is that he is more valuable to us than he would be to anybody else, so that “right price” will never come. (K) I wouldn’t. Two-footed Chaos Generators are hard to come by, and his work rate is staggering.
Messi: Um ….. We have a 150m price tag on his head. But he’s priceless. If I were a club with that kind of money, I’d certainly test our resolve, offering something in the 100-120m range, but I don’t think we would take it. He’s ours. We raised him. (K)He’s a talisman, and clubs don’t sell their talisman. Ever. Messi might decide to leave, but we will never sell him.
Villa: For the right price. Not because we’re fickle, but because expensive strikers are like trading cards. It won’t be a fire sale price, however. (K)I’d sell for something around what we paid for him, for no reason other than I don’t know how many more years he has at his current, goal machine level. I’d rather have 35-40m and the chance to watch him decline in some other club’s colors, than in ours. He is a striker who is not going to age well.
Adriano: No. I think he was purchased with some future moves in mind, and his versatility and quality make him worth more to us than we paid for him. (K)I wouldn’t sell this year, but next, when Fontas, Bartra and Muniesa are all ready to be plucked, we should still be able to get back most of what we paid.
Maxwell: Yes. Adriano’s presence makes him eventually expendable. And given his bargain price, it’s a painless deal. Maxwell is an excellent platoon player and sub for Abidal, but now is the time to look for fresh blood. Both he and Abidal are getting along in years, right? (K)Yep.
Pinto: Yes. A fine backup keeper, but it’s time to bring in somebody who will test Valdes. VV is No. 1 and he knows it, which flies in the face of Guardiola’s “competition at every position” dictum. (K)The potential risk of discord with a talented No. 2 not being all that happy with Copa and the occasional Champions League group stage duty is worth it. Pinto has served us well, but it’s time to move.
Milito: Yes. Buzz is that he’s already on the block. Puyol will be able to bed in the talented youth, and Milito’s value will never be higher for us than it is right now. Any club seeking a veteran, regular duty center back need look no farther. (K)He moves in the summer.
Keita: Yes, for the right price. Keita’s value is huge to us. He’s the uncomplaining, happy to be here squad player who just plays his heart out whenever you let him on the pitch. But again, it’s a cruel numbers situation. His value is as high as it’s going to be, and we are going to need to make room for more Mascherano playing time. (K)He moves in the summer.
Mascherano: No. I think that we are going to, provided Guardiola stays, see another shift in the way that we play the game. We saw some of it against Getafe, with a more traditional defensive mid doing his thing out there, allowing Xavi and Iniesta more freedom to do their thing. (K)His value is huge as a ball winner. Having that pit bull means that other offensive players don’t have to track back as much to win balls.
Jeffren: Yes. I don’t know what his value is, but he’s fast, fragile player who can’t win consistent time with the first team. (K)He moves in the summer, if not sooner.
Krkic: Yes, for the right price. But that number would be significantly higher than anyone is willing to pay. The club is terrified of another Fabregas situation with Krkic, who has the potential to blossom into another Villa. He will be given every and all chances to succeed, and as much time as he needs. (K) Loan him so that he can get the regular reps that he needs. And if Guardiola goes, Krkic won’t be very far behind.
La Masia is excellent at turning out mids, wingers and defenders, but not so hot at creating forwards, which is unfortunate. But it does mean that the money we save elsewhere on the pitch, could go toward purchasing a striker. The upward mobility is immense, the pressure great on the club to provide a path for talented B teamers to become first teamers. Pedro! and Busquets are two examples of when it works. Jeffren and Krkic (right now) are two examples of when it doesn’t.
But names such as Dos Santos, a pair of Alcantaras, Rafa and Thiago, Dalmau, Muniesa, Fontas and Bartra are all waiting, and fast approaching stay or go time. And let’s not forget that we have a number of players on loan, some of whom are never coming back (Hleb, Caceres), others who will probably get a look (Victor Sanchez, Gone Adriano) and one other who is in limbo (Keirrison). There will be some squad turnover this summer, with a potential purchase or two in January.
So those are my thoughts. Debate away!