The winter transfer window is approaching and FC Barcelona will be one club which will be linked with a host of stars. This is one time of the year when very few big money moves happen, although there have been quite a few exceptions in the recent past. Pep Guardiola’s team is enjoying a well deserved Christmas and New Year break unlike their English counterparts and will be in a position to recover from any kind of fatigue or niggle. Despite their previous ventures in the Winter Transfer Window and their recent acquisition of Ibrahim Afellay, Guardiola doesn’t seem to be too keen on adding more to his illustrious squad. This has also been corroborated by Sporting Director Zubizarreta.
However a list of notable FC Barcelona purchases in the Winter Transfer Window is given below:
Winston Bogarde: The former Dutch central defender signed for FC Barcelona in January 1998. Louis Van Gaal signed the exceptionally strong defender from AC Milan. His stay was plagued with injuries and he missed his second season but had a solid contribution in his third and final season. In 2000 he signed for Gianluca Vialli’s Chelsea.
Frank de Boer: The legendary Dutch defender joined the Catalan Giants in 1998 after a highly revered spell at Ajax. However the defender was tested positive for Nandrolone. As a result he was suspended, but was brought back after a successful appeal by the club. He left in 2003 to join Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Ronald de Boer: Ronald, Frank’s twin brother, joined FC Barcelona along with his brother at the same time. FC Barcelona paid Ajax £22 million for the Dutch Internationals. Ronald, a midfielder, had a brief stay at Barcelona. He was frustrated due to lack of first team opportunities under Llorenç Serra Ferra and the then Rangers’ manager, Dick Advocaat, didn’t miss out on the opportunity to sign the midfielder for a sum close to £6 million.
Edgar Davids: Yet another Dutch footballer joined FC Barcelona in 2004 from Juventus. However this was a loan deal and the midfielder stayed only till the end of the season. Davids joined Barca when the team was struggling in the midtable and helped in the club’s resurgence. Barcelona finally finished second – a very respectable position given the kind the start they had in the 2003-04 campaign. This marked the beginning of Barcelona’s dominance in the years to come.
Notable absentees include Nigerian winger Emmanuel Amuneke, Argentine fullback and striker duo of Sorin and Maxi Lopez, Italian midfielder Demetrio Albertini.
Here’s an analysis of the current scenario at the Camp Nou.
Confirmed New Arrival:
Ibrahim Afellay (from PSV Eindhoven): FC Barcelona’s romance with Dutch Internationals continues. Ibi, yet another Dutch, was signed from Eindhoven for $4 million. The 24-year old attacking midfielder has already played 30 times for the Netherlands and made more than 200 appearances for PSV while scoring 36 goals, before moving to Spain. The addition of yet another midfielder of exceptional talent will provide Guardiola with more options. Xavi’s recurrent injuries might just see him rest a bit more in order to be available for big matches. And this is where the availability of exceptionally talented individuals in Mascherano, Afellay, Kieta matters. Afellay’s contract is till 2015 and has a buyout clause of €100 million.
Contrary to popular belief, FC Barcelona has a solid defence. The way they defend complements the way they attack. In both cases possession is a mandate. The current crop has re-defined the art of defending. The tactical manoeuvres employed are of the highest quality and players like Pique, Puyol, Alves execute it to perfection. The advent of youth team players like Andreu Fontàs Prat, Marc Bartra, Marc Muniesa, Sergi Gómez has made the fight for places in the first team highly competitive. Eric Abidal is having a decent season and the left side of the Catalan fortress looks to be in safe hands for some more time. Maxwell and Alves provide support in attack as well, however the defensive abilities of the fullbacks are not at par with their attacking prowess. Nonetheless, FC Barcelona has conceded just 9 goals in the league and 3 in UEFA Champions League. Two other defenders – Henrique and Cáceres are out on loan to Racing Santander and Sevilla respectively. Along with the ones mentioned, the availability of Gabriel Milito too gives Guardiola the option to shuffle his defenders in order to keep them fresh. If need be Adriano too can be accommodated in defence. With this kind of talent at Guardiola’s disposal, the club looks highly unlikely to enter the transfer market for a defender – now or in the summer.
In Víctor Valdés, FC Barcelona has one of the best custodians in the world. The La Masia product has made the jersey number 1 his own and at 28, is at his peak. The shot-stopper is undoubtedly one of the key components of the Barcelona team and is good enough for any national team. The presence of Iker Casillas might have jeopardized his position to lay claim to the Spanish Goalkeeping berth, however Valdés surely remains one of FC Barcelona’s most trusted lieutenants. In the presence of another Zamora title winner – Pinto and with the arrival of La Masia graduates Rubén Miño and Oier Olazábal, Guardiola will not be too interested in purchasing another keeper in the near future.
This is perhaps the best department at FC Barcelona. The presence of the World Cup winning trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets along with Mascherano, Keita and recently signed Afellay, the midfield too looks solid. The icing on the cake is the presence of exceptionally talented La Masia products in Thiago Alcântara, Víctor Vázquez, Jonathan dos Santos, Oriol Romeu. Most are in the radar of top clubs in Europe and if they are continued to improve and grow like they have all this while, the potential’s there to replace Xavi and Iniesta. Guardiola’s system can accommodate 3 midfielders and as of now there hasn’t been much of a problem except of course Xavi’s absence in a few matches due to an Achilles tendon problem. Recently signed Ibrahim Afellay gives the manager the liberty to play Iniesta upfront if the need arises. Any more signings in this department can be ruled out in the imminent winter transfer window. However, addition to the squad in summer is likely, if at all there’s a change of heart, somewhere in another league.
An attack which comprises of Messi, Villa and Pedro with Bojan as backup can run a chill down the spine of opposition’s defence. The trio has 51 goals amongst them and with more than half the season still to come, this can get only better. In the absence of any one of the first three, Bojan is capable enough to rake up the required numbers, despite having a poor start to his campaign. An extra striker with an aerial presence could have added depth to the striking department; however Barcelona’s apparent aversion to a Plan B might just find him warming the bench more often than not.
The availability of Rubén Rochina and Nolito will give Guardiola extra dimension in the final third. However Nolito’s contract is on the verge of expiry and the highly rated forward will be a free agent in summer. Guardiola might plunge into the transfer market sometime next year in order to acquire a striker, competent enough to fill up for David Villa, who isn’t getting any younger. As of now this department looks placate and without turbulence.