A new manager, the same identity. 2012/2013 Barcelona promises to be mostly similar to Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team, which brought so much success to the club in the past four years. Tito Vilanova shares the same footballing ideals as Pep Guardiola and will try to carry on the work of the club legend. Like in each of the past few seasons, not many signings are expected, but only one or two key addictions to make the team more competitive in some sectors. The following is an analysis of the possible needs in each position, with a list of possible/rumored transfer targets.
There should be no reinforcements here. Valdés’s position as the main goalkeeper is secure and it will be for many years to come. Pinto has also renewed his contract and will keep being relied upon as the back-up keeper and presumably for Copa matches (assuming Tito does the same as Pep). Nothing will change here.
It’s a whole different story here. With Éric Abidal sick, Carles Puyol not getting any younger and the general lack of depth in this department, the club is rumored to be looking for reinforcements, although there are still no clear developments. The names circling around include such great players as Jordi Alba, Gareth Bale, Thiago Silva and Mats Hummels, while Montoya and Bartra are expected to be promoted to the first team.
Among the names mentioned, Jordi Alba seems to make the most sense to fill in the void left by Abidal on the left, and it is rumored that Barcelona are very close to signing him from Valencia. The squad still has quite reasonable depth in the center of defense, so it will remain to be seen whether Tito decides to make any addictions there. One can only guess how Vilanova plans of bolstering his defense, but, be it one of the names mentioned or someone else, we should definitely expect some moves from Barcelona in this are of the field, one of them likely to be Alba. A tall central defender, a fast left back or even both should be added to the roster ahead of next season.
This is the one area of the field where Barcelona are in absolutely no need of reinforcements. Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara… there’s no shortage of world class quality and depth in Barcelona’s midfield. It’s almost like a world all stars midfield. There will surely be no moves whatsoever here, Vilanova will stick with Pep Guardiola’s successful midfield personel and formula.
This is a sector that could very well be bolstered during the summer. In the past season, Lionel Messi was basically Barcelona’s only regular source of goals, with David Villa picking up a season-ending injury and the other forwards quite inconsistent, especially in front of goal. The problem will partially be solved with David Villa’s return, but Tito Vilanova might be looking for some more depth an established goalscorer to add to the squad.
The inevitable Neymar has been one of the most prominent names flying around, as well as Llorente, Falcao and many others. Tito might either decide to stick with Messi, Villa, Pedro, Cuenca, Tello and co. or add another goalscorer to the mix. Just like Pep used to do, Tito might very well decide to freshen things up front with the acquisition of another forward, although it’s still very unclear who that might be.
Just as there won’t be many signings, there should not be many sales either. There have been some rumors of Seydou Keita’s exit, but it looks like Tito has decided to keep him in the squad for another year, where he will once again play a key rotation role.
There have been some rumors of possible loans or even sales of young players like Bartra, Tello and Cuenca, but nothing has materialized and it’s unlikely that much happens. Even Ibrahim Afellay should be given another chance to shine at Camp Nou this season.
There’s not much to change in a team that won everything at least twice in the past four seasons and has arguably the strongest squad in the world, but it is expected that Vilanova will make some key addictions to further strengthen his squad, namely at the back and up front. As always in recent years, the Catalans have mostly kept quiet about their targets (the Fabregas saga being the obvious exception) and can strike at any time, although it will probably happen after the Euro 2012. A quality defender (either center back or left back) – probably Alba – and a goalscorer should be the two players added to the squad, with everyone (at least every key player) staying at the club for another year.