The Hard Tackle takes a look at five players Barcelona must offload as Quique Setien looks to oversee a squad overhaul at Camp Nou this summer.
After a somewhat disappointing 2019/20 season, Barcelona will be heading into the next term with several huge tasks on their hands. They might need to find a new manager – depending on their Champions League campaign, balance the books, promote several players from the youth setup, all with the overall intention of overhauling the squad.
Like any other team, however, Barca have a substantial financial burden to cater to, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the world by storm and has hurt the football transfer market as collateral damage. All signs suggest that the market will be set back a few years, and the transfers would resemble the pre-Neymar/Pogba/Mbappe era.
There is a clear need for new faces within the team for the Blaugrana, including a new striker, a left-back, a centre back – or probably two. This cannot be done, though, without easing their wage bill, and bringing in funds through player sales. And thus, The Hard Tackle takes a look at five players Barcelona should offload in the summer to pave the way for new faces, or at least slacken up some financial strain.
Rakitic is easily the first name that comes up in this list due to several reasons. Naturally, at 32, the Croatian is heading into the final juncture of his career and consequently seen a constant dip in performance levels since 2018. Camp Nou is probably one of the last places you want to be if you are going through a bad phase. The fans are always quick to point it out and take no time to criticise the player.
Since the arrival of Ernesto Valverde, Rakitic has shuffled down the pitch and played more regularly as a defensive midfielder, starting in a double pivot in the 4-4-2 deployed by the Spanish manager. After spending so much time in that role, Rakitic seems to have taken a liking to it, and puts his best shifts there.
However, with Sergio Busquets’ resurgence this season and the signing of Frenkie de Jong, there is no place for the former-Sevilla star in the starting XI. Keeping him in the team would not only halt the development of young players like Pedri, Riqui Puig, Monchu, among others, it would further cause a dent on their wage structure going into a troubled year.
After a rather disastrous end to a wonderful 2018/19 season for Jordi Alba, Barcelona knew they would have to go into the market looking for someone who can act as an able deputy and then take over from him in the long run. Of course, being the club Barca is, they completely disregarded academy talent like Marc Cucurella and Juan Miranda and bought Real Betis left wing-back Junior Firpo.
Firpo had a prosperous past behind him and was tipped for a move to a big club after a tremendous 2018/19 campaign under Quique Setien. However, the Spaniard had never favourably played in a four-man defence, and was, therefore, a questionable signing.
He has had more luck with regards to his game time compared to his predecessors, courtesy to an injury Alba picked up earlier in the season. He played 17 games this season in the league, out of which 11 were starts, and contributed to a goal and assist in the meantime. Despite the game time, though, Firpo has mostly failed to impress.
He has played two different positions this season – either as a left-back or as a left-centre back. None of which are his natural positions, and it is increasingly evident that he cannot adapt to the Barcelona’s system anytime soon. He has been linked to a move away, with Inter Milan interested. Stories suggest that he could be made part of the deal to bring in Lautaro Martinez to the club.
Despite his impressive fitness and tremendous work rate, Martin Braithwaite’s time at the club was always going to be short-lived. He signed for the club in the ‘Joker Window’ after Ousmane Dembele was ruled out for ten months in February.
Leganes were not allowed to sign a replacement, which acted a catalyst in their relegation. This deal was considered immoral and attracted a lot of criticism towards the club and the league. In his 11 appearances in the Garnet and the Blue, Braithwaite failed to directly contribute more than one goal – a superb half volley into the roof of the net against RCD Mallorca.
He did, however, come close to scoring on numerous occasions, but was let down by poor finishing, for example, the chances against Villarreal, Celta Vigo and even Real Madrid. It was clear from the get-go that the Danish international was not good enough for the club.
He may not be Barca quality, but he is certainly good enough for several mid-tier clubs with his excellent work ethic, lightening speed, and top-notch fitness. Rumours suggest that he may be on his way to West Ham United, who have offered Barcelona €20 million for his services. Josep Bartomeu could very well end up with a profit on this deal.
Samuel Umtiti has, in no time, become one of the most loved players within the squad to arguably the most loathed. It all started when he got a knee injury just before the 2018 World Cup and chose not to undergo surgery at the time, because it would push his recovery back further, effectively pushing him out of the French squad.
He played a colossal gamble choosing his country over his club, and it eventually worked out well for him – for the most part. The World Cup winner has been a victim to recurring knee injuries since that year, and has been replaced by Clement Lenglet, who has won over the fans with his reliable displays over two seasons.
It wasn’t till his time under Quique Setien that the fanbase turned on him. More specifically, the game against Celta Vigo, where he was seen jogging back to track Iago Aspas who was through on the counter and set up Vigo’s goal. This was the first nail in the coffin for Barcelona’s title race this season, and the last for Umtiti.
He has since been linked to a variety of clubs, including a conceivable departure to the Serie A. However, Arsenal seem to be the leading party chasing his signature. He gets a starting spot, Barcelona get upwards of €35 million for him, it sounds too good to be true. So on the contrary, there have been strong suggestions saying that the Frenchman is not ready to leave the club and will fight for his place.
In an ideal situation, you do not see the name of one of the most expensive signings in the world in a list like this. Barcelona’s world is far from ideal, though.
Philippe Coutinho switched Liverpool for Barcelona in June 2018, after Josep Bartomeu and co. paid a hefty fee to the Merseyside outfit. This move created a lot of hype, as any heavy-duty transfer would. Coutinho’s time in Spain started quite well, too, as he netted a hat-trick and was part of several goals. But, it has been downhill since.
The Brazilian failed to mirror his form playing in a 4-3-3 on the left-wing, after losing his spot in midfield to Arthur Melo. And playing on the wing really hampered his ability to attack half-spaces from attacking midfield or deeper positions. Eventually, the fans and the board grew tired of him, and he was loaned out to Bayern Munich for the 2019/20 season.
His loan deal is nearing an end, and unsurprisingly, Bayern have no intention of buying him for the massive €100+ price tag set on him by Barcelona. No one will, really, in a market like this, unless Barca dramatically reduce his asking price and get ready to suffer a loss.
The best Barcelona can do is fish a club, who will take the 27-year-old on loan and will be prepared to pay his wages, or if need be, share it with the parent club. It does not sound like an ideal solution, but can work as a short-term solution if not anything else. Arsenal are interested, and we could see the two clubs swap Matteo Guendouzi and Coutinho this summer.