It’s the season of rumours, and by Barcelona standards the grapevine is quiet.
Xavi and his team made significant progress, with player signings from a year ago making the difference.
Robert Lewandowski was the leading goalscorer in La Liga and has become the de facto captain with his winning pedigree on the pitch and a calming presence in the dressing room.
Defensively, where most of the improvement happened, Joules Kounde and Andreas Christensen were the difference.
Even Raphinha, who struggled to fit in during his first season at Camp Nou, found ways to contribute with his industrious style of play.
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The summer of 2022 was a success, but let’s not forget the risks taken to make the investments that made it possible to win trophies again. Without pulling the “financial levers”, it is likely that none of it was possible.
At the moment there is no question of selling off any more of the club’s assets, and that is a good thing. There is speculation that Joan Laporta could strike a deal to bring in money from Qatar or Saudi Arabia, so keep an eye on that space as it could be the best route to make a splash in the market as the summer wears on.
As things stand, a less is more, do no harm approach may be the best direction to go.
There is no doubt that there are needs that need to be addressed.
Xavi needs a right-back he can trust, but if he finds someone who is good enough to immediately settle into the starting eleven, it will come at a high price.
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It would be unacceptable to go into the season asking Konde and Ronald Araujo to deputize or to have to fall back on Sergi Roberto.
There is intrigue over how to improve the forward line, which was arguably the team’s weakest point last campaign.
However, part of me wonders if it’s that bad after all, or at least if the guys currently there can’t dial things back and make improvements this season.
Raphinha in particular, I wouldn’t write off too quickly. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, although I wouldn’t count on either of them to be starters at this point, give the team important depth. Making a sale at a good price for any of the three makes sense, but only if it helps the club make an investment to strengthen in critical areas. I, for one, will be rooting for the return of Ez Abde, who for my money is a natural fit on the left wing in Xavi’s system.
The biggest question facing Barcelona this summer is how to replace Sergio Busquets.
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The answer seems to be Frenkie de Jong, who I have a lot of faith in.
But Xavi would like another opportunity to experiment with, given the uncertainty surrounding replacing a club legend who gave Barcelona an identity for more than a decade.
Finding a new focal point in the market along with a full-back will be a challenge and it will be expensive if Barca want to sign one of the known raw materials.
Therefore, Barcelona may want to take a low-key approach to spending. Fill some holes, bring in some depth to provide competition at all positions and let the players battle it out.
Newcastle are rumored to be willing to swap Bruno Guimaraes, plus cash, for Raphinha. This would be a coup for a player in Bruno who was one of the most influential in the Premier League, with the versatility to play anywhere in midfield. Still, you have to say that the chances of such a deal actually happening look extremely unlikely.
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Ultimately, Barcelona will be paying close attention to the moves made by Real Madrid, who have much bigger questions to answer this offseason, none bigger than replacing Karim Bezema.
Seeing their rivals add the likes of Joselu won’t strike fear into Xavi’s heart, but a player like Jude Bellingham could be a wildcard as Los Blancos look to bring their midfield into a new generation.
Will Eduardo Camavinga continue at full-back, where he surprised many with his competence, or move back with Aurelien Tchouameni to build out the midfield of the future with Bellingham?
Compare that to Barcelona, who have the proven combination of Frenkie, Pedri and Gavi to get the team going.
Like Real Madrid, Barcelona’s defensive line was the strength and the most likely to continue in 2023/2024. It would be a bombshell if Barca decided to sell Konde or Christensen, but you can’t put it past them if a massive offer comes. To me, realistically, there is not a large enough number that will come in to justify such a move.
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But in the big picture, Barcelona are the reigning champions and they are on solid footing. The pressure is on Real Madrid to take the next step to put themselves in position to dethrone the kings of Spain. This is not to say that Barca are out of the woods and can just sit back and relax.
Right now I’d rather be Barcelona than Real Madrid.
Barca need depth, while Real Madrid need to figure out what their Plan A should be.
So maybe less is more. At least for now.
But behind the scenes, keep all your options open and look for bargains wherever they can be found.
An Ilkay Gundogan or a Joshua Kimmich could be the difference, but Laporta and Alemany will have to be smart to pull it off.
When it comes to Barcelona, expect the unexpected and expect them to make news.
Maybe this is just the calm before the storm.
Who am I kidding, that’s probably all it is.