FC Barcelona were finally dealt some good news in what otherwise has been a dire season on and off the pitch, with the news that their transfer ban, imposed by FIFA for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players under the age of 18, has been suspended – meaning that they will be able to sign players in the summer transfer window after all. This not only means that the signings of Borussia Mönchengladbach Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and Dinamo Zagreb midfield starlet Alen Halilovi? can be completed, but they will also have the opportunity to strengthen in other areas of the pitch. With the cloud of uncertainty over the ban remaining, I fully expect Barcelona’s long term transfer plans to be brought forward dramatically in order to avoid missing out entirely when the ban does inevitably kick in.
A recurring problem for Barcelona this season has been their defence. With club captain Carles Puyol spending large periods of time injured (and leaving at the end of the season), Barça have fielded a weakened, and often makeshift back four, with Javier Mascherano and even Alex Song filling in. Signing a high quality, experienced centre back alongside a young player with a lot of potential would add good balance to the squad.
Potential Target: Jan Vertonghen
Estimated Value: £25million
Jan Vertonghen is a player who is seemingly made for Barcelona. Since joining Spurs from Ajax for £11million in 2012, “Super Jan” has gone on to become one of the Premier League’s most accomplished centre backs. Vertonghen, who completed an impressive debut season in England by being voted onto the PFA Team of the Year, has had a stop-start 2013-14 season, mainly due to injuries. Vertonghen has hinted heavily at a summer move in recent months, which has reportedly put Liverpool, Manchester City, Roma, PSG and indeed Barcelona on red alert. At Barça, Vertonghen would seemingly slot into the defence alongside Gerard Piqué, and in turn become the successor to the position left by stalwart Carles Puyol. Vertonghen’s positional sense and reading of the game, combined with his strength, versatility and comfort with the ball at his feet would be sure make him a success in La Liga should Barcelona come knocking.
Potential Target: Aymeric Laporte
Estimated Value: £20million
Aymeric Laporte is rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after defenders in world football. The 19 year old has been a regular for Athletic Bilbao this season in their push for 4th place in La Liga, appearing 32 times in the league and scoring two goals in the process. While reports in Germany suggest that Pep Guardiola is planning a summer swoop for the young defender, Barcelona may well be a more logistical move so early in the Frenchman’s his career. Bilbao have showed their stubbornness over transfer fees in the past with the sale of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich for £33m, and one would expect them to hold out for the rumoured release clause in Laporte’s contract worth around £28million – significantly higher than his estimated market value of around £11million. However, if Laporte pushes for a dream move, I can see the clubs settling on a much more realistic transfer fee of around £20million.
15 years after being given his debut by Louis Van Gaal, the recently departed club president Sandro Rosell described Xavi as “the best player in Spanish football history”. At the age of 34, Xavi is still the heart and soul of the style of football that Barcelona preaches, and still is a seemingly irreplaceable figure. Thiago Alcantâra was seen by the Barcelona hierarchy as the heir apparent to the Xavi’s throne, but his move to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich threw a spanner in the works. Barcelona need to bring in a polished young centre midfielder who can learn from and play alongside Xavi for the remaining two years left on his contract.
Potential Target: Marco Verratti
Estimated Value: £30million
Despite playing for PSG, Marco Verratti has been hailed in his home country of Italy as the “Next Pirlo. It is reported that Verratti has been watched on numerous occasions by Barcelona scouts, who can only have been impressed by his passing range, and his recycling of the ball in midfield. Despite being only 21, Verratti has shown maturity beyond his years in the League and Champions League for PSG, and could be the perfect replacement for Xavi at Barcelona. A summer move would not only help him settle in Catalonia before becoming a key cog in the FCB wheel, but allow him to learn from the master before taking up the role himself.
Barcelona have constantly shown their willingness to play from defence, with full backs acting like a second winger. This has been aided by having full backs who were formerly a winger themselves, namely Jordi Alba and Adriano Correia in recent times. Signing a winger who can also play at full back is rumoured to be what Barça are in the market for this summer, then eventually moving them to replace Dani Alves at right back in the long term.
Potential Target: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado
Estimated Value: £22million
Colombian flyer Cuadrado has had a very impressive Serie A season thus far, after signing for Fiorentina for a mere £4.5million in Summer 2013. A winger by trade, Cuadrado has shown flexibility, having turned out at right back when required also. Cuadrado has scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, and added a further 8 assists for his team mates. His impressive performances have caught the eye of Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich according to recent reports, so he is certainly a player in high demand. Cuadrado is an exceptionally fast player, who likes to beat opposition players with the ball at his feet and deliver crosses into the box. With some time and patience, I believe Cuadrado could become a fantastic right wing back for Barcelona, taking over from Dani Alves whose Barcelona future remains undecided.
While managerial and board positions remain uncertain at the Camp Nou, one thing is for sure, big money is set to be spent this summer to accommodate for the lingering burden of the transfer ban that will eventually come into effect.