Barcelona must rebuild, but where (and when) do they begin?
Barcelona - Bayern Munich fallout: The world at large is
clamoring downright demanding a full-on blowup and rebuild of the Barcelona squad following Friday’s 8-2 embarrassment at the hands of Bayern.
[ PART 1: Should Lionel Messi leave Barcelona? Will he? ]
It’s a fair request, not only for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeat, but also for the last handful of years in which Barca became a shell of its former self and relinquished its claim to the title of best club in the world.
The Barcelona rubble is strewn everywhere, from the Estadio de Luz in Lisbon, the site of Friday’s demolition job, to the shores of Catalonia. The process of picking it all up and piecing it back together — or, perhaps, clearing out and building anew — will be a long and arduous one, but one that must be undertaken.
In part 1 of our in-depth look at Barcelona’s path forward, we tackled the tricky question of whether or not Lionel Messi should — and will — leave the club for the betterment of his final few years in the game. Read part 1 first, because the entire discussion begins — and maybe even ends — with Messi.
Which players do they keep?
We’ll start with “who to keep” because the list will be much shorter than what comes next.
In no particular order: Lionel Messi (if he wants to stay), Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Clement Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Miralem Pjanic (because he’s not even arrived at the club yet).
Everyone else currently at the club — whether due to their age, subpar performances or cumbersome contracts — is potentially on the chopping block.
De Jong has been something of a disappointment in his first season at the club, but there is more than enough reasonable doubt to believe the rest of the squad’s failures have given him no platform upon which to build his own Barca career. It stands to reason that, should they put a functional team around him, De Jong could still live up to the expectations with which he arrived from Ajax.
Fati has the look of a future best-player-in-the-world, though he’s only 17 so there’s still a long way to go before realizing that destiny. It would be a terrible crime against football for Barca to waste his talent and potential by failing to put a proper team around him.
Ter Stegen (28), Lenglet (25) and Roberto (28) are all young enough to bridge the gap between the current team and whatever the Blaugrana look like 24 or 36 months down the road. You can’t just get rid of everyone, after all. Even that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of those players, is it?
Difficult decisions need to be made
For age concerns: Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets
For financial reasons: Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele
The question Barca must answer with regard to the likes of Griezmann and Dembele is this: how much of a loss are they willing to take? That means not only on the exorbitant transfer fees they paid to sign them, but also the money still left on their contracts that they’re willing to eat just to get rid of them and move on. Between the two of them, Barca owe $1.3 million per week for the next two years, at which point Dembele’s deal expires and they will only be on the hook for Griezmann’s $1.05 million-per-week wages for another two years. Are you beginning to understand why this rebuild will be anything but easy or fast?
Barcelona have made their 3 most expensive signings in the last 3 years, all 3 in the top 6 football transfers of all time, and tonight 2 of them started on the bench and the other scored twice against them in an 8-2 defeat— Jonathan Fisher (@fishplums) August 14, 2020
As for the aging veterans of the squad, they’ve all been fantastic and productive servants for varying periods of time, but they are 33, 33, 31 and 32, respectively, but their collective wages add up to more than $1 million per week. That’s a massive burden for a club that was already facing financial troubles prior to the effects of COVID-19. By the time Barcelona can reasonably be expected to compete for Champions League trophies again, none of these players will be under the age of 35.
Of the six individuals listed above, at least three — if not four — of them need to leave as soon as possible. Take your pick of which four it is.
Who needs to go?
Everyone else. Otherwise, a Barcelona - Bayern Munich repeat is inevitable.
That includes Arthur, who’s already leaving for Juventus this summer but they should get rid of him again just for good measure. Nelson Semedo can also go, if for no other reason than he will never be the same after Alphonso Davies danced around him on Friday.
Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic are 33 and 32 years old, respectively, and have no business being part of the next team Barca trot out in September. Samuel Umtiti could probably stay for another year or two and hold down a starting center back spot at a La Liga-average level, but what’s the point of simply delaying the inevitable?
There’s no two ways about it: Barcelona’s recruitment over the last five or six years has been criminally bad.
Since end of the 2014 window, by my calculations, Barça have signed 29 players for almost a billion euros.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 14, 2020
How many have been an unqualified success? Not one?
Given the club’s global popularity and the allure they still have to many players around the world — rightly or wrongly at this point — a Barcelona rebuild certainly sounds like a fun video-game challenge, but rest assured it will be anything but fun for those tasked with the challenge in real life.