On Monday Barça already started training and the 2020/21 preseason with Ronald Koeman, but several weeks have passed since the last campaign ended and the club’s transfer business is not as active as it should possibly be.
It seemed that after the disastrous 2–8 loss against Bayern Munich, Barcelona was going to experience a deep cleaning in the dressing room and even more considering the arrival of coach Ronald Koeman. There are players whose days at the Camp Nou were already numbered and whose official departure from the club seemed only a matter of time. Notwithstanding, it has been a long time since those emotional words from Gerard Piqué after that fateful Champions League defeat, and there has still been no real change.
“The club needs deep structural changes, and I’m not talking about the players or coach. If new blood is needed, I will be the first to go”Gerard Piqué, after being humiliated by Bayern Munich
Even the president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed a reduced list of non-transferable footballers a couple of weeks ago. This list included Marc-André ter Stegen, Nélson Semedo, Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann, Clément Lenglet, Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi. Thus, Bartomeu was indirectly indicating that the club would possibly listen to offers for the names not listed above.
With the arrival of Koeman, changes had to be made from the beginning so that the coach could establish his style of play, as happens with any other manager coming into a new team. He and the board had to reflect on the players who could work for him, discarding the alternatives that do not fit into the project.
Nonetheless, the first team already started training with Koeman on Monday, preparing for the season without having made certain moves. Leaving aside the departure of Arthur Melo and the all but confirmed signing of Ivan Rakitić for Sevilla, there have been few recent rumours outside the Messi saga. The likes of Luis Suárez, Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Arturo Vidal still belong to Barcelona even if fans already took for granted that they would be out by now. Similarly, others such as Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho and Gerard Piqué were unknowns and, despite Koeman seems to count on them, their role in the 2020/21 term is still uncertain.
It is no coincidence that the Barcelona squad is so large at present, with the coronavirus situation, with the high wages from most of the senior members, and with the incapacity to find suitors for the men on sale. However, it is a serious mistake not to have completed multiple transfers by now since the preseason is already underway and it is vital for the coach to work with the players that he will have this season. Continuing to have names that should probably be gone is only a hindrance to Koeman’s plans and how he wants to implement his style.
In the same way, since almost no sales have been made, there have been no signings either other than Miralem Pjanić. As a consequence, Koeman will have less time to help the new faces adapt to his demands as the new La Liga campaign will start on September 27 or 28 for Barça at the Camp Nou against Villarreal.
Many La Liga teams have already completed several of their desired deals this summer | Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher / AFP via Getty Images
Meanwhile, the Catalans’ rivals in Spain have been doing their job well and fast. Especially Real Madrid, who have already sealed the exits of Achraf Hakimi and Óscar Rodríguez and the loans of Takefusa Kubo and Reinier Jesus, and seem to have already secured the sale of James Rodríguez and the loans of Brahim Díaz and Dani Ceballos. The difference between two clubs, which has then been transmitted in the La Liga title, lies in the management at a sporting level.
Similarly, we can use the example of Villarreal, Barcelona’s first rivals in the new La Liga season. Villarreal have already incorporated Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin and Take Kubo. Besides, Valencia, although in a bad way, have already let go of unwanted stars in Parejo, Coquelin, Rodrigo Moreno, Ferran Torres and Ezequiel Garay. All this is giving teams an advantage over Barcelona, who are already slightly behind with La Liga just around the corner.
We will have to wait for the next few days to see if there is, as rumoured, a departure from Lionel Messi to Manchester City or from Arturo Vidal to Inter Milan. But fans still expect more business since the team has an excess of players, especially in midfield. It is not healthy for a coach who wants to rebuild the squad if there are still footballers who he does not want to be included in his new project. It is time for Barcelona’s board to be more agile in the transfer market and not wait anymore.
Why Erling Braut Håland should be Barcelona’s future number 9
While he would be an unconventional player at the club, why should Barcelona target Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Håland after the departure of Luis Suárez?
A 19-year-old Erling Braut Håland took the footballing world by storm last year when he scored a hat-trick of goals on his Champions League debut and then went on to become only the second teenager to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition.
In the winter transfer window, Håland moved from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to German side Borussia Dortmund in hopes of both improving his game and leading Lucien Favre’s side to the Bundesliga title. The Norwegian wonderkid ended the Bundesliga season with 13 goals and 3 assists in 15 games, and Dortmund finished second on the table.
Håland’s 44-goal season put him on the radar of all the top clubs in the world, and while the striker is at the top of his game at Dortmund, his departure to a top European club in the future is inevitable at some point. Following club legend Luis Suárez‘s departure from Barcelona, the Catalan club is surely looking for El Pistolero‘s heir. With Barcelona looking for a top striker for the future, and the Norwegian machine looking at a European giant to move to, Håland might just be the name that reads on Barcelona’s number 9 shirt.
The transfer market is unpredictable, and Håland’s agent being notorious superagent – and supervillain – Mino Raiola, makes things even more complicated. Instead of looking at if Barcelona will seek Håland’s services, this article will look at why Barcelona should seek Håland’s services.
To begin with, let’s talk about Håland’s statistics. In the 2019/20 season, he scored 44 and assisted 10 goals. 10 of the goals were in the Champions League. He scored more goals than expected with his G90, 1.10, being higher than his xG90, 0.75. It has been established that Håland is a goalscoring machine. The Norwegian’s physique is absolutely astounding. At 6 feet 4 inches (1.94 metres), Håland provides quite the aerial threat, something the blaugrana club severely lacks.
In spite of his towering height, Håland is incredibly fast; he reached a top speed of 36 km/h and was 0.3 seconds off from breaking the world record for a 60-metre sprint. Football has evolved in recent years, with training facilities improving and more money being invested in fitness training, players have become more athletic. A striker who will face off against athletic defenders definitely needs to be a physical demon.
When at RB Salzburg, Barcelona rejected to sign Erling Braut Håland because he did not have the suited profile | Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos via Getty Images
Does Håland have the technical ability of a prime Luis Suárez or of a Samuel Eto’o? No. Would he be heavily involved in the build-up play like some of Barcelona’s preceding number 9s? No. If Håland was to join, he would be the most uncreative player in the squad, and believe it or not, that is exactly what Barcelona needs right now.
The recurring humiliations in the Champions League knockout stages have had one thing in common – apart from the poor defence –: the lack of a runner. Every elite team in Europe has elite runners: PSG have Kylian Mbappé, Liverpool have Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mané, Bayern have Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.
The Barcelona team, all these years, has been stacked with players who love having the ball at their feet all the time – Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann…The reason Messi’s last few years have been wasted is that he hasn’t been provided with a runner to get at the end of his through balls. This problem cannot occur again.
Barcelona’s future lies with talented playmakers like Francisco Trincão, Pedri, Riqui Puig, etc, and these playmakers need a proficient and clinical striker with good off the ball movement, to score goals for the team. Håland doesn’t only have a good physique, he is also an intelligent footballer. He knows how to time runs, how to hold the defence, and is a lethal shooter of the ball.
Erling Braut Håland would be quite an unorthodox signing for Barcelona. Quite unlike all of his predecessors. But if the club’s transfer policy fails to evolve while the game itself is evolving, then the Catalan club is going to become a relic of the past. A player like Lionel Messi is never going to appear again. Thus, after his departure, if Barcelona want to dominate in Europe like they once did, the team is going to have to function like a system, and Erling Håland is the piece that fits the puzzle the best.
So apart from everything discussed in this article, why should Erling Håland join Barcelona? Well, in his own words: why not?