It has been a rumours-packed couple of days regarding exits and appointments at Barça, but now it is time to review how can the club rebuild the squad with arrivals for the new 20/21 season.
The final arc of the summer transfer window is here. After discussing the many departures and areas of work for Barça in this transfer window ahead of the 20/21 season, it’s time to review the arrivals, because there are many. A little disclaimer before delving into the arrivals: a promotion can count as an arrival as players with no first team contract are just fillers for the Champions League squads usually.
After losing money over the years, this is the board’s last chance to impress, and the clearout should come with replacements. The potential money they are getting accompanied the many points of interrogation that come with them make this transfer window one of the most essential in Barcelona history. It’s do or die for the 20/21 season, which should be labelled as the calm before the storm, so these are the writer’s chosen arrivals:
Important note: this is an opinion piece and, understandably, you may not agree. The objective is to share one of the many different perspectives from the club’s fans and reason on such delicate topics.
Iñaki Peña, back-up goalkeeper
The back-up goalkeeper position is made redundant by Marc-André ter Stegen’s prowesses all season long. Jasper Cillessen left because the German was so good during his time at Camp Nou. Neto, the former Valencia goalkeeper, played a handful of games at Barcelona and could free up wages in the process of him leaving.
Iñaki Peña, a young and talented keeper, could learn from Ter Stegen as he would be happy to sign a contract with the first team to sit on the bench, at least for the first few years. Promoting Peña for free would be a tremendous financial move, but also it would mean Barça bet on their youth, for once.
João Cancelo, starting right-back
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City has underwhelmed more than one this year. They played pretty football but lost embarrassingly in the Premier League, the FA Cup and, more importantly, the Champions League. Last summer, they had added some quality to back their centurions up. João Cancelo came in a swap deal for Danilo to play second fiddle to Kyle Walker. After a couple of great seasons at Valencia, he went to Juve and made them a beast when going on the right flank.
Also able to play on the left, Cancelo is basically Nélson Semedo but with the tremendous footballing ability and defending prowess that matches his attacking incentives. At Juve, he played as a wing-back, with a back three behind him, but he did play in four-man defences at Valencia, where he excelled and impressed many people. If Semedo goes the opposite way, it could work out as an Arthur Melo – Miralem Pjanić situation without all the drama, as selling Semedo is justified. Cancelo would cost nearly 40 million, but he’s a much-needed addition as a right-back.
Moussa Wagué, back-up right-back
Moussa Wagué‘s loan at Nice was a disappointment, but he can do a job as a back-up on the right. Less tactically aware, Wagué is an explosive full-back who can break defences with his blistering pace. The Senegalese defender should thank COVID–19 as Nice didn’t have the funds to make his transfer a permanent one. As a back-up, Wagué could learn and could still be shipped on if he ever disappoints. A true low risk, high reward situation.
Eric García, starting centre-back
Eric García is everything Barcelona need this summer. A young, confident, right-footed centre-back with an eye for a pass is definitely Gerard Piqué’s replacement. The legendary defender offered to take a step back after the Bayern game and giving Eric some game time would do him a world of good. At one year of the end of his contract with City, Eric García would come as a cheap-ish signing at around 15 or 20 million euros. He could be a starter from the beginning and grow a lot at his boyhood club while learning from the calibre of centre-backs available to him. A great individual with a great mentality, García is the perfect signing to replace an ageing Piqué.
“The first one to volunteer will be me, if new blood has to come in and change this dynamic I will be the first to go, to step aside”
Ronald Araújo, back-up centre-back
For the left centre-back position, Barça have a few options, but they shouldn’t take Clément Lenglet out of the picture. The Frenchman has to a starter as he has been great since joining two years ago from Sevilla. Pau Torres rumours came around, but the Villarreal academy centre-back is too good to be a back-up and also costly to stay on the bench for the majority of the year. What Barça need is a centre-back willing to put a shift in whenever he is called upon, and that’s not often.
Promoting Ronald Araújo, who has shown a lot of promises in limited minutes at Camp Nou, would do a world of good for the defence and the finances. A composed defender, Araújo still has a lot to learn, and he could do it in Lenglet’s shadow, or play in his natural right side.
Alejandro Grimaldo, starting left-back
A bit of a Paul Pogba scenario with Manchester united should happen at Barça. Alejandro Grimaldo was one of the most promising La Masía gems before he left for Benfica. As he turns 25 in September, Grimaldo is entering his prime, and he shouldn’t stay in the Portuguese league for his whole career.
Among their arrivals, Barça need a left-back that can compete with Jordi Alba for the starting spot in the 20/21 season while succeeding him in the future | Photo by Patricia de Melo Moreira / AFP via Getty Images
Barcelona should be all over Grimaldo’s comeback as he would solve so many problems in defence, problems that Jordi Alba papered over for eight years. Grimaldo is an enthusiastic left-back with an eye for a pass and who could turn a lot of heads. He would cost around 40 million euros, the fee of a proven threat on the left of the defence.
Mikel Merino, midfielder
Mikel Merino is a well-known name across Europe. The Real Sociedad midfielder is one of the best in the business in Spain, playing astonishingly well for the Basque side even if he didn’t get the recognition Mikel Oyarzabal or Martin Ødegaard got for a stupendous season at Anoeta. Barça should be all over Merino. He can strike from range, play a long ball or control the midfield superbly. Comfortable on the side of a three-man midfield or as a more attacking option, he offers various options in a team that didn’t have a back-up plan this season. He wouldn’t cost a lot, just the right price for a controlling midfielder who would offer depth and quality for the next decade.
Riqui Puig, midfielder
There aren’t any arguments to be had here: Riqui Puig has to get promoted because he has been the best Catalan midfielder this year despite still having a B-team contract. Riqui Puig as a senior member of the team is not official, but it will be.
Carles Aleñá, midfielder
Just like Riqui Puig, Carles Aleñá playing with the first team is a must. Real Betis wanted to get Aleñá back on loan for another year, but the board refused. Let’s hope it’s for the greater good this time.
Moussa Dembélé, striker
Moussa Dembélé is one of the strikers with the most growth in the past few years. From PSG’s youth team to Lyon passing by Fulham and Celtic, Dembélé had to learn the hard way to become one of Europe’s most promising forwards. Not pacy enough to be a lone striker, he still has the capacity to bend it in whenever he wishes.
Moussa Dembélé, centre, stunned Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals with two late goals after coming on as a substitute. Less talked about, he could be one of the valuable arrivals for Barça for the 20/21 season and future ones | Photo by Franck Fife / Pool via Getty Images
As Antoine Griezmann‘s partner, he would do a hell of a job on the counter or at the end of long build-ups where strikers need to be clinical. Barcelona’s main problem in the last few years was not finishing their chances. What would have happened if a striker was willing to run in Rome? What would have happened if a clinical striker finished one of the opportunities at Anfield? Now, yes the main problem against Bayern wasn’t finishing chances, but it is in most Barcelona debacles. Dembélé coming at the wake of his prime would be incredible for the next few years, and he wouldn’t cost as much as other world-class strikers.
The psychology at Barcelona: A leaf out of Jurgen Klopp’s book
Guest Contributor: Darren Looney
“When I came here, the size of the club was a burden. Now it’s our safety net, it’s our trampoline, it’s our home, it’s our basis, it’s everything to us. Now we are Liverpool before the club was Liverpool and we were just the guys who were trying to be good enough”.
In Melissa Reddy’s book ‘Believe Us’, Jurgen Klopp, the man who led Liverpool to become champions of England, Europe and the world, details how a change in psychology from having the clubs past success being used as a noose around their necks to becoming fully confident individuals, helped the club end their 30-year wait for a league title.
FC Barcelona has a noose of its own hanging over the Camp Nou at present. It has been placed there by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, having left the club in a state that is unable to match the success seen over the last two decades.
The incoming president and manager will be the ones left to cut it free, and with limited economic resources to do this, a change in the mindsets of the lads could play a part in helping the club get the most out of what they already have.
Barcelona’s current state
The Josep Maria Bartomeu’s presidency oversaw a circus rather than a football club. In this timeframe, Barcelona lost the respect of its fellow European giants through humiliating performances in the Champions League, selling Neymar Jr. to Paris Saint Germain, poor recruitment, and a squad constantly breaking under pressure.
Players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi, and Ousmane Dembele, of those that started in the latest Champions League match, have all been through the most of these embarrassing moments, which has no doubt left some trauma.
Others in the squad have laid witness to Bartomeu disregarding the club’s motto ‘MÉS QUE UN CLUB’ with his handling of club legends Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi’s transfer situations in the summer. That could not have inspired the non-senior members of the squad with any confidence.
Adding to that, players like Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Junior Firpo, and Antoine Griezmann have had their names constantly attached to rumoured player plus cash deals, such as the Neymar offers, which can lead to them questioning if they are good enough. This is the sort of psychology you do not want around a club trying to compete.
When asked about whether a sports psychologist would benefit FC Barcelona back in December, Barça manager Ronald Koeman stated, “I don’t believe in psychologists and mental [issues]. If you play for Barca, pressure exists, you know that, and you have to overcome it”.
This answer shows the Dutchman’s ignorance of the importance of a player’s psychological state. Additionally, it also shows arrogance about the club and the stress that comes binding with it. Ignorance that is evident in the pictures of Lenglet, as he left the Camp Nou after Sunday’s match in tears, most likely due to a lack of support. The kind of lack of support that eventually leads to careers dissolving.
In the same press conference, Koeman stated that “this team has enough personality and experience” to get through bad moments. This “experience” is also susceptible to being psychologically overwhelmed, the dressing room at halftime at Anfield is evidence of this.
Whether it is Koeman or the next president’s manager, one will have to get a hold of this problem. Luckily for them, the blueprint of how much power the manager can have over this can be seen in the place Jordi Alba shed his tears.
The Jurgen Klopp effect
When Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool, one of the first things he addressed was a change in psychology from the supporters. He wanted the fans to believe in the process, and in his first press conference, he enforced this by saying, “we need to feel the confidence and trust of the people”.
In ‘Believe Us’, Klopp speaks about the psychological state he found the players in when he first arrived. He claims that “The players were obviously listening to all the voices saying they are not good enough for the club or that I can’t wait to get rid of them.” A situation some Barca players find themselves in now, as mentioned earlier.
One of the German’s first instructions was for the players to pay no attention to comments outside of him and his coaching staff, a message that took longer than expected to resonate, as the team collapsed in the title race halfway through the next season.
Klopp explains that the collapse was down to the players not complying with this request. The German explained how the players were focused on people saying, “they don’t have a plan B for deep-defending sides, they can only play one way”. A criticism that Cúlers this season know too well.
Klopp emphasises the importance a strong mentality within games had on the Red’s fortunes and claims new players alone would not have been enough. This is a note worth taking for those looking at Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to change Barcelona’s fortunes.
It took Klopp years to convince some players that they were good enough to play for a club as big as Liverpool. New players added to the quality of the squad but that psychological attitude to keep going for the full 90 minutes, no matter the score, is what led the club to their recent success. This was visible countless times over last season as well, as Pool continued to take hits at teams till the last minute till they eventually broke. Barcelona, too, have been on the receiving end of their incredible mentality.
Koeman might be right in that the players do not need a sports psychologist. However, Lenglet’s incident exhibits that the psychological state of his players is something that he must take control of and not ignore.
Next season has the potential to be an important one for Barcelona’s near future. With a new president at the helm and a potential new manager. The Catalan side needs to banish the psychological doubts leftover by Bartomeu’s reign and move forward as one unit.
The fans and players need to get behind the project put in place, as Jurgen Klopp puts it “when you agree on a common idea and work towards it together, you can create something special”.