Biggest Summer Transfer Needs for Barcelona
The forthcoming summer transfer window could be one of the most important for Barcelona in years.
The club simply have to get things right this time, and much rests on the negotiating skills of sporting director Andoni Zubizaretta to ensure Tata Martino gets the players he requires.
Whether or not Barca decide to sell any current first team personnel, their need to recruit players in certain areas is obvious.
And, quite frankly, it has been for some time.
Let's take a look at where the Blaugrana need to strengthen the most.
Why on earth are we heading into another transfer window with Barcelona's most pressing transfer need still not addressed?
It's a damning indictment of the current, and previous regimes at the club.
The Blaugrana have been one of the best teams to watch over the last few years but there is one area that has always caused them a problem.
The centre of defence.
It's become more noticeable since Carles Puyol's injuries have restricted his appearances and reduced Barca's fear factor.
Teams now know to pump the ball high into the box to exploit Barca's aerial deficiency.
Gerard Pique can generally be relied upon as long as he has someone like Puyol alongside him. Elegant on the ball, the six-footer really should be adept in the air, but he's one of the worst culprits.
Javier Mascherano has pace and spatial awareness but no aerial presence and isn't a natural fit for the position.
Marc Bartra needs games under his belt to fully realise his potential, but has been unable to stake a claim for a regular starting berth under Tata Martino.
Other players of his age, Mario Balotelli for example, have already played four times as many first team games as Bartra, so it's now or never for the young Catalan.
We have seen at least the last four transfer windows come and go without Barcelona strengthening in this area and—given current form and concerns—this simply cannot be allowed to happen again.
For Barca to improve as a unit, their first priority has to be to break the bank and sign a high-quality, commanding and aggressive centre-back.
Jose Manuel Pinto may be approaching his 39th birthday at the end of this year, but he has been the very embodiment of professionalism during his time at Camp Nou.
It would be very harsh on one of the most popular members of the dressing room, and Barca's Copa Del Rey keeper, if he were to be unceremoniously dumped at the end of the current campaign.
However, Napoli's Pepe Reina looms large in the background, unsure whether he still has a future on Merseyside, in Italy or whether he will finish his career in Blaugrana.
According to El Mundo Deportivo, reported on by Press Association via The Guardian, Reina is ready to return to the club where he began his career:
I would love to return to Barcelona. To play at Barça is a privilege.
Right now I'm not thinking about it. I was fortunate to play there once and I consider myself privileged to have done that.
The important thing is that I continue to do well at Napoli.
With the goalkeeping position one of the most difficult to fill, Barcelona executives should make their decision early to allow a full summer of preparation.
Rumours are rife that Dani Alves will be leaving Camp Nou at the end of the season.
Spanish daily AS, h/t Georges Sessions of Sambafoot.com, is just one media source that believes the right-back's recent antics have alienated some of his teammates.
Should Alves depart, Barca have Martin Montoya waiting in reserve. But is he good enough to be the permanent replacement for the Brazilian?
His stats via whoscored.com would appear to suggest not.
How many times have we seen Montoya beat his man and then fail to get the ball into the box? Just 0.3 crosses from his 11 games played is a poor return for an attacking wing-back.
Only 0.3 key passes and 2 assists is also a fairly damning indictment of the player.
Whilst he may get his wish for more first-team football, how long he stays there is anyone's guess.
Whilst it's an unpalatable thought, Xavi Hernandez isn't getting any younger and is starting to influence games less.
The issue for Barcelona is how and when do they replace the pass-master? There simply isn't anyone in the same bracket as him when it comes to passing accuracy.
Whoscored details his pass completion rate at 93.2 per cent from an average of 92.3 passes made during La Liga games this season.
Rather than wait for his career to peter out, Barca should be looking at alternatives now to ensure a seamless handover.
Perhaps this is where Barca start to think outside of the box, with a view to changing the way they use their transitions in the midfield areas.
Juventus' Arturo Vidal is the epitome of the modern day midfielder.
Tough-tackling, energetic, combative, intelligent and with an eye for goal, there is barely any weakness to his game.
But it's not Barca's game.
Vidal doesn't do "tiki-taka" but his skill set will give Barca something that they don't have at present.
It may require a sea change of opinion in the corridors of power for the player to be brought to Camp Nou, but what he brings to the table cannot simply be dismissed.
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