This promises to be another long and exciting summer ahead for Barça fans. It looks like there is going to be even more players moving than usual. This means we will have even more rumours to mull over and get our mouths watering in anticipation or simply amazement. The big super signing of the close season has already happened – the arrival of Brazilian striker Neymar. At a cost of upwards of €50million, this signing alone has taken up all or more of the planned transfer budget for the year. The team still needs an experienced central defender, even more so now that Abidal has left the club and Puyol faces an uncertain future as he recovers from his latest injury. With no large sums of money left in the kitty, it seems that Tito Vilanova will have to make do with a cheaper alternative. Already the names of Mathieu and Ramos, both with Valencia are appearing in the media as possible targets. Now that it seems that Valdés will stay on at Barça for another season, there is no longer the same urgency to sign an experienced goalkeeper. But things could change on that front before the new season starts.
However it is clear that the main excitement this summer will come from figuring who will leave the club and where they will go. For there will undoubtedly be many more goings than comings between now and August. For a start there are the four, yes four players who have spent the past year or two on loan to other clubs. Bojan, Cuenca, Afellay and Fontàs are still officially Barcelona players and are due to come back from their respective loans this summer. But it is exceedingly unlikely that any of them will find a place in the squad for next season. There is also the issue of players from the B team. Usually one or two B team players get moved up to the first team squad. Deulofeu, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto are the players who would have expected to get this chance this year. But there do not appear to be vacancies for any of them. Deulofeu is an exciting, attacking wide player, but as Barça have just signed Neymar, it is not clear how Deulofeu would get any opportunities to play next season. Even allowing for the moving on of Villa, that still leaves Pedro, Alexis and Tello ahead of Deulofeu, all looking for possibly just one place in the attack. So unless one of the above mentioned leave, then it looks like Deulofeu will be asked to go on loan to gain first team experience. Rafinha and Sergi Roberto are both attacking, creative midfielder and both are in the typical Barcelona mold – small and of slight stature. As Barcelona already have four of the world’s best players in this position it is clear that there is not much chance of either getting a first team berth. Unless of course either Cesc or Thiago decide to try their luck elsewhere. Even then Tito Vilanova may well feel that the team needs a different type of midfielder – someone like Seydou Keita, tall and physically strong as well as technically sound. Someone who might have made a difference against the likes of Bayern Munich. So both may well join Deulofeu on loan. Not sure how much value there is in loaning out such players. Barcelona’s record in this respect is very poor. There is hardly any example of a player who was loaned out and then came back to triumph in the first team.
Of the current squad, other than David Villa, who seems set to leave, there must be question marks against Bartra and Dos Santos. Both players have been around for a couple of years in the first team squad, and neither has been given much of a chance. Which can only mean that the coaching staff do not really confide in them. This summer the B squad will be worth a look. According to the press up to 10 of the B squad will be leaving the club. The three mentioned above will either join the first team squad or be loaned out. The others – well who knows. Some will definitely leave the club altogether, while one or two might be asked to stay on for another year. The B team is there primarily to give competitive match experience to Barça’s promising young players. For this purpose the team needs to play in the second division, where they are now. And to maintain this status they need some experienced, older players who will never make it to the first team, but help the young players to find their feet as it were. 10 players are a lot to replace at one go. Though presumably some will ascend from the youth team. Still, expect a few signings just for the B squad. Watch this space!