The holidays are over for the majority of players as Barça’s 2011/2012 season begins today. Messi, Mascherano, Milito, Alves and Adriano should all arrive around August 3 after Argentina and Brazil were both eliminated in the Copa America quarter-finals on penalties, but the rest of the players reported for physical tests, except for Carles Puyol who is undergoing physiotherapy after his knee operation at the beginning of June and Bojan Krkic who was given permission to continue negotiating his transfer to Roma. Andreu Fontas and Thiago Alcantara are now of course officially first team players while Jonathan dos Santos also joined the group though he still has a B-team contract.
As things stand players like Jeffren, Milito and Maxwell who were rumoured to be on the players-who-will-leave list are still with us though Jeffren continues to be linked with a move to Bolton though I’d say he was worth a little bit more than the €6 million that Bolton have reportedly offered. Milito has been linked with Lyon, Roma and Lazio and I think it would probably be best if he moved on. There are been reports of Joan Capdevila or Jordi Alba being bought to replace Maxwell, but if I don’t have any problem if he stays for another season as he’s always been pretty reliable when called on.
If for the sake of argument, we sell Milito, Bojan and Jeffren we would be left with a first team squad of just 19 players which at the moment would look like this:
GOALKEEPERS: Valdés, Pinto
DEFENDERS: Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Adriano, Fontas, Maxwell.
MIDFIELDERS: Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Thiago
FORWARDS: Messi, Villa, Pedro, Afellay.
We are probably all being won over by Guardiola’s small-squad strategy given the success it has brought us in the last three seasons. It’s never really been a case that we might “run out” of players as we have so many talented youngsters who could be used in emergency, and I hope we see a bit more first team action this season for the likes of Sergi Roberto or Gerard Deulofeu. However, I am sure we are going to try and make at least one big signing this summer and the most likely at the moment seems to be Alexis Sanchez despite the clubs still not reaching an agreement on the conditions.
I don’t think we need to sign anybody in defence (unless Maxwell leaves) as we have so much versatility with Mascherano and Adriano offering excellent back-up for Alves, Piqué, Puyol and Abidal. We could have problems of course if Puyol and Abidal suffer setbacks but they are two very strong individuals who I’m confident will both play a lot of games this season. We also have plenty of young talent in Bartra, Montoya, Muniesa etc.
Mascherano is of course also a first class replacement in midfield, while Keita and Thiago offer aditional support to the first choice trio of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta. Fabregas would improve the competition but if we are with limited funds then surely the priority should be an attacker. I’m not quite sure why we are no longer linked with Villarreal’s Guiseppe Rossi but I will have no complaints if we finally sign Alexis. With our first preseason friendly on Saturday against Hadjuk Split it would be good to get the transfer business out of the way quickly so that Guardiola can get everybody working together as soon as possible.