Great news today as Tito Vilanova returned to Barcelona after two months receiving treatment in New York. Accompanied by Jordi Roura and Aureli Altimira who flew out to New York on Friday, Vilanova arrived at Barcelona’s El Prat airport at 8.30 this morning. If he feels strong enough he could return to work for this afternoon’s training though it seems more likely that Roura will take the session.
The reports so far remain cautious so we will just have to wait and see how things develop from here, but there are plenty of decisions to be made and Tito’s input will be very important. Barça play Celta on Saturday before the tough Champions League quarter final at Paris Saint Germain next Tuesday and we are looking somewhat stretched with injury problems in defence. We need to decide on the best formation to face PSG though the news on Jordi Alba’s injury suggest he should be back in time.
Besides the immediate challenge of winning another Liga and Champions League doblete this season, Vilanova will also need to work with Zubizaretta on decisions relating to next season’s squad. The goalkeeper’s position looks like being the most complicated problem. If Victor Valdés cannot be persuaded to change his decision not to renew his contract, then the club needs to decide: first, whether to try and sell Valdés this summer to make some money or if we should try to keep him on for his last season, and second, who we should buy as a replacement.
The other big decision for this summer is whether or not to sign Brazilian golden boy Neymar from Santos. It seems pretty clear that Barça have already paid a fee of around €10 million just to secure the option to buy the player when he leaves Santos. It sounds very much like a Rosell deal which is one of the things I was most worried about when he took over the presidency. Now Vilanova and Zubizaretta will have to decide whether we take the option to buy though it seems unlikely they will turn it down given Rosell’s position and the fact that we’d look pretty stupid if we paid the €10 million for nothing.
There could be more signings to reinforce the squad. A central defender would seem a logical reinforcement especially given the number of injuries that Puyol seems to suffer. Then there are decisions to be taken on which Barça B players to promote to the first team with the most likely candidates being Gerard Deulofeu, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto. We will also have loaned players such as Cuenca, Bojan and Afellay back this summer and decisions will need to be taken on whether any of them have a future at Camp Nou. Finally, of course, if new players come in then some will have to be shipped out. An unpleasant side to the job but decisions must be made.
There is plenty of work for Vilanova to do and we will just have to hope he is strong enough for the challenge. His absence has been a difficult time and he has been missed enormously though I can only express my utmost respect and gratitude to Jordi Roura for taking over in such complicated circumstances. Roura never wanted the job and always insisted that Tito was still the first team coach at all times. The fact that he continued to wear a tracksuit when he could have donned a suit to go with the role should be appreciated. 100% humility and dignity, thank-you Jordi.
I hope that today Vilanova gets some much needed rest and some quality time with his nearest and dearest. His extended family at FC Barcelona await him with open arms. Welcome home Tito. Your struggle is our strength!