Now for something completely different. It’s midsummer and we’re well into the World Cup in Brazil, so time to take stock of what is happening at Can Barça. And this summer it looks like a mini revolution is in the making. Starting at the top, with Luis Enrique installed as the new coach. This will be Barça’s fourth coach in as many years. Luis Enrique comes with years of experience of playing for Barcelona and some useful experience as a coach. However he is untested at this level, as was Guardiola of course. He seems to be a very confident and determined person with his own ideas of how he wants the team to play. We wish him well.
As regards the team itself, it looks like there will be significant changes in every line. Beginning with the goalkeeper, where there have been two new signings – Marc Ter Stegen from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Chilean international Claudio Bravo who has signed from Real Sociedad. It will be fascinating to see who ends up as the first choice keeper. Whoever it is, he will have a hard job to match the record of Victor Valdés, who has left the club of his own volition. Still recovering from a serious injury, Valdés’ own future is very uncertain.
The centre of the defence is the one area where everyone has been expecting major change for the past three seasons. Perhaps this time, there will be new faces in the defence. Carles Puyol has finally had to admit defeat in his attempts to overcome his injury problems. It also seems that Javier Mascherano will revert to playing in midfield as cover for Busquets. This leaves the team with just two central defenders – Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartra. Hence all the talk about the need to sign not just one, but two central defenders. The usual suspects are bandied about, Marquinhos from PSG and Mathieu from Valencia, to name just two, but as yet no deal has been done for anyone. The other possible change in the defence is at right back. The future of Dani Alves is once again a topic for newspaper columns. Central defenders seems to be more of a priority right now.
Midfield is another line that will definitely see major changes. Cesc Fàbregas has already left, bound for Chelsea, while Xavi has all but confirmed his departure from the club for a season or two in Qatar. Ivan Rakitic, the Croatian international has already been signed from Sevilla. He will add some much needed physical presence to the midfield as well as a good technique. Whether he can replace Xavi is less certain. He seems more in the mold of a Seydou Keita type player, someone who played an essential part in the successes of the Guardiola team. The player the club would like to take over from Xavi appears to be Koke, the Spanish international from Atlético Madrid. Koke though will not come cheap, €40-50 million seems to be the minimum that Atlético will demand. Assuming the player wants to leave anyway. He is an Atlético fan and may not want to leave, at least not just now, as Atlético get another chance at the Champions League. There will be one another new player in midfield for next season, Rafa Alcántara. Rafinha, as he is known, is the younger brother of former Barça hope, Thiago. Rafinha of course is just coming home, after a year on loan with Celta Vigo, where his coach was none other than Luis Enrique. Can Rafinha fill the hole left by Xavi? The other midfielder from last season is Sergi Roberto, who has never quite made it into the first team as a regular. If Barcelona do sign Koke or someone similar, it is hard to see much of a future for Sergi Roberto at the club.
Up front there will be at least one new arrival in the shape of Gerard Deulofeu, another product of Barcelona’s famous youth system. Deulofeu spent last season on loan at Everton, where he did OK, but never secured a regular starting place. Everyone at the Camp Nou expects great things from Deulofeu, but he will find it no easier to break through at Barcelona than at Everton. Most commentators reckon that Christian Tello, who only made sporadic appearances for the team last season, will leave during the summer. Messi and Neymar will remain as the stars of the team. The big question for Luis Enrique is, do Barça need a different type of forward to add variety to their attacking options. This has been a bit of a perennial topic for Barça fans, along with who will be the next central defender. No one knows for certain what Luis Enrique thinks of this, but the press is full of all kinds of names of possible reinforcements for the attack. The latest name to appear was Luis Suárez, the Uruguayan striker at Liverpool. He of course would cost a fortune, assuming Liverpool would sell their star asset. This is where the other Barcelona strikers appear. Both Pedro and Alexis Sánchez are deemed to be transferable if the price is right. The Luis Suárez story has Alexis going in the opposite direction to Liverpool, thus reducing the cost to Barcelona.
It all sounds a bit fanciful, but the alleged coming and goings of footballs is all part and parcel of the summer fun for fans everywhere. And stranger things have happened in the world of football. Looks like a good forward line though – Messi, Neymar and Suárez!