Joan Laporta can be a loquacious character but Barcelona’s president was blunt when he outlined the club’s goals before Christmas.
“We’ve made it crystal clear to everyone in the dressing room that our all-important objective is to win the league,” the elected official declared. Xavi Hernandez has lived up to his president’s ambitions in his first full season in charge of the club he captained to such success.
However, while the La Liga table looks mightily healthy with a double-digit gap to Real Madrid, the figures on Barcelona’s balance sheet are nowhere near as attractive. Naturally, with Laporta at the helm, the goals for the transfer window will be characteristically aspirational.
Based on the grounding of 90min‘s expert transfer assessment, here’s a look at how Barcelona could line up for the 2023/24 campaign.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – With more La Liga clean sheets in one season than any other Barcelona goalkeeper in the history of the Spanish top flight, Ter Stegen’s place is safe for another year.
RB: Jules Kounde – If Barcelona still had all the levers available to them, there may be an upgrade at right-back. Yet, with La Liga furtively pouring over every decimal point, what funds Barcelona can conjure up will likely be used elsewhere.
CB: Ronald Araujo – Seemingly the only La Liga defender that can consistently muzzle Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, the admiration between Xavi and Araujo is mutual.
CB: Andreas Christensen – Without hogging the plaudits of other teammates, Christensen has been subtly superb at the heart of the best defence not only in Spain but across Europe’s top five leagues during his debut season.
LB: Alejandro Balde – The fleet-footed Masia graduate will still be a teenager by the start of the 2023/24 campaign. Nevertheless, as Jordi Alba’s role continues to dwindle, Balde is set to cement his spot haring up and down the left flank.
CM: Bernardo Silva – Here is where things start to get interesting. Bernardo has seemingly had one foot out of the Etihad for the last three years only for Pep Guardiola to cajole him into one more season but Barcelona, as dominant La Liga champions (don’t look at their European record) are attractive suitors. City are thought to want as much as £75m for the 28-year-old under contract until 2025.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – Barcelona will not have to loosen the purse strings for Gundogan’s transfer fee as the Manchester City captain’s contract runs out this summer. 90min understands that the Catalans are close to finalising a deal for a cerebral midfielder to fill the void vacated by the departing Sergio Busquets.
CM: Pedri – When detailing the importance of the slender midfielder, Xavi once gushed: “Pedri gives us a lot of tranquillity. He makes every ball that goes through his feet better. I’m just calmer when he has the ball, it’s that simple.” There is no way he is going anywhere.
RW: Lionel Messi – Two years after Messi sobbed his way out of Camp Nou – which was just 12 months after sending a burofax demanding his sale – Barcelona are “leaving no stone unturned” in their bid to resign the club’s all-time top scorer. It may take an unprecedented scale of financial fiddling – even for Barcelona – but they are supposedly desperate, or keen to look as desperate as possible, to bring Messi home.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – Despite a post-World Cup lull, Lewandowski’s debut season in La Liga can be viewed as an overall success. Barcelona’s leading scorer is on course to become the first player since Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2007 to finish as the most prolific player in Spain after his first campaign in the country.
LW: Gavi – The muddled shirt number history which has played out on the back of Gavi’s jerseys this season underpins the complex nature of the teenager’s contractual situation. Given La Liga’s strict salary limits, Gavi will technically become a free agent this summer until Barcelona can shed the excess expenditure on the balance sheet. The season may be over but Barcelona have plenty of work still to do.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss the possibility of Neymar joining Newcastle, Jude Bellingham’s decision on his future and Lionel Messi leaving PSG.
If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!