With the transfer window now done and dusted, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the business conducted by Barcelona.
While Barcelona had a decent 2022/23 season, they were still short in a few areas and were in desperate need of reinforcement. As a result, they headed into the summer transfer window in hopes of making a few major signings to ensure they were on the right track.
Meanwhile, they also witnessed the departures of two of their best-ever players (Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba) who had given their all to this amazing club. Their exit has left a huge void that might have been filled for now, but the reality is that they are irreplaceable.
The 2022/23 season will go down in the history of Barcelona as one of the most important seasons in their history. The Catalan giants were in all sorts of trouble prior to that, but they still managed to build a team that took La Liga by storm.
They were struggling financially, some of their best players had left the club over the past few seasons and things were a mess at the club. Despite that, Xavi Hernandez managed to guide them to the La Liga title in his very first full season in charge.
It was not just any title win, it was a dominant display that saw them win their 27th title, their first in four years and their first since the departure of Lionel Messi. While it was an exceptional league season, things didn’t work out in Europe. They were knocked out of the group stage of the Champions League and post that, they were knocked out of the Europa League knockout round at the hands of Manchester United.
Barcelona might not have been at their best in all competitions but their dominance in the league did suggest that good times are back. And, given the kind of business they have done in the recently concluded transfer window, they seem to be an even stronger outfit.
Ins and outs
Barcelona have had some significant departures in the recently-concluded summer transfer window. Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba who are in the twilight of their career, decided to call it a time to their time in Europe and joined former teammate Messi at Inter Miami.
Their departure was not that big a shock as everyone knew that it would happen if not today rather than tomorrow. The real shock to Barcelona fans was the departure of Ousmane Dembélé. A player they had a lot of faith in, but, he ended up choosing a better deal at Paris Saint-Germain.
Outs: Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembélé, Franck Kessie, Nico Gonzalez, Abde Ezzalzouli, Trincao, Samuel Umtiti, Alex Collado, Antoine Griezmann (move to Atletico Madrid became permanent this summer)
Loaned Out: Ansu Fati, Clément Lenglet, Eric García, Sergino Dest
✍️ Ousmane Dembélé has joined Paris Saint-Germain from FC Barcelona. The world champion, who will wear the number 23, has signed for 5 seasons. #WelcomeDembélé
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) August 12, 2023
While they have let go of quite a lot of players, they have managed to retain the core and have added some high-quality players to the mix. Meanwhile, sending Ansu Fati out on loan to Brighton seems to be a well-thought-out decision because it will help him revive his career.
Ins: Oriol Romeu, Ilkay Gundogan, Inigo Martínez,
Loaned In: Joao Cancelo, Joao Felix
Barcelona identified the major problems they had last season and even ensured they cover for the absence of the players who had left in the summer when they pushed for new signings. In order to replace Busquets, they added Romeu as well as Manchester City’s treble-winning skipper Gundogan.
La Masia graduates Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal will takeover from Alba and Dembele. So, they did not really have to enter the market for their replacements. Meanwhile, their major concern last season was a right-back, and the arrival of Cancelo sorts things out in that sense. Felix is a direct replacement for Fati, while Inigo Martinez will add the much needed depth to their defence.
Joao Felix x Joao Cancelo pic.twitter.com/N1JI1idoXz
— FC Barcelona (@fcbarcelona_tr) September 2, 2023
Attacking full-backs have played an important role in the Barcelona setup for years. But, of late they have not had the kind of right-back they had back in the day. Last season, Jules Kounde, traditionally a centre-back, featured in the right-back role. But, he made it clear that he won’t continue on the right.
As a result, Barcelona were desperate for a new right-sided full-back. They started monitoring Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo. And eventually, on deadline day they acquired his services on loan.
While it might not be a permanent move, the Portuguese international could do wonders for them. He is exceptional on the ball and is a real attacking threat. He will be a perfect fit in Xavi’s system and it will help them push the opposition further back in their own half.
Value for Money Signing
Signing someone just months after he led his team to a treble that too for free is a crazy deal. And, that is exactly what Barcelona got in Gundogan. The German international led Manchester City to a treble last season and post that, he decided to end his successful stint in England.
The 32-year-old wanted a new challenge, and he was keen on joining Barcelona. Despite offers from all across Europe, the former Manchester City skipper wanted to join the Catalan giants. And, his arrival surely bolsters their squad.
It will help them cope with the absence of Busquets, and his versatility will make Barcelona a more threatening outfit. The 32-year-old can play different roles and he has proved to be successful irrespective of the role. As a result, he might be their biggest buy of the summer.
Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba
Barça players lifted Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets ❤️💙 pic.twitter.com/xwiY142tWM
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 28, 2023
Busquets and Alba will go down as two of the greatest to have ever worn the Barcelona jersey. The duo has won it all multiple times with the Catalan giants. They have been at the club for ages and have seen it all.
They are in the twilight of their career, and their departure was closing in with every passing day. On the back of a successful season, they decided to call it a day. And, both of them decided to reunite with Messi in Major League Soccer.
While their departure did break hearts, it had to happen one day or another. The Catalan giants have secured the needed replacement to cope with their absence, and they are expected to be a similar force without their presence.
The Big Miss
The 23-year-old moved to Barcelona in the winter of 2022. Torres arrived with a lot of expectations, and he joined the club at a time when they were struggling. The fans thought the Spanish international could build on his performances at Manchester City.
But, things have not gone according to plan for the 23-year-old. He has featured in a total of 74 matches and has contributed towards just 25 goals. Torres is yet to establish himself as a first-team regular and the current situation suggests that he might not be the preferred choice under Xavi this season. As a result, cashing in on him this summer and further bolstering their squad could have been a great move by the Catalan giants.
Barcelona were struggling throughout the transfer window to get the kind of players they wanted. And, the majority of their problems were because of their financial struggle. The Blaugrana could not go big and sign someone. As a result, they had to play the waiting game.
Eventually, they did some incredible bit of business on deadline day, signing Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo to ensure they had the kind of quality in their squad to challenge the top dogs of Europe.
While they had sorted out their midfielder quite early in the transfer window, signing a new right-back and a forward was a must heading into the deadline. Barcelona managed to get both the Portuguese internationals on a straightforward season-long loan. And, their arrival surely makes them a well-balanced squad.