For all the stick and speculation Ronald Koeman has had to endure over the course of the past few months, it really hasn’t been the completely calamitous campaign that so many have branded it for Barcelona.
After a fairly miserable start to the season, a Copa del Rey crown and an unbelievable run of form to eventually fall at the last hurdle in a thrilling La Liga title race – all in a season of transition – has signalled that there is progression in the right direction at Camp Nou.
With Koeman looking ever more likely to remain at the helm, he’ll be looking to build on that progress to really make a mark on the domestic and European stage. Rather predictably, the way La Blaugrana seem to want to achieve that is by selling and then signing quite a few players.
So, after a busy summer, the Barcelona lineup could look very different. Let’s take a look.
There have inevitably been murmurs around the footballing community that Barcelona may be in the market for a goalkeeper – notably Gigi Donnarumma – to take over from Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But, to be honest, they really don’t need one.
The German keeper has had a solid season for the most part, often pulling out absolute worldies to keep his side in games. If it weren’t for the legend that is Manuel Neuer, he’d be a shoo in to start at the European Championship this summer after a respectable 11 La Liga clean sheets behind a somewhat dodgy back line.
With the centre of defence being prioritised more, Koeman will likely have to make do with Sergino Dest on the right of his back line – hey, he could do worse.
Although the USMNT international really needs to brush up on his defensive duties against top class wingers, there is no doubt he adds a cut and thrust when surging down the right flank and he’ll be very keen to build on the three goal contributions he managed last term.
He’s back where it all began.
Eric Garcia returns to Camp Nou having spent four years under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. With the error-prone Clement Lenglet and makeshift centre back Oscar Mingueza filling in the back line last term, there should be an opportunity for someone else to establish themselves alongside Gerard Pique.
While Ronald Araujo has impressed over the last campaign, Garcia’s natural ability to pass the ball in a typical Blaugrana way while displaying defensive solidity may earn him much more regular first team football than he got at the Etihad.
Yes, he is ageing (fast) and, yes, he has been prone to injuries in recent times.
But he is a leader and will be integral in overseeing the progress of whoever lines up next to him, while also adding a much needed voice at the back. Pique only managed 23 matches across all competitions in the 2020/21 campaign but, you can bet anything you want, they are a stronger team with him included.
A true member of the Barça old guard, Jordi Alba has been a valuable servant to the club on the pitch and there is no doubt he can still hack it at the top for another season or two.
Although La Blaugrana are seeking his potential heirs, don’t think he won’t be the main man next time out. His ten goal contributions throughout the 2020/21 La Liga campaign prove how much of an impact he has in the final third and his telepathic relationship with Lionel Messi will surely make him number one choice next term.
This man could literally fulfil any outfield role and do a brilliant job. While he was at his most effective as a free-roaming, creative, central midfielder last campaign, the arrival of a certain high-profile midfield compatriot (more on that in a little bit) could push him back to a holding role.
It’s about time the problem to the leggy Sergio Busquets was answered and Frenkie de Jong, who has previous experience of playing very deep, could be the ideal fit – quick, strong, intelligent and bloody good in possession.
Sitting in front of his international teammate could be Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum. The central midfielder has been rumoured to be ready to complete the switch to Camp Nou for a while and, having previously worked with Koeman with the national side, would seamlessly fit into the system – you’d hope, anyway.
Adding a bit of guile and defensive ability into the midfield would also allow De Jong to venture forward on the odd occasion, as he does so competently. It might be the perfect fit for Koeman’s Barcelona – either that or another failed high-earner.
This guy arrived at Camp Nou from second-tier Las Palmas a relative unknown in the summer of 2020 and has blown everyone away.
After a season of exponential development under Koeman, 18-year old Pedri has become undroppable for one of the planet’s biggest clubs. With relentlessly dogged, yet elegant and mesmerizingly clever performances, he’s gathered admirer after admirer and has become intertwined with Messi when playing through opposition back lines.
After a phenomenal maiden campaign in Blaugrana colours, he’ll have every opportunity of hitting the top in the future and, coming back from this summer’s European Championship, will aim to do just that.
Right, well you don’t need anyone else to tell you that Messi will start for Barcelona next season. It’s pretty obvious, right?
After agreeing a new two-year deal with the club, everyone with at least a soft spot for La Blaugrana will have been relieved and excited to see the captain continue to inspire his fellow teammates past this summer.
In a season where Messi seemed to recapture his happiness and joy while playing for Barcelona, he registered 38 goals and 14 assists in 47 games – standard. In what will be a fairly different front line next season, Messi will be the one constant. This time, there’s no debate.
Now, this is exciting.
Sergio Aguero is now a Barcelona player and will be lining up alongside his international teammate – and good friend – Messi throughout next season. It’s a scary proposition for opposition defences, to say the least.
The two have a combined 112 goals for Argentina and will undoubtedly hit the ground running next campaign, potentially creating another hot-firing, chance-creating, initial-worthy machine of a front line.
Koeman has made no secret of his desire to bring in Memphis Depay and, with the forward very keen to secure that move, we could see him complete the Dutch contingent in the squad for next season.
With the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho all linked with exits, Depay, who bagged 20 league goals last term, would slot into the front three to supply a vigour and thrust as well as an extra clinical streak to La Blaugrana’s play – which, over the course of their admittedly not-so-calamitous 2020/21 season, they undeniably lacked.