De Jong in, Dembele out – the Barcelona players who need to stay and go
Tuesday’s chastening 4-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League effectively ended Barcelona’s season and highlighted the need for an overhaul at Camp Nou.
Unless there is a Remontada-style comeback at Parc des Prince on 10th March, which would be even more remarkable than the 6-1 version Barca managed against PSG in 2017, Ronald Koeman’s side have little more than the Copa del Rey to play for.
Barcelona are eight points off the pace in La Liga, having played a game less than Atletico Madrid, and are effectively out of the Champions League. Meanwhile, in the Copa they will need to instigate a comeback if they are to overcome Sevilla.
That Barca’s only victory against a ‘top’ team this season came against a Juventus outfit in transition highlights just how far off the elite status they are.
But given the backdrop of the club’s financial difficulties, how can they go about constructing a team capable of challenging for top honours once more?
Players Barcelona need to sell
Ousmane Dembele – Prodigiously talented but simply injured far too often to provide the type of quality that Barcelona need on a weekly basis. Given the club’s financial troubles, they cannot afford to carry such baggage.
Philippe Coutinho – Has had a tendency to occupy the same areas as Messi during his time at Camp Nou. Barcelona must try to take advantage of getting some re-sale value for a player who is a luxury they cannot afford.
Miralem Pjanic – Bought from Juventus in order to balance the books in the short term. He’s not getting regular game time and is drawing a big wage. Pjanic deserves better but so do Barcelona.
Junior Firpo – Excited when he broke onto the scene at Real Betis but in 18 months at Barcelona has not shown enough to suggest he can cut it at the highest level.
Samuel Umtiti – Struggling with form and injury, Umtiti is a capable player but it seems that he has had his day at Barcelona.
Players Barcelona need to keep
Lionel Messi – Of course, this is stating the obvious. Messi is a player unparalleled in what he has brought to a single club over the past generation. His contract is up in the summer, and Barcelona will somehow need to talk him into accepting a huge pay cut if they are to have any chance of keeping him.
Ansu Fati – Barcelona’s future is set to be built around the 18-year-old attacker.
Trincao – Showing signs of settling at the club after a slow start and deserves his opportunity to realise his potential.
Pedri – Outrageously talented for just 18. Another player who must be a cornerstone of the new Barcelona.
Riqui Puig – Has not featured under Koeman as much as many fans would have wished but is a Barcelona thoroughbred and will only improve with time.
Sergi Roberto – The versatile defensive player is now 29 but still has a role to play due to his consistency and malleability.
Sergino Dest – Given the lesson of his life against Kylian Mbappe in the Champions League but only arrived at the start of October. There is much work to be done to refine the defensive aspects of his game but he deserves a chance to do it.
Oscar Mingueza – Thrust into the first-team spotlight this year, he has held his own as a support player to the starting XI.
Ronald Araujo – See above. Koeman is a big fan.
Playing for their Barcelona futures
Antoine Griezmann – Sure, he’s not lived up to expectations since his high-profile move from Atletico Madrid and he’s never going to be another Messi. But Barcelona have caught glimpses of what he is capable of this season. If he can replicate the form he has shown since the beginning of January over a prolonged period, Barca may struggled to attract better.
Clement Lenglet – Signed from Sevilla in 2018, Lenglet has enjoyed spells of good form at Camp Nou but is he really a centre-back to win the Champions League with? Perhaps, but not as a first pick.
Players who must be phased out over the next year
Sergio Busquets – While Busquets has a role to play at Barcelona over the next 18 months, it showed against PSG that it has to be one of decreasing importance. Lacks the legs to match opponents who are quick in transition.
Jordi Alba – An outstanding servant for the club but one who will be 33 years old by the time the 2021/22 season ends. Barcelona need to consider a succession plan at left-back.
Gerard Pique – The oldest of the trio, but arguably the one who might have the greatest staying power in the team. Nevertheless, it would be remiss of Barcelona not to be looking at other options for the long term.