It is August 11th, 2015. The final whistle has just been blown by Willie Collum at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Barcelona have just won the UEFA Super Cup for a record fifth time. The Barca players and staff smile, scream, sing, jump, hug and dance after a hard fought 120 minutes, the celebrations begin.
However, not everyone was smiling. There is face that stands out from the crowd, a serious face of a player deep in thought, almost foreign to all that’s going on around him. Pedro Rodriguez, the scorer on the fifth and decisive goal, knows he has played his last few minutes as a Blaugrana. This Sunday, May 22nd, when Barcelona take on Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid to decide who will be crowned as Copa del Rey champions, a similar story could play out for at least four players.
Marc Bartra, Adriano, Thomas Vermaelen and Sandro are expected to leave during the summer transfer window, but unlike Pedro nine months before them, it is unlikely they will have a chance come off the bench, don Barca’s jersey one last time and finish their Barcelona career on a high note.
Vermaelen last featured for Barca back on March 12th, Adriano last played on April 20th and Bartra on April 23rd, while Sandro has been injured for two months and received the medical green light just in time to be eligible to play in the final.
Vermaelen and Sandro will leave having arguably never received much of a chance to make an impression with the Cules. Vermaelen suffered from constant injury problems and Sandro ranked fifth in preference for the attack behind the Messi-Suarez-Neymar attack, and fellow Masia product Munir.
Adriano was for a few seasons a “super sub”, capable of scoring screamers that could sometimes determine a game, and his hard work rate and his ability to handle being a bench player for six seasons, made him a player that all fans appreciated.
Bartra’s story is one that most still do not fully understand. Hailed as the “next Puyol” in his early Barcelona career, he was promoted to the first team in 2010 by then manager Pep Guardiola, and since then under the orders of Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino and Luis Enrique, he has not been able to become a starter for Barcelona or even a first-choice substitute for Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.
With the team rumoured to be in the market for a central defender and a fourth striker, and with Jeremy Mathieu being able to play both in the centre of defence and the left wing, and Munir reportedly being offered a new contract, Vermaelen, Bartra, Adriano and Sandro seem to have no place in the squad for next season.
And then there is the very strange case of Douglas Pereira, who after a couple of seasons and just a handful of games under his belt, is not expected to even be named to the match day squad for the final.
Barca have been looking for other suitors for the Brazilian since the end of last season, but even after offering to pay his wages if he left, no deal has come through. In the summer, the board will have to decide whether they loan him out, keep him on the bench for another year or even rescind his contract.
Finally, there’s Arda Turan. Although a recent signing specifically requested by Luis Enrique, the Turk has not found his place within the team and has underperformed after high expectations were placed on him. Since Turan is a highly valued player across Europe, and with the Chinese Super League paying exorbitant amounts to attract talent to their competition, there are rumours that if Barca receive a good enough offer they would be willing to part ways with the former Atletico man after half a season.
Whatever the final outcome of Sunday’s game is, even if Barcelona win their 28th Copa del Rey title, Luis Enrique and the board will undoubtedly be looking to make some changes to the squad for next season.
Unfortunately for the players mentioned above, that could mean bowing out without getting a chance to wear the Blaugrana colors one last time. Although it would be sad to see some of them go, the need to reinforce the squad to be in a position to compete for next season's Treble is imperative.