The 2015-16 season is far from over. While Barcelona is dominating in la Liga, have reached the final in the Copa del Rey, and hold an important advantage over Arsenal in the Champions League's round of 16, the rumors of an animated summer, full of exits and new signings for the first team, are rampant.
Should Barça keep the core of the team that has ushered in a new era of success under Luis Enrique? Should the club continue to attract the best talent from around the world? Should players from the academy be given a chance to continue to prove their worth on the big stage? These are the questions the board, and Luis Enrique, will have to consider at the end of the season.
At the beginning of the current season the team parted ways with club-icon Xavi, “super-sub” Pedro and promising talents like Adama Traoré and Gerard Deulofeu; while promoting Munir and Sandro from Barça B, and signing Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal. However, the starting eleven most used by Luis Enrique in the treble winning 2014-15 season is still intact and has remained the preferred line-up, with the continued rotation between Marc Ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo.
After a somewhat shaky start, many argued that maybe Pedro shouldn’t have been allowed to leave, or that Ter Stegen should have been sold or loaned out, or that Mascherano should not continue to play as a central defender when his natural role is that of a midfielder; but now that the team has once again found their stride, are now obliterating records and find themselves in a position to possibly clinch the league before the final match is played, some of those voices have gone silent… for now at least.
If the last few decades have taught us anything is that, without a doubt, once the season ends, no matter what results the team has delivered, the pressure will be on to put together a team that continues dominate in Spain, in Europe and the world for seasons to come.
Many speculate that with Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City he could convince players like Bravo, Neymar or even Lionel Messi to join him at the Etihad Stadium. The growth of the Chinese Super League and the millions being spent to attract top class talent bring with them rumors of the departure of players like Dani Alves and even new signings like Turan. And of course, there are those deemed to not be “Barca material” like Douglas, those who could be considered flop signings like Thomas Vermaelen, or those not be taken into consideration by Luis Enrique however hard they try like Marc Bartra.
Then there are the reports of future Barcelona transfers. The board has all but confirmed that Denis Suárez will return from his spell at Villarreal, and according to reports, have discarded signings like Paul Pogba deeming him too expensive, and Nolito after Celta’s refusal to come to a loan agreement.
New names linked to the Blaugranas seem to appear on the press every day, the latest being Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez who is rumored to be an option to become the team’s new fourth-choice forward behind the MSN trident. The club must also consider if players like Sergi Samper, Gerard Gumbau or Wilfrid Kaptoum deserve to be promoted from Barça B, and if players like Alen Halilovic or Cristian Tello, will continued to be loaned out.
Finally, there is also age to consider. Bravo, Alves, Javier Mascherano, Andres Iniesta, Adriano, Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu are all over their thirties, and next year Piqué and Suarez will join them. Which one of them should remain a part of the starting eleven? Who should still be considered a viable sub? And who should be forced to leave?
When everything is taken into consideration, it is very possible to imagine a summer full of surprise signings and departures, a time to say goodbye to legends that have given their all to the club, and a time to look with hope to the future and trust that Luis Enrique and those in charge of the club will work to make sure Barcelona remains the best team in the world.
By Francisco Bahamode, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @fr_bahamonde