Barcelona have not exactly started the summer transfer window with a bang. Although the 2015/16 season can't be considered a failure after the team conquered La Liga and Copa del Rey, nobody can deny that the Catalans must also target the Champions League crown next year.
After weeks of speculation, the Blaugranas finally announced the renewal of Neymar for a further four years shortly after the transfer window opened, extending his current deal until the summer of 2021. While the news are obviously welcome, the way in which his father and agent kept toying around with the idea of joining Paris Saint Germain or even Real Madrid in order to get a better deal at the Camp Nou is regrettable. Let's hope the unnecessary drama surrounding the No.11's future stops once and for all -- although I'm certainly not holding my breath.
Although Luis Enrique was hugely insistent on signing Nolito, the Celta Vigo forward opted to rejoin former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City instead. The move, while understandable from the player's point of view, shows how difficult it is to convince any major talent to come to the Camp Nou as a fourth striker behind Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez. The search continues, with Luciano Vietto from Atletico Madrid and Kevin Gameiro being the most likely candidates at this point.
Bizarrely, the Barca board decided to splash out a whopping €35 million for Portuguese midfielder Andre Gomes from Valencia. Even more worryingly, the deal could very well end up costing a staggering €70 million if the former Benfica youngster became a success at the Camp Nou. For that sort of money, the club should have pursued a world-class striker instead.
Don't get me wrong, the 22 year old could very well become a star in the future, but it is doubtful that his signing was a priority this summer considering the fact Luis Enrique already has Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Arda Turan, Rafinha, Denis Suárez, Sergi Samper, Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal and even Sergio Busquets to fill those three positions at the heart of midfield.
Despite securing the signing 22-year-old French international Samuel Umtiti, the €30 million fee the Catalans have had to fork out does not necessarily scream good business from a strictly financial point of view -- particularly given the mere €8 million the club accepted for transferring Marc Bartra to Borussia Dortmund.
Javier Mascherano's decision to continue at the Camp Nou despite having seriously considered a move elsewhere is reassuring, but not a long-term solution. At 32 years of age, it is certainly now time for the Argentinean international to gradually take a lesser role within Luis Enrique's rotation -- a gap that hopefully Umtiti can have the quality and confidence to fill.
It is obvious that Barca's defensive line was in need of reinforcements after the departure of Bartra and, more importantly, Dani Alves. With the Brazilian having opted to further his career at Juventus, the board had already started researching the market for an alternative right-back -- until Luis Enrique himself intervened, that is.
After a season in which he became the Asturian manager's favourite rotation player, the departure of Alves should free up a space for Sergi Roberto to finally be considered a regular starter. Sure, the Catalan has plenty of work to do to improve on the defensive front but, then again, that was also a handicap that Alves faced when he was reconverted as a right-back early on in his European career.
Of course, Luis Enrique also has Aleix Vidal as an option for Alves' spot. However, the former Sevilla winger fell out of grace half-way through last season and saw himself sitting either on the bench or the stands more often than he would have hoped so. Can Vidal break the trend after the summer and regain Lucho's confidence? Doubtful.
Signing Lucas Digne from Paris Saint Germain for €16.5 million could very well be steal considering his quality and potential for progression. However, it is difficult to picture the young Frenchman being granted consistent playing time unless Jordi Alba became unavailable due to a long-term injury -- a scenario no Culé wants to ever see given the Catalan's importance.
The weeks ahead are definitely crucial for Barca's future. A couple of quality additions, particularly upfront, are essential in order to enable Luis Enrique to field a competitive enough team to challenge for domestic and continental glory once again.