This is shaping up to be Barcelona’s most important summer since 2014. That year they had ended the season trophyless — excluding the Spanish Super Cup — and were preparing for life under Luis Enrique, who had replaced Gerardo Martino. They also signed players in Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez who were capable of seizing an immediate first-team place.
It’s all very similar this year. Barca did win the Copa del Rey this season but they still ended the campaign with a feeling of disappointment, preparing for life under a new manager and with the need to freshen up a starting XI which hasn’t had a major injection of fresh blood for three years.
Former Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has replaced Luis Enrique and preseason training begins on July 12. With his assistant Jon Aspiazu and fitness coach Jose Antonio Pozanco, Valverde’s task is to get his players in shape to compete for La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League.
An immediate positive is the lack of a major summer international tournament, meaning Valverde will have the majority of his players at his disposal from the off — only Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Andre Gomes (both Confederations Cup) and Denis Suarez (Under-21 European Championships) have commitments which will delay their return to training.
A week after preseason begins, Barca fly to the United States, where they will face Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid as part of the International Champions Cup. They then return to Spain for a special Joan Gamper Trophy game against Chapecoense, before meeting Madrid again over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup to cap a demanding preseason.
July 22: Barcelona vs. Juventus (Int. Champions Cup, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey)
July 26: Barcelona vs. Man Utd (Int. Champions Cup, FedExField, Landover, Maryland)
July 29: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (Int. Champions Cup, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida)
Aug. 8 (TBC): Barcelona vs. Chapecoense (Joan Gamper Trophy, Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain)
Aug. 12 (TBC): Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (Spanish Super Cup, Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain)
Aug. 15 (TBC): Real Madrid vs. Barcelona (Spanish Super Cup, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain)
Total matches: Six
Total miles travelled: 10,551 (estimated)
– Barcelona to New Jersey: 3,829 miles
– New Jersey to Maryland: 220 miles
– Maryland to Miami: 1,059 miles
– Miami to Barcelona: 4,685 miles
– Barcelona to Madrid round trip, date TBC: 758 miles
Barca moved quickly to announce Valverde, confirming his appointment two days after May’s Copa del Rey final. However, there are still a number of outstanding issues to resolve this summer. Players need to be moved on and a number of new signings are expected, too.
On top of that, the lack of organisational structure in Spain means preseason dates have still not been defined. La Liga is expected to begin the weekend commencing Aug. 19 but there’s been no confirmation.Dates have not yet been fixed for the Super Cup games against Madrid, either. And until they are, Barca are holding off on finalising the day for the Chapecoense match.
Ins and outs
Last summer’s signings may yet prove a success, but the jury, with the exception of Samuel Umtiti, remains out. That’s because the season ended with questions being asked about the decision to add supposed depth to the squad instead of looking to strengthen the starting lineup.
This summer, then, having learned from their mistakes, Barca are expected to sign players who can come straight into Valverde’s side. A right-back, a central midfielder and a wide forward are the priorities. As for departures, there’s a long list of players the Catalan club are keen to move on as they look to take some weight off the wage bill while raising money to invest elsewhere.
Major players linked with arrival:
– Gerard Deulofeu, FW: Everton, €20m
– Ousmane Dembele, FW: Borussia Dortmund, €40m
– Douglas Costa, FW: Bayern Munich, €40m
– Hector Bellerin, DF: Arsenal, €50m
– Nelson Semedo, DF: Benfica, €15m
– Marco Verratti, MF: Paris Saint-Germain, €100m
– Philippe Coutinho, MF: Liverpool, €70m
– Jean Michael Seri, MF: Nice, €25m
– Jordi Masip, GK: Out of contract
– Jeremy Mathieu, DF: Olympiacos
– Thomas Vermaelen, DF: Besiktas, loan
– Douglas, DF: Unknown
– Rafinha, MF: Juventus or Valencia
– Arda Turan, MF: Arsenal or the Chinese Super League
– Cristian Tello, FW: Olympiacos or Fiorentina, loan
– Munir, FW: Ajax or the Premier League
Many supporters feel Barca have lost their identity by going to the transfer market before giving players from La Masia a chance. A large part of the success achieved under Pep Guardiola was owed to academy graduates, but since then the club have increasingly sought solutions from outside the club. Valverde arrives, though, having worked at a club in Athletic Bilbao where a priority is given to bringing young players through the academy into the first-team. Many hope he will continue that trend at Camp Nou.
Given the majority of first team players will return to training on time this year, though, there will be limited space available on the plane when Barca leave for their U.S. tour in July. However, there are a number of players Valverde will be keen to cast an eye over to see if they have first-team potential.
Possible youngsters to travel to U.S:
– Jose Aurelio Suarez, GK, 21 years old
– Marlon Santos, DF, 21
– Sergi Palencia, DF, 21
– Marc Cucurella, DF, 18
– Ferran Sarsanedas, MF 20
– Carles Alena, MF, 19
– Sergi Samper, MF, 22
– Marc Cardona, FW, 21