By Ben Hayward
While Real Madrid prepare to spend €45 million to sign Sergio Aguero from Atletico, Barcelona must give careful consideration as to how they will best use exactly the same amount of money. They will need to – it’s all they have.
Barcelona’s financial vice-president, Javier Faus, announced earlier this week that Barca will have a transfer budget of €45m this summer. That total is just under half the accumulated average spent by coach Pep Guardiola over the last three years, meaning the club will have to be creative in the market in this transfer window in order to achieve their objectives.
Difficult decisions must therefore be made. Barca’s squad is small, and the Catalan club were lucky to avoid serious injuries to any of their midfielders or forwards last season. The loss of Xavi or Lionel Messi for a long period could have been fatal, and Guardiola is unwilling to take such a risk again.
The tactician is keen to bring in four or five players this summer. Ideally, he would like to sign two forwards, a midfielder, a central defender and a left full-back.
The midfielder in question is Cesc Fabregas. The Arsenal captain is desperate to return to the club where he began his career, but he will not come cheap. Barca are willing to pay €35m for their former youth player, but that amount remains some way below the Gunners’ valuation. Guardiola has pondered a player-plus-cash deal for the midfielder who idolised him as a youngster, but is loth to part company with the talented Thiago Alcantara, and Arsenal do not seem convinced by this option either.
|BUYING BIG | Barca's expensive summer targets
Another target, Udinese forward Alexis Sanchez, would cost a reported €30m. Barca have offered €25 million, but the Italians want €27m plus Bojan Krkic. The young Catalan striker is one of the few marketable assets Guardiola would be willing to part with, and his sale would help this deal come to fruition, but the player is unconvinced by the move and that could create another stumbling block for Barcelona.
Ideally, Guardiola would like to bring in Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi as well, but the Italy striker is also valued at €35m and if all three were to join the Champions League winners, that would mean an outlay of €100m – and Barca don’t have that kind of money.
Full-back Jose Angel is a cheaper target. The Sporting Gijon defender is likely to cost around €4.5m and that money could be raised by the sale of Maxwell, who has failed to convince Guardiola and could be in line for a return to Serie A.
Another priority position is central defence. Captain Carles Puyol missed half of the campaign through injury and there are doubts as to whether his creaking limbs can continue to endure the rigours of another long, hard season. Barca are currently scouring the market for a cheap and reliable back-up option.
Guardiola’s team compete in six competitions next season, and a large squad is paramount. The sale of Bojan and the probable departure of Jeffren Suarez, for an estimated €10m, will go some way to boosting the Catalans’ transfer funds. Thiago could bring in another €10m to €15m, too, but his sale would prove unpopular and Pep is keen to keep the midfielder, whose brother Rafinha is one of the youth side’s brightest prospects.
Assuming, then, that at least one big-name player will arrive, Guardiola has three choices. The first is to search for more reasonably-priced transfer targets, such as Ibrahim Afellay, who has impressed at Camp Nou and cost the Catalans just €3m. The second is to stick with what they have and trust a team that sealed Champions League glory, a third successive La Liga title and reached the final of the Copa del Rey. And the third option is a more controversial one: sell one of your prized assets and spend big.
|"Villa's sale would be unpopular with the players, many of whom count him among their best friends, but it could allow the club to strike a real blow in the transfer market this summer - and keep on evolving."
Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Messi, Gerard Pique, Puyol, Sergio Busquets and Victor Valdes are all untouchable. Javier Mascherano is also of vital importance as cover in both midfield and defence, while the rest of the first-team squad wouldn’t raise the necessary funds. So that leaves two options: Pedro and David Villa. Selling either would seem inexplicable; after all, both are key players and scored in the Champions League final win over Manchester United.
But if Guardiola really does want to bring in Fabregas, Sanchez and Rossi, something will have to give. Pedro is still very young and was promoted from the youth team by Guardiola, while he is also likely to get better as he reaches his peak, and will retain a high transfer value for many years to come.
Not so Villa. The Spain striker was signed for €40m last summer and is now 29. He is arguably now past his best, he struggled on the left flank at times this season and his 23-goal tally is somewhat mediocre considering he competes in the world’s best side.
His sale would be unpopular with the players, many of whom count him among their best friends, but it could allow the club to strike a real blow in the transfer market this summer – and keep on evolving. And with Madrid set to be stronger than ever, it may be a risk Guardiola feels he needs to take.
Click on this link for Goal.com's guide to La Liga stars - such as Aguero, Rossi & De Gea - who could be transferring this summer