Having invested €105 million in Ousmane Dembele before bonuses, Barcelona have got just 51 La Liga minutes out of their record signing.
The Liga giants have revealed that the 20-year-old France international is to undergo surgery on Tuesday after picking up a hamstring injury, with the untimely issue set to keep him out of action for up to four months.
With Dembele the only attacking addition made in the wake of Neymar’s €222m move from Camp Nou to Paris Saint-Germain, Barca now find themselves facing something of a quandary.
They do have plenty of other options on their books, despite having missed out on the signature of Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho, but there is also the option to dip into the free agent pool and bolster their ranks with a short-term acquisition - with two places still available in their domestic squad.
Here, Goal takes a look at a few of those who could be in contention if Ernesto Valverde calls on the Barca board to find him cover during Dembele’s enforced absence.
Currently part of Barcelona’s Legends squad, but a man who has never officially announced his retirement at 37 years of age. Would be a remarkable signing if a move was made, with the Brazilian still a firm fan favourite on the back of a memorable five-year spell at Camp Nou which delivered two La Liga titles, a Champions League crown and two World Player of the Year awards.
The enigmatic Italian has admitted that signing for Real Madrid was the biggest mistake of his career, but would he turn down the opportunity to return to Spain at Camp Nou? The 35-year-old is currently without a club after becoming caught up in a bemusing contract saga with Hellas Verona over the summer which saw him commit to a contract, seemingly announce his retirement on two occasions, only to then state a desire to play on closer to his roots in Bari.
JOSE ANTONIO REYES
Another of those to have graced the books at Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid at the peak of his career, with the La Liga title captured during a loan spell from Arsenal. Is only 34 years of age and spent the 2016-17 campaign in Catalonia with Espanyol. One stumbling block, however, could be that the Sevilla legend recently stated that he is close to agreeing a two-year deal with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua – although they currently find themselves without a manager following the departure of Gus Poyet.
Once considered to be one of the hottest prospects in European football, the 29-year-old has endured a steady decline since those heady days at Sevilla. Was released by Anderlecht in August after just 12 months with the Belgian side and now finds himself without a club when he should be enjoying the peak years of his career.
The Chilean was last seen turning out for Colo-Colo, but he too now finds himself on the footballing scrapheap. Has spent time in Spain before with Albacete, Real Sociedad and Real Betis, with the 33-year-old having forged a reputation as a jet-heeled winger in his pomp. It would be some step back up the ladder for him were he to receive a call from Camp Nou.
Now 38 years old, but a man who boasts a proud record of goal-getting in Spanish football. Prolific spells at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid saw him land the Pichichi trophy on two occasions, with his reputation rebuilt in La Liga following a forgettable stint at Manchester United. Last played competitively for Mumbai City in the Indian Super League, but was linked with a move to Norway over the summer and still boasts a healthy appetite for the game.
OTHER NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
Former France international Florent Malouda was once heavily linked with a move to Barcelona while on the books at Chelsea, but the 37-year-old has been without a club for over a year now. Another veteran performer to have dropped into the free agent pool is 38-year-old Peruvian frontman Claudio Pizarro, following his release by Werder Bremen. Giuseppe Rossi is also available, but he is currently nursing his way back from the fifth serious knee injury of his career and would be a bizarre addition in what is a short-term window of opportunity at Barcelona.