Barcelona will be paying close attention to Euro 2016 this summer. The Liga champions will be approaching the summer window with urgency after the expiry of their two-window transfer ban, while they have been forced to offload some players in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.
The Catalans are not in a rush, despite having released Dani Alves, Marc Bartra and Sandro Ramirez. Their first-team squad is down to 20 members, but there are as many as 13 on their radar at the finals in France.
First up for Barca technical director Roberto Fernandez and scout Ariedo Braida will be the opening match on Friday, between hosts France and Romania. Having been put off by an exorbitant price tag for Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos, Lyon stopper Samuel Umtiti is emerging as a serious option. The 22-year-old is left-sided and athletic. Les Gones have already rejected a €20m bid but whatever he costs will yield a saving on the €50m-rated Brazilian Marquinhos.
Saturday will see England’s John Stones, also 22, face Russia. His club Everton previously rejected bids in the region of €50m in the previous window, but circumstances have changed following the departure of Roberto Martinez. However, there remains the concern that follows all English players – their difficulty to adapt to football and life 'on the continent'.
Sunday will be a particularly busy day, with world champions Germany – Barca’s most coveted nation – starting their campaign against Ukraine as they seek to secure back-to-back international titles. Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi, 24, is another defensive target and has a release clause of €50m, while 20-year-old midfielders Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) and Leroy Sane (Schalke) may also feature. All three have been scouted heavily by Braida. There is also Mario Gotze, who new Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti wishes to retain but has been unsettled nonetheless.
A few hours later Croatia, featuring Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic, face Arda Turan’s Turkey. In-demand Sassuolo right-back Sime Vrsaljko has been touted as a replacement for Alves after a magnificent season for the Serie A minnows, who finished a remarkable sixth in Italy’s top flight. His contract expires in 2019 and he won’t come cheap.
The Croatian has competition for that right-sided spot in Barca’s defence, though, with Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin’s meteoric rise this season landing him a potential debut for Spain against the Czech Republic. Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke (24) and Celta Vigo striker Nolito (29) are also on Barca’s radar. Koke was scouted by Fernandez’s predecessor Andoni Zubizaretta as a potential long-term replacement for Andres Iniesta, although his €60m release clause is seen as prohibitive. Nolito, meanwhile, has been a late bloomer and could return to the club where he started his career. His €18m release clause makes him an affordable back-up to Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Monday is particularly interesting due to the clash between Italy and Belgium. Fiorentina winger Federico Bernardeschi (22) and Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen (29) are both on Barca’s shortlist, with the former’s release clause set at €20m, although he has been offered an extension to his contract, which expires in 2019. The Belgium stopper, however, would be hard to take from Spurs, who look forward to Champions League football next season.
Finally, Barca will be watching Portugal, specifically Raphael Guerreiro of Lorient. The French-born left-back is versatile enough to play on the wing and only has one year left on his contract. The Breton club may well exploit their last chance to get any money for him, with Borussia Dortmund having offered €12m. However it is understood that Guerreiro would rather play in La Liga.
Which players Barca sign will depend on several factors – performance, price and whether existing contract negotiations result in extensions or elevated release clauses. But they are not short of options…