While Barcelona found themselves atop the La Liga table before the suspension of the footballing season, there is a feeling around Camp Nou that all is not well.
Rumours of player discontent, frequent public disputes between the dressing room and the board and reports of a potential managerial switch to Xavi have all emphasised the ill-feeling in Catalonia at present.
Despite their league position, it is has been no easy ride for Blaugrana this season – with the usual reliance on Lionel Messi helping keep their season afloat. If and when the 2020/21 season begins, Barça will need some reinforcements in order to mount a strong bid for the Champions League trophy, as well as seeking to plot a future outside of Messi.
Here’s a look at an ideal XI for the Catalan giants to make that possible…
GK – Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Forget Alisson, Ederson & David De Gea, Ter Stegen is arguably the world’s greatest goalkeeper – alongside Jan Oblak – and shows no signs of dropping off anytime soon.
After taking the reins from current Manchester City flop Claudio Bravo, Ter Stegen has proven to be a valuable asset behind what can only be described as a leaky defence. Still only 28, he’s not only the future of the club for the next decade, he’s the obvious successor to Manuel Neuer’s Germany crown.
RB – Ricardo Pereira
The Leicester man has been an impressive performer since arriving at King Power Stadium in 2018, helping the Foxes transition into Champions League hopefuls under Brendan Rodgers.
With Barça’s current starting right-back Nelson Semedo beling linked with a move away from the club, it seems inevitable that full back is position that will be strengthened – and Pereira could be the man to fill the void.
Defensively, Pereira’s very capable and he’s shown on numerous occasions that he’s also a major threat going forward. Could fit in seamlessly as an attacking wing option.
CB – Gerard Pique
The Spaniard may be approaching the end of his career, but he’s still a valuable asset at the heart of Barcelona’s defence.
His international and club experience are relatively unmatched in modern football, and although the club may need to sign a replacement soon, Pique can still lead from the back. The club will hope that his off-field activities – such as investing in Spanish third division side Andorra FC – don’t distract him from educating a long-term successor.
CB – Clement Lenglet
The 24-year-old has been a consistent performer in Barça’s backline, though the quality of his performances often go under the radar.
With Samuel Umtiti struggling with injury – as well as being linked with a move away – Lenglet has become an important cog in Barcelona’s defensive wheel. He still has areas of his game that need work, but has shown the appetite to improve and learn from past mistakes.
LB – Marc Cucurella
Marc Cucurella’s stock has risen sharply ever since he decided to ditch Barcelona in favour of first team exposure at Getafe.
Initially a loan, the deal became permanent in March 2020 for just €6m after Cucurella put in a number of impressive showings. But, as ever, Barça have a buy-back clause ready to be activated, and they might opt to hit the trigger in order to move Junior Firpo on.
With Jordi Alba now 31, Cucurella is a viable long-term option – and may find himself back at Camp Nou before too long.
CDM – Sergio Busquets
The World Cup and European Championship winning midfielder has been at the heart of Barça’s midfield for over a decade, but it certainly isn’t time to replace him just yet.
Although a more mobile back-up option may be required, the Spaniard’s ball playing ability is vital to the club’s success. Frenkie de Jong may be the future anchor for years to come, but he’ll have to learn a little bit more from the master before he’s handed the defensive midfield torch.
CM – Frenkie de Jong
Despite enduring a tough first season in Spanish football, the Dutch midfielder has all the qualities needed to be a success in Catalonia.
His vision, composure and passing ability are well-known from his Ajax days, demonstrated best during the destruction of Real Madrid and Juventus in the Dutch club’s famous run to the Champions League semi finals.
With Busquets as his mentor, De Jong can only be successful in the heart of Barça’s midfield.
CM – Arthur
Arthur may not grab all the headlines, but the Brazilian midfielder is a vital player for Barcelona and will continue to be so for many years to come.
Signed from Gremio in 2018, Arthur has become a mainstay of the side – and at just 23, has so much more to give to Barcelona. Rumours of a Miralem Pjanic swap should – for the club’s sake – just be rumours, as the Catalan giants would be letting go of a hugely talented player.
LW – Antoine Griezmann
It’s not been a great first season at Barcelona for Griezmann, but the former Atletico Madrid star has all the tools to turn things around.
Just eight league goals in 26 La Liga appearances – before play was suspended – is a poor return for such a gifted player, with the French World Cup winner failing to click with strike partners Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
While it may not be his favoured position, Griezmann may have to get used to a spot on the left, or face a swift exit from Camp Nou. Isn’t that right, Philippe?
ST – Lautaro Martinez
With Luis Suarez – perhaps – past his best, it’s no secret that the club are desperate to sign Lautaro Martinez as his long-term replacement.
The Argentine has enjoyed a brilliant season under Antonio Conte at Inter, forging a fearsome strike partnership alongside Romelu Lukaku. But the prospect of lining up alongside international teammate Messi may be too tantalising a prospect to miss out on, particularly when his presence is guaranteed to provide Martinez with goals.
RW – Lionel Messi
The 2019 Ballon d’Or winner has faced criticism for his side’s lack of Champions League success in recent years, but there’s no doubting that Barcelona would be nowhere without Messi.
19 goals in 22 La Liga appearances doesn’t represent Messi’s greatest season statistically, but he’s without question the club’s best player. A leader on, and off, the field, he’s the one that everybody looks at for inspiration.
How long he’ll stay is anybody’s guess, but you can guarantee that he’ll be the focal point of the team forever in a day.