?On the back of a ‘disappointing’ season, Barcelona are set for a huge summer of upheaval.
The Catalan giants retained the La Liga crown with ease and have reached another Copa del Rey final, in which they will face Valencia and are expected to complete a second consecutive domestic double.
Still, a monumental capitulation against Liverpool saw Ernesto Valverde’s side crash out of the Champions League in unprecedented fashion at the semi-final stage, and their European shortcomings look set to prompt a huge summer of change at Camp Nou.
Whether or not Valverde remains at the helm next season remains to be seen, with suggestions growing that the Spaniard could be replaced by the likes of Ajax mastermind Erik ten Hag and club great Ronald Koeman in the summer.
Regardless of who is boss, ?Barça are pressing on full steam ahead with their transfer business. Frenkie de Jong is already on board, and further superstar additions are seemingly very near on the horizon.
The Blaugrana’s business could see them field what many could only dream up as a fantasy XI next season. Here is a look at how Valverde’s side could line up next season.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Despite falling short of continental supremacy this term, multiple stars of Barca’s current crop have still been suggested as the best in Europe for their respective positions this season, and none more so than goalkeeper Ter Stegen.
The German has been a model of consistency and composure between the sticks for the Blaugrana and has really grown in stature as arguably the finest shot-stopper around. Whilst the likes of ?Liverpool and ?Chelsea invested figures around the £70m mark to recruit world-class additions in goal, Barca have simply groomed their modest investment into the best around.
Ter Stegen is the Blaugrana’s last line of defence and the starting base for their attack, and will continue to hold down the No 1 jersey next term.
RB: Nelson Semedo
?Having struggled to truly replace Dani Alves since the Brazilian’s departure from Camp Nou two years ago, Nelson Semedo finally appears to have provided the missing link on the right-hand side of Barca’s defence this season.
The Portuguese was recruited from Benfica at considerable expense in 2017, and struggled to nail down a regular place in the Blaugrana’s backline as academy product Sergi Roberto emerged as a promising alternate option.
However, the Spaniard has often been liable to defensive errors this term, whilst Semedo has developed into a fine all-rounder on the right flank, proving equally adept both defensively and going forward, and finally looks to have solved the long-running right back conundrum.
CB: Gerard Pique
Having enjoyed a hugely successful career in Catalonia for the best part of the last decade, Gerard Pique’s consistency in form appeared to be dipping in the later phases of his career last season.
However, the Spaniard has reemerged as a force to be reckoned with in defence last season and, at the age of 32, remains one of the finest central defensive performers in Europe. His role in Barça’s backline is safe.
CB: Matthijs de Ligt?
Barça may still have some of the best defensive options around, but a 4-0 collapse at Anfield simply cannot pass without response and reparation measures.
In fairness, even before the calamitous result on Merseyside, there was already a strong sense that the Catalans would look to reinforce the spine of their team with more youthful, long-term options who could guide the club into a successful new era next term.
Having starred as the captain of an Ajax side which enjoyed a remarkable run to the Champions League semi-finals this term, Matthijs de Ligt has caught the attention of the entire continent, and Barcelona appear best-placed to sign the Dutchman for a fee which could exceed £60m.
LB: Jordi Alba
Whilst the likes of Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen are apparently among stars who could be sacrificed in defence to make way for expensive new arrivals?, Jordi Alba remains a fundamental figure in at the back for Valverde.
The Spaniard has been arguably his side’s most consistent performer over the course of his six-year spell in Catalonia (apart from, you know, that guy), and his importance at Camp Nou is greater than ever. Barca may look to sign a back-up option, but Alba’s first-choice status at left back is seemingly untouchable.
CM: Frenkie de Jong
Whilst the likes of Gerard Pique will continue to provide the experience through the spine of the team, the £65m splurge to secure the services of Frenkie de Jong midway through the season was clear evidence of Barça’s desire to add fresh impetus.
Having starred at the heart of Ajax’s monumental Champions League run this term, De Jong has already proven his ability to carry the fight for his side in the middle of the park with tremendous drive, energy and technique which will surely make the Dutchman a huge hit in Catalonia.
CM: Sergio Busquets
De Jong’s arrival will add the required levels of fresh energy and renewed quality in midfield next term but, similarly to Pique’s role alongside De Ligt in central defence, Busquets’ presence, composure and experience will continue to offer a vital balance in the middle of the park.
The Spaniard is now 30, but few others in Europe can claim to assert the level of authority and technical brilliance from the hub of their side that Busquets still provides excellently for Barca.
Having struggled for natural successors to iconic midfield duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Barça may finally have cracked the winning formula ahead of next term.
With creativity and flair in abundance, Arthur has already emerged as key to the succession plan at Camp Nou this term as Iniesta’s heir apparent, whilst the club are likely to offload Ivan Rakitic to fund their business, paving the way for De Jong to make the ‘Xavi?’ role his own next season.
FW: Lionel Messi
How much more can really be said about this man that would deviate from sheer repetition of superlatives?
?Lionel Messi has continued to deliver with stunning consistency and frightfully brilliant ability in attack this season?, and is only likely to (somehow) improve next term with the support of high-quality additions from the transfer market.
FW: Luis Suarez
The Uruguayan may no longer be performing at the same levels of his brilliant Liverpool best, but ?Luis Suarez has essentially re-invented himself as a more predatory poacher in the box, and his telepathic relationship with Messi remains a cornerstone of Barça’s attack.
The Catalans are likely to recruit a backup option for Suarez to ease the burden on him as the club’s only adequate central striker, though probably an understudy closer to the mould of Paco Alcacer than to the uninspired Kevin-Prince Boateng.
FW: Antoine Griezmann
The most exciting feature of Barcelona’s new-look side ne?xt season will likely come from the seemingly inevitable addition of Antoine Griezmann.
Barca have sorely lacked the ‘other’ dimension in attack alongside Messi and Suarez since ?Neymar’s departure in 2017. Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have both failed to add anything close to the consistency and cutting edge that their Brazilian predecessor once offered, although the former has shown some promise.
Griezmann’s recent announcement that he would leave Atletico Madrid in the summer was almost immediately followed by reports that Barca were prepared to trigger the Frenchman’s €120m release clause. The 28-year-old appears destined to add the missing piece of the puzzle.