Barcelona mailbag Pedri and Gavis new positions De Jgfuture
Barcelonaare through to theCopa del Reyquarter-finals after winning 5-0 at third-tier AD Ceuta on Thursday night and will faceReal Sociedadon Wednesday. Xavis team were rarely threatened and there was no looking back onceRaphinhaopened the scoring shortly before half-time.Robert Lewandowskigot two goals,Ansu Fatiproduced a sharp solo effort, andFranck Kessiewas on the scoresheet as well.
Here are a few answers to some of your points about the match and a few wider ones, too.
Themselves. Barcelonas finances remain complicated and they cannot make many more errors in future transfer windows. Apart from that, I think one of the biggest concerns for the club should be providing young players likePedriandGaviwith a platform to shine. Wins such as their Supercopa de Espana demolition ofReal Madrid, which they won 3-1, are not just important because of the silverware, but also to show their youngest talents they wont need to leave in the future to achieve their full potential.
If he doesnt get a transfer this January, do you seeIvan Fresnedaas a signing Barca should be thinking about, considering that right-back is the supposed weak spot in the starting XI, as well as his age, potential and price? Migi S
That is a good shout, but Barcelona are not even in the mix for theReal Valladolidright-back. The club are not considering a signing of the kind of figures that have been reported for Fresnedas potential move and the players camp, as far as we know, appears more interested in a move away from Spain. There isinterest from the Premier League, where prospective clubs could offer a considerable transfer fee and allow Fresneda to stay on loan at Valladolid for the rest of the season. Barcelona do not have a lot of resources for signings, and if they spend big they want to do it in a way that helps the team in the short term.
What is your outlook on Barcelonas finances as summer approaches? What needs to be achieved on/off the field for Barcelona to make significant moves in the summer transfer window? Bryan L
I dont think even Barcelona know how their finances will look next summer. The club are waiting to see how Xavis team perform in theEuropa Leagueand how they can compensate for the lack of income produced by their earlyChampions Leagueexit. They will only make up for what they lost by not reaching the Champions League knockout stages by reaching the Europa League final. If they dont, that will have an impact on their budget as well as the salary limit set byLa Liga and their capability to spend in summer. Barca are also working on bringing in fresh income through sponsorships and commercial agreements, which is the other way they can improve their room to manoeuvre in future transfer windows.
We saw Xavi use Pedri and Gavi in similar roles in different games. What impact do you think theirWorld Cupperformances (Spaincreating with their 8s and not their wingers as Xavi prefers) have had on Xavi trying to get the most out of his two star boys? Santiago N
Im sure Xavi took notes from Spain and probably got in contact with Luis Enrique to see what new things could improve the performance of his two midfielders. I also think both Gavi and Pedri have proved to be intelligent enough to both read the game and the roles theyre asked to do for the teams benefit. Xavi has done something different compared to Luis Enrique in using Gavi and Pedri as false wingers, pushing them up the pitch and exploring new dimensions where they can make a difference. The Supercopa and Barcas performance against Ceuta in the Copa del Rey are good examples of this.
As much as Xavi preferred to play with two wide players at the start of his Barca coaching career, I think that recently he has seen how he can make the team shine with Gavi and Pedri in more advanced roles. Right now, I dont think Xavis preferred starting line-up includes two wingers. If the Europa League play-off game againstManchester Unitedwas tomorrow, I think Gavi would be used as a false winger.
What is the future ofFrenkie de Jong? Is he considered the long-term replacement forSergio Busquetsin the No 6 position, or will Barca look to move him on again this summer due to his large wages? In the latter scenario, would De Jong once again refuse to leave? Samarth P
The Supercopa win against Real Madrid may prove to be a turning point for De Jong. Against Real Madrid, we saw what is his perfect role for Barca: playing alongside three other midfielders, with Busquets maintaining balance in defensive midfield while Pedri and Gavi work out the spaces they can occupy. In that role, De Jong is free to do what he does best: roam in midfield and carry the ball up the pitch.
I believe this is going to be the go-to system for Xavi in big games from now on but it will all changewhen Busquets leaves.Barcelona see a future with De Jong operating as a holding midfielder, but he cant be the only player Barca have in that position. Xavi would like to have a more positional player in that role; one who would be more useful at times than a box-to-box De Jong.
Club sources, who preferred to remain anonymous to protect their position, have acknowledged that they cannot force De Jong out of the club, as appeared to be their intention last summer. The feeling is that Barca have stopped complaining about De Jongs contract and started to figure out how to make the best of an elite asset.
Are Barca likely to dip into the academy this summer to flesh out some gaps in the squad? If so, who are the top talents to keep an eye on?
If not, do you think there will be a cohesive strategy behind any external recruitment or will it continue to be as it appears driven by whatever can look good on the books (e.g. the Miralem Pjanic/Arthur Melo swap deal of 2020)? Matt G
Yes, they are likely to use the academy. Or at least thats what club sources, who prefer to remain anonymous to protect their position, are insisting: that faith in La Masia, Barcas famous youth system, will be pivotal in the coming windows. That is partly because its what the club needs from a financial perspective. President Joan Laporta knows they wont be able to afford many big names in the summer, and their recent experience with the likes of Alejandro Balde and Gavi shows what the academy can offer.
Names to keep an eye on? In the short term, Id say attacking midfielderPablo Torre although hes not an academy player, he was signed last season from Racing Santander as his age and skill set make him the most-exciting prospect close to breaking into the first team. The other is centre-backChadi Riad.
Last night, in the Copa del Rey match at Ceuta, Xavi gave 18-year-oldAngel Alarconhis debut. He is another exciting talent and the club are working on his contract extension, which may have played a part in him making his first-team appearance this week.
If you want to dig even deeper, Id recommend you keep an eye onIlias Akhomachand Lamine Yamal, who are two really bright wingers. Yamal is 15 (!) but he has already trained with the first team. Barca have made securing his future at the club a top priority. Those who follow the academy are adamant that there is no talent like him at the club right now. He is playing academy football against players three years older than him on a weekly basis and hes thriving.
Nico Gonzalez is on loan at Valencia but could prove to be a good replacement for Sergio Busquets (Photo: David Aliaga/NurPhoto via Getty Images).
Id also say its worth keeping an eye onNico Gonzalez, who is on loan atValencia. Hes injured at the moment, but Nico has Barcelona DNA in his veins. If Busquets leaves, he could prove to be a good replacement.
While Barca dont know the exact financial margins that they will have to operate in this will partly depend on the TV income they bring in from the Europa League and how they deal with La Ligas salary rules the club are keeping an eye on transfer targets whose contracts are expiring or set to end soon. They proved their willingness for deals like this last summer with the signings ofAndreas Christensenand Franck Kessie.
Club sources, who prefer to remain anonymous to protect their position, have said thatManchester CitysIlkay Gundogancould be an option on a free transfer, although nothing has been agreed upon yet. The deal for them to sell Memphis Depay to Atletico Madrid, which was announced on Friday, included an option to buyYannick Carrasco, whose deal expires in 2024.
Barca will try to make the best of their situation. Its another thing if they can actually achieve it.
I dont know if by this thing you mean the Copa del Rey but, of course, I think they have a chance of winning the competition. The draw has not been an easy one for Barcelona or Madrid they will face Real Sociedad on Wednesday, with Real playing Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
The most coveted piece of silverware for Barcelona this season, however, is La Liga. Its what Laporta and Xavi have publicly admitted. Winning La Liga means a team has been consistent throughout 38 games, and thats what the Barcelona project needs right now. The fanbase needs assurances that they can trust this team to put together a long run of results, and it would help give this young generation the winning mentality they required more so than the outstanding one-off games, such as the Supercopa final last week.
Barcelona need to show they can be reliable and nothing proves that more than winning La Liga.
(Top photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP via Getty Images)
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Pol joined The Athletic in 2021, initially moving to Manchester to assist us with our Manchester City, Manchester United and Spanish reporting. Since 2015 he has been an English football correspondent for multiple Spanish media, such as Diario Sport and RAC1 radio station. He has also worked for The Times. In 2019, he co-wrote the book Peps City: The Making of a Superteam. He will now move back to Spain, covering FC Barcelona for The Athletic.Follow Pol on Twitter@polballus