Barcelona have problems. That has been well documented over the last few years and while the Camp Nou club is under new management, both in the boardroom and the dugout, there’s a lot of work to be done before the Catalans reclaim their place at the top of Spanish and European football.
January will be an important month for Barca. The transfer window will allow Xavi Hernandez to put his mark on the unbalanced squad he inherited with a number of unwanted Barcelona players set to be made available.
Here are five things the Catalans must address in January.
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Find a taker for Philippe Coutinho
Xavi has given Philippe Coutinho another chance to prove himself as a Barcelona player since taking over as manager, with the Brazilian playmaker contributing more than he has in a long time, but the Camp Nou club would surely still prefer they find a taker for the 29-year-old picking up a weekly wage of £146,000.
Coutinho has been linked with a return to the Premier League, where he played his best football for Liverpool a number of years ago. The fast and furious nature of the English game might suit the Brazilian while Barcelona wouldn’t miss him too much given the number of options they have in his position.
Sign a goal-scoring centre forward
While Barcelona are unlikely to spend big in January, they will almost certainly look to find a new centre forward when the transfer window opens. Sergio Aguero’s retirement has depleted the club’s attacking ranks further when they already looked short of a natural finisher in front of goal.
Edinson Cavani, who has been knocked down the pecking order at Manchester United following the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, has been mentioned as a potential target while others have speculated that Arsenal could be willing to let Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave on the cheap or on loan.
Make a decision on Frenkie de Jong
There are many worse players in the Barcelona squad than Frenkie de Jong. In fact, the Dutch international has been one of the club’s most reliable performers over the last two seasons. But if Barca need to slash their wage bill, with their financial position still perilous, selling De Jong would be a good route to achieving this.
On a weekly wage of £354,000, De Jong is currently the highest-paid player at the Camp Nou. While Barcelona would be worse off for the loss of the 24-year-old, Xavi’s squad is strongest in midfield. Barca could absorb the departure of De Jong with the likes of Nico Gonalez and Gavi able to step in.
Sign up or sell Ousmane Dembele
More than once, Xavi has spoken about his admiration for Ousmane Dembele and how he sees the French winger as an important member of his squad. This is largely due to Barcelona’s right wing deficiency, where they are light on options, but it also speaks to Dembele’s potential.
However, Dembele is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and so January might be Barca’s last opportunity to collect a fee for a player they splurged a staggering £135.5m on. If Dembele can’t be signed to a contract extension, Barcelona must do all they can to move him on regardless of how important Xavi views him to be.
End the contract stand-off with Gavi
Gavi is one of the players Barcelona need to keep around. The 17-year-old has very quickly become a key figure for club and country this season. What’s more, Gavi appears to embody many of the qualities that make La Masia graduates so special - technically able and confident of his own ability.
However, Gavi’s current contract only runs until the summer of 2023 with negotiations over an extension stalling. While there is optimism on both sides that a deal will get done, the longer the process gets drawn out the more doubt will grow over the teenager’s future at the Camp Nou.
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