Nobody is safe: Who should leave in the big Barcelona clear-out

By Sports Desk August 15, 2020

For the Barcelona players and staff, there was nowhere to hide in the glare of the Estadio da Luz. 

An unprecedented, unmitigated, humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Friday laid bare the serious malfunctioning of one of the world's grandest clubs. 

President Josep Maria Bartomeu has already confirmed that "announcements will be made" next week, likely beginning with the future of coach Quique Setien, but Barca's problems run far deeper, from the boardroom to the dressing room. 

"Nobody is safe," said Gerard Pique after the match. "It is not the first time, the second time or the third time, it's very tough. I hope it is useful for something." 

The defender needs nobody to tell him that significant changes must be made at Camp Nou and he himself offered to leave for the good of the club. Ironically, such a public admission suggests he is the kind of character Barca need to keep. 

Who, then, are the people who should go if Barca are to become great again? 

THE BOARD

Josep Maria Bartomeu

The buck stops with the president. Bartomeu survived those infamous nights in Rome and Liverpool, but Lisbon must surely be the beginning of the end for a man who has presided over a wretched, expensive decline. Victor Font is presently the only rival candidate for the 2021 elections, if we get there.

Javier Bordas

Bordas is the director in charge of the football first team at Barca and, regardless of the presidency, it is only right that a new figurehead is put in place to oversee the rebuild.

THE EXECUTIVES

Eric Abidal

Barca's first-team technical secretary came under pressure after a public falling-out with Lionel Messi this year, and his job now looks untenable.  It's essential Barca appoint someone who can repair the damaged relations between the board and the players. Carles Puyol has been touted as a good candidate for the role, including by Messi. 

Oscar Grau

As CEO, Grau is the beating heart of Barcelona's operations and he cannot escape blame for the way the football project has been run in recent years. Speculation has seen Sevilla's Monchi linked with the role.

THE COACHES

Quique Setien

The problems ran deeper than Ernesto Valverde and sacking his successor will likewise not solve everything, but watching him lean against the Luz dugout, silent and stewing, made it abundantly clear that he cannot fix this team. Mauricio Pochettino is available and, despite past reservations, he seems willing to put aside his Espanyol loyalty.

Eder Sarabia

Setien's assistant would almost certainly follow him out of the door. Sarabia looks to have struggled to get the players to buy into the boss' demands and it would not make much sense to stay.

THE SQUAD

Martin Braithwaite

Barca were given special dispensation to sign Braithwaite from Leganes due to injury, while Leganes were denied the same option. They were relegated, Barca's season ended in infamy, and Braithwaite was not even eligible to play. West Ham are apparently interested.

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho came off the bench to score twice and assist another for Bayern against Barca, the Catalans having loaned out their €140million-plus man after becoming unconvinced by his form. You'd struggle to imagine a more damning visual indictment of Barca's transfer policy.

The coronavirus pandemic has hampered spending across the continent, but any moderate fee for the Brazilian would help Barca to build for the future.

Rafinha

Rafinha has played eight league games in three years for Barca, spending most of that time on loan at Inter and Celta. Now 27, it's time they cash in. Everton and Wolves have been linked. 

Ivan Rakitic

Unfairly maligned by a section of the fanbase, Rakitic has probably reached the point where a move is in everyone's best interests. He has declined since helping Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and, despite insisting he will stay, a return to Sevilla would ease the burden on the Barca wage bill and help to bring down the squad's average age.

Nelson Semedo

Right-back has been a problem position since Dani Alves left in 2015, and Semedo's performance against Bayern made it clear that he is not the long-term solution. Manchester City had been linked, although Pep Guardiola will surely have been put off by Friday's viewing.

Jean-Clair Todibo

He's only 20 and has played four times in LaLiga, but selling Todibo would be a simple way for Barca to raise desperately needed funds. Schalke, who signed him on loan in January, had a €25m purchase option.

Samuel Umtiti

Barca were terrified of losing the centre-back in the wake of Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain move, with Umtiti's release clause at just €60m. Since that buyout price was increased to €500m, Umtiti has been undermined by injuries, inconsistency and coaching changes at Camp Nou, but he could still command a decent fee.

Arturo Vidal

One of the few players who has impressed under Setien, Vidal is 33 and should not really be part of the Barca rebuild. His contract is up next year, so now is the time to sell to earn even a small fee.

Moussa Wague

Nice chose not to activate their purchase option on the full-back, but he remains a sellable asset for Barca, who are unlikely to use him in the first team next season.

Related items

  • Bartomeu on Messi: I couldn't let the best player in the world go Bartomeu on Messi: I couldn't let the best player in the world go

    Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted he had no interest in continuing a public spat with Lionel Messi despite the Barcelona captain's criticism of his presidency.

    Messi stunned the world last month when he informed Barca of his intention to depart the LaLiga giants, with the 33-year-old intending to trigger a clause in his contract to walk away on a free at the end of last season.

    However, the validity of such a stipulation was murky due to the campaign being extended by the coronavirus pandemic, and Messi ultimately opted to remain in Catalonia rather than challenge Barcelona in a legal battle.

    That did not prevent him from taking aim at Bartomeu in an interview with Goal, though, as he accused the president of reneging on his wish to leave and presiding over a club that had "no project or anything for a long time".

    "As president, I will not enter into any conflict with Messi," Bartomeu told TV3.

    "Messi is our captain, our leader. The issue is parked. What has been said has been said.

    "I couldn't allow to let the best player in the world go. The team needs him, he guarantees success. Things have to be discussed at home. You have to support the team and the players.

    "We have to congratulate ourselves that Messi is still with us. He is excited about [coach Ronald] Koeman's project. The important thing is he plays for Barca, at his home. We want him to retire at the club."

    Messi's contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season anyway, though by that point Barcelona will have a different president as there are elections to replace Bartomeu next March.

    However, Bartomeu, unpopular with some Barcelona fans due to his role in the Messi saga, may be forced out before then if he faces a vote of no confidence on the back of a motion to remove him, which has so far gathered more than 20,000 votes.

    "Right now, no-one is considering resigning," Bartomeu added.

    "The club is not going to stop. I think everyone was surprised by the number of signatures but we respect democracy and the club's laws."

  • Liverpool sign Jota: Champions look to the future – Assessing £45m recruit in Opta data Liverpool sign Jota: Champions look to the future – Assessing £45m recruit in Opta data

    Diogo Jota's arrival at Liverpool gives the Premier League champions some added depth as they turn an eye to the future.

    The forward's move from Wolves for a reported £45million was confirmed on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp continued to strengthen his squad.

    But with one of the world's best attacks in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino already in place, just where does 23-year-old Jota fit?

    With thanks to Opta data, we take a look at Jota, Liverpool's front three and what the future could hold.

     

    A back-up upgrade … for now

    There is no doubt Jota will need to bide his time behind Salah, Mane and Firmino.

    Salah and Mane scored 37 goals between them in the Premier League last season, with Jota's return at least more comparable to that of Firmino.

    Jota scored a goal every 328.1 minutes for a haul of seven, a better return than Firmino (333.4), while converting big chances at a superior rate (33.3 to 23.1) as well.

    But the Brazilian's selfless approach is often lauded and he provided his playmaking credentials during Liverpool's title-winning season. Firmino created 10 big chances and had eight assists, with Jota finishing with three and one respectively.

    While his goal and assist output may not compare, unsurprisingly, what Liverpool are getting is a player who is willing to take their man on. Jota attempted the fifth most dribbles in the Premier League last season with 151, although his success rate was just 43.7.

    It gives Klopp a talent to be nurtured, and some much-needed depth in attack with Divock Origi and Rhian Brewster linked with moves and Takumi Minamino still unproven after his January arrival from RB Salzburg. It may also provide the Liverpool manager with another option in midfield if needed.

    An eye to the future

    At 23 and having signed a reported five-year deal, Jota looks to be a player of the future for Liverpool. With Salah and Mane both 28 and linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, one could move on in the near future.

    Unlike Salah, who arrived from Roma in 2017, Mane caught the eye in the Premier League prior to his switch from Southampton.

    Mane turned 23 during the 2014-15 campaign – his first in England and the first of his two at Southampton. He has gone on to become one of the world's best players, but how does Jota compare to that Mane season, at the same age?

    Unsurprisingly, he is behind, but not by much. Mane finished that season with 10 league goals, one every 213.5 minutes, and had a better big chance conversion (40 to 33.3). But he created just four big chances to Jota's three and ended up with three assists (Jota had one in 2019-20), suggesting there is plenty for Liverpool to work with. Even Mane dribbled less (110 attempts), but he went at a success rate of 53.7. Southampton finished seventh that season, while Wolves ended up in the same spot in 2019-20. If Jota can get close to Mane's level in years to come, Liverpool will be pleased with their investment.

    What about Sarr?

    As recently as Friday, Liverpool had been linked with a move for Watford attacker Ismaila Sarr and the Championship club reportedly wanted at least £40m, a similar price the Reds are apparently paying for Jota. However, the payment structures for the two differed and led to Liverpool landing the Portugal international over Sarr.

    The 22-year-old Sarr enjoyed a fine season, particularly considering Watford were relegated from the top flight.

    He was directly involved in more goals (five goals and four assists) than Jota and in fewer minutes, and converted his limited big chances at a better rate (40) while creating three times more. Sarr had a similar dribble success rate (45.2) but attempted far fewer (104) in his first season in the Premier League. There was little between the two in 2019-20, but Sarr's numbers were impressive in a struggling side and he helped end Liverpool's ‘Invincibles' bid with a brace against the Reds in February.

    Liverpool were getting a fine talent either way and Jota shapes up as an exciting long-term prospect at Anfield.

  • Rumour Has It: Liverpool and Wolves could be set for another deal, Arsenal's shortlist includes four Rumour Has It: Liverpool and Wolves could be set for another deal, Arsenal's shortlist includes four

    Liverpool and Wolves could be involved in another deal, while Arsenal's shortlist reportedly includes four players.

    Premier League champions Liverpool confirmed the signing of Diogo Jota from Wolves on Saturday, with Ki-Jana Hoever heading in the opposite direction.

    But the business between the clubs may not end there.

     

    TOP STORY – WOLVES TARGET OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

    Wolves are eyeing a move for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, according to the Mirror.

    The report comes after Liverpool signed star midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich earlier this week.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Anfield from Arsenal in 2017, and made 43 appearances in all competitions in 2019-20.

    ROUND-UP

    - Arsenal could strengthen further. The Express reports the Premier League club have Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, Dijon goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson and Brentford shot-stopper David Raya on their shortlist.

    - Staying in the Premier League and Goal reports Atletico Madrid attacker Thomas Lemar has interest from two clubs in England's top flight. Arsenal, Wolves and Everton have been linked with Lemar previously.

    - Manchester City are reportedly close to signing a centre-back. AS reports the Premier League giants are close to sealing a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde, a 21-year-old who is a France youth international.

    - Arturo Vidal is finally set to get his move to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter have agreed a €1million fee with Barcelona for the midfielder, while he also says veteran defender Diego Godin will join Cagliari next week.

    - After almost signing Daniel James in 2019, Leeds United could be set for another move for the attacker. The Sun reports Leeds are planning a move for James, who joined Manchester United in 2019.

    - Staying at Old Trafford and another exit is expected. The Sun says the Red Devils are looking for a new club for Sergio Romero with the goalkeeper upset about missing last month's Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.