Xavi guided Barca to a second-place finish last season.
Since their 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the 2020 Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona have arguably struggled to recover their elite status in Europe. Last season, the Catalan club crashed out of the Champions League for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
Xavi showed a glimpse of coaching ability after saving the club from an abysmal season, guiding them to a 15-game league unbeaten run between December 2021 and April 2022. However, the Catalan club finished second in the league, 13 points behind rivals Real Madrid. They also crashed out of the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals after a disappointing 4-3 aggregate loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
If Barcelona want to become a European superpower once again, there are certain areas lacking on the pitch that they will need to pay special attention to. They must improve upon the below four positions in their squad if they want to return to their glory days.
#1 Central Defense
Pique managed only 25 starts in La-Liga last season.
Central defense has been an issue for Barcelona over the past few seasons. It is a position where they lack quality depth. Xavi’s defense consists of aging Gerrard Pique and injury-prone Samuel Umtiti, along with Clement Lenglet, Ronald Araujo and Eric Garcia. Araujo was Barca’s best defender last season. His performance in El Clasico was particularly pleasing for club fans to watch.
Barcelona need an experienced defender that compliments Araujo’s qualities. The Catalan club are close to signing Andreas Christensen on a free transfer. However, it doesn’t look like he’ll be the club’s only defensive recruit, with rumors linking the club to Jules Kounde and Kalidou Koulibaly in early June. Both are quality central defenders who will compliment Araujo at the back.
#2 Left Full-back
Jordi Alba registerd 10 assists in the league last season.
After letting Junior Firpo leave for Leeds United last summer, Barcelona went the whole of last season without a direct replacement for Jordi Alba. In the games Alba was absent, Sergiño Dest and Oscar Mingueza, who are right-backs by trade, deputized for him. The Spaniard turned 33 in March and is slowly nearing the end of his footballing career.
Barcelona need to find a long-term replacement for Alba. Their lack of finances may hinder the club from purchasing a quality left-back. However, it’s worth noting that the club might be looking to strengthen this squad area. According to reports, Barcelona are interested in Marcos Alonso, along with four other players that Chelsea are also involved in. The Spaniard will represent a short-term replacement if he’s signed.
#3 Right Full-Back
Dest started only 17 league games last season.
A few weeks after Xavi’s arrival, Alves completed his return to Barcelona. In his six months at the club, Alves played more games (17) at right-back than any other player at the club. His signing was an early sign that Xavi had little faith in the quality of Dest.
The Catalan side signed Dest two years ago, fending off competition from Bayern Munich. Somehow it seems Dest is not Xavi’s desired right-back. Even if that were to change, Sergi Roberto and Oscar Mingueza are not quality replacements for the club. The Catalan club have been linked to Cèsar Azpilicueta, who will be available for around €13 million this summer.
#4 Right Wing
Raphinha registered 11 goals in the league last season.
Barcelona had already agreed personal terms with Raphinha in February earlier this year.They finally seem to have made headway on signing their long-term Brazilian target. Their most recent bid was agreed upon by Leeds United. It is worth noting that Raphinha was a target for several Premier League clubs, including Chelsea.
The Blaugrana will be looking to use the Brazil international to fill the gap on the right side of the attack following Ousmane Dembele’s departure. The Frenchman is reportedly aware of Chelsea’s interest in him and may sway shirts considering he has been a free agent since 1 July.