For the first time in years, Barcelona have started the season in what could be described as a crisis. With Neymar gone to Paris Saint-Germain along with injuries to Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta , their starting XI currently lacks the star-studded names that we would associate with such a club, with the obvious exception of Lionel Messi.
Of course the general lack of positivity around Camp Nou has not been aided by Real Madrid’s successes: they are clear favourites to retain their La Liga and Champions League titles this campaign and at this moment, are miles ahead of their Catalan rivals. Gerard Pique’s words spoke volumes of the lack of belief surrounding the Blaugrana right now.
“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” he said after the Super Cup defeat to Madrid. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”
One way in which that confidence could be restored is through the transfer window, but the club are finding it increasingly difficult to sign the players they would like. Everybody knows the windfall coming Barca’s way due to the departure of Neymar which puts them at an immediate disadvantage in any negotiation over a player’s fee.
The resistance being faced from Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund for Philipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele respectively does not look like it is going to be broken, leaving the Catalans running out of options with not long left to go in the transfer window. Reports in Spain have also suggested that deals for Jean Michael Seri and Angel Di Maria are not going anywhere. It is not even a case of looking at plan B anymore, more like plans C and D. Where will they look next?
One deal that they have managed to close is the transfer of Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande, although it has not generated much excitement at all amongst fans. The Brazilian midfielder has not enjoyed much success playing in Europe, but has certainly looked the part in China and for his national team- he will be a useful acquisition but it remains to be seen how much he will improve the team.
At least Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Real Betis was an opportunity to boost the morale of not just the squad but also the people of Barcelona after the recent tragic events in the city. The performance was not a vintage one but three points were secured and there were some positives, including the performances of Sergi Roberto and new signing Nelson Semedo at right-back.
Nonetheless, a forward line that includes Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu cannot compete with the Madrid clubs over the course of a season. Barca not only need Suarez back, but they need reinforcements, and quickly.