Barcelona are not spending too much time focusing on squad planning for January this winter for one simple reason – they will not be able to spend much money.
Both Joan Laporta and Jordi Cruyff have expressed that any recruitment in the winter window will be difficult for the Blaugrana, which is in stark contrast to last year. Last January, including into February, Dani Alves, Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore all arrived, although only Ferran cost a transfer fee.
This winter they will be more focused on improving their finances and managing their young squad correctly. One of the outstanding question marks for next summer is Ez Abde.
Abde burst onto the scene last season, scoring once in 12 appearances, but causing plenty of danger with his electric dribbling. He was due to stay in the first team this season, but following a chaotic end to the transfer window this past summer, Memphis Depay’s failed move away meant that Barcelona decided to send Abde on loan to Osasuna.
Impressing early on, he has provided two assists in 8 appearances for Jagoba Arrasate, coming in and out of the starting team. He was then an impact substitute for World Cup semi-finalists Morocco.
The 21-year-old continues to show elements of his undoubted talent for taking players on and is often a nuisance for defences, if still a raw talent.
However Sport believe that there is a decision coming on Abde’s future. According to their information, Abde and his agents do not want another loan for the youngster next season. Either he returns to Barcelona to play or he seeks a move from the club.
From a Barcelona point of view, they understand his position, but will only listen to offers of over €20m.
Abde’s time at Osasuna should benefit his development. Arrasate’s side are notoriously well drilled without the ball and that focus should aid Abde. Naturally Los Rojillo see less of the ball than the Blaugrana too, which hopefully will improve his decision-making on it, knowing that losing the ball can be expensive. Those are two areas that he can work on.
His second half of the season with Osasuna should be instructive to a degree too. If he can hold down a starting spot and continue to exhibit the threat that he has shown so far in his career, Abde will make his own case for a return to Barcelona as part of the squad.
Working in his favour is that he prefers to play on the left, where he can cut in, whereas Ferran Torres, Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha all prefer the right side of a front free. Memphis’ contract is up next summer too which should ease the competition for places at Barcelona.
Even so, with those three mentioned plus Robert Lewandowski, he would have to work hard in order to become more than an afterthought for Xavi Hernandez.
A sale for Barcelona with a buyback clause may tempt the Blaugrana though. With finances tight, it might well be that Abde becomes a sacrifice they make in order to strengthen other areas of the pitch, given the relatively small impact he would have.
Ultimately, if he stays at Barcelona depends on their evaluation of him. The Moroccan must prove that he has enough potential and round his game sufficiently to show that he could challenge for a first-team spot in the next few years.
How much Xavi intends on using and resting Raphinha, Torres and Dembele will also play a part. The former midfielder has consistently emphasized that he wants to have each position covered by two players, and Abde could be that fourth player out wide. Whether Abde would be content with that amount of minutes depends on him too.