Barcelona are pursuing several future free agents ahead of next summer, with just six days remaining before they can negotiate with players whose contracts are up this summer.
The key area of focus continues to the pivot role. Sergio Busquets’ future has been the subject of much speculation, but the player himself has declared that he will not make a decision until February. The 34-year-old midfielder has been a stalwart at the Blaugrana since first breaking into the side in 2009.
As his contract runs down, it would be remiss of Barcelona not to be planning for his succession, even if he were to sign a new deal with the club.
Doing so through the free agent market is not the easiest however. It is widely thought that Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad would be the preferred option for manager Xavi Hernandez. With a €60m release clause, he may be forced to compromise as the financial crisis continues to bite Barcelona.
One of the names that has been most strongly linked with the Azulgrana is Chelsea midfielder Ngolo Kante. Increasingly it looks as if the 31-year-old will be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this summer.
Sport say that Al-Nassr, the Saudi Arabian side that have also been linked with Cristiano Ronaldo, will offer Kante a financially rewarding contract in order to leave Chelsea.
Barcelona will likely be struggling to match any such offer, and may well be under the 1:4 rule of the salary limit – for every €4 saved or brought in through sales, Barcelona will only be able to spend €1 on their salary limit.
This kind of situation was common last summer though, where Barcelona struggled to offer the same as their competitors to their top targets.
In the case of Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Robert Lewandowski and Andreas Christensen all turned down more lucrative offers in order to play at Camp Nou.
In particular with the Brazilian, his refusal to accept an offer from Chelsea effectively forced Leeds United back to the negotiating table with Barcelona. It appeared that Barcelona had convinced Raphinha that Barcelona was the best and only place to be, money or not.
Should the Blaugrana want to secure further top targets this summer transfer window, they must pursue the same strategy. By convincing the players first that they wanted to be at Barcelona and nowhere else, they managed to hold up and negotiate several deals they may otherwise not have had a shot at.
Given their finances, Barcelona cannot hope to offer similar quantities to other top players, and must rule themselves out of doing so quickly. Much less can they compete financially with a Saudi Arabian side with money to burn.
Instead, they must hope to sign players through ambition and sentimental value. Rather than competing in the same race as their rivals, the Blaugrana must run an entirely different race, using their prestige and image.
Although they missed out on Cesar Azpilicueta last summer, on the whole it was a successful plan. For the coming months, there can be no other.