SOCCER | BARCELONA

Barcelona squad LaLiga 2021/22: players, new signings and exits

We take a look at Barcelona's transfer activity during summer 2021 as Ronald Koeman's side attempt to adjust after the loss of Leo Messi to PSG.

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Barcelona squad LaLiga 2021: players, new signings and exits
PAU BARRENA AFP

Ronald Koeman has an unenviable task this season at Camp Nou. A Copa del Rey triumph last season staved off disaster on the pitch – it was at least one more trophy than Real Madrid secured in 2020-21 – and the enduring brilliance of Leo Messi served to paper over the cracks of an ageing, disjointed squad that suffered from the lack of spark provided off the bench by Ansu Fati in the previous campaign. Pedri, signed from Las Palmas for €5m, provided one of the few good news stories at the club last season, the youngster rising from Segunda to the senior squad for Euro 2020 on the back of a fine debut season that has already made the 18-year-old one of the first names on Koeman’s team sheet. Beyond that, there was little to suggest Barcelona are going to restore themselves as a dominant force domestically or in Europe without significant investment this summer. And then Messi left for PSG.

Koeman has a lot resting on Memphis

To compound Barcelona’s woes, an audit revealed the huge hole in the club’s accounts was even worse than initially feared, meaning that on top of not being able to retain Messi, the club has its hands tied in the transfer market and has largely been operating in the free deals department. Sergio Agüero and Eric García were both decent acquisitions from Manchester City but the Argentina striker has since been ruled out until October with a calf injury. Koeman had wanted Memphis Depay last summer and finally got his wish a year later, but the Dutchman could have hardly expected he would be looking to his compatriot to fill the void left by Messi rather than acting as a luxury squad player.

Then there is the Antoine Griezmann problem. The former Atlético forward has never really settled at Camp Nou and was open to a reunion with Diego Simeone before Messi left, a potential move very much approved by Joan Laporta, who inherited the positional conundrum provided by the Frenchman. Now much of the attacking onus will fall on Griezmann, which may serve him well. Deployed in a central role as he was at Atlético there is every possibility he can recover the form that persuaded Barça to part with €120m two years ago. The problem is that Memphis prefers to operate in a similar area of the pitch and Agüero is an out-and-out striker. A clearly delineated front line eluded Koeman last season and settling on one in 2021-22 is a priority for the Barça boss. A 3-0 victory over Juventus in pre-season was a decent rejoinder to the gloom-mongers, but friendly action is hardly an accurate gauge of how a team are likely to respond to the competitive bell being sounded.

Neither have Barça been handed an easy start by the fixture computer. Koeman needs to hit the ground running and if Memphis doesn't deliver the board will have a convenient scapegoat. Games against Real Sociedad and Athletic open the domestic campaign and Barça face Sevilla, Atlético, Valencia and Real Madrid in the first 10 weeks of Liga action.

Barcelona to get busy in the market after Messi loss?

It seems unlikely that Barcelona will be making any big moves in what remains of the summer window and if anything, the board would prefer to shift some players off the wage bill before committing to any more outlays. The current squad have all taken massive pay cuts already to try and alleviate the club’s parlous financial situation – Messi had agreed to a 50% reduction and even that was beyond Laporta’s cheque book. Agüero joined on the strength of playing alongside his friend and international teammate, agreeing to a fraction of his City wage, and persuading new faces to join a creaking squad shorn of the presence of one of the greatest of all time will make recruitment even more difficult for Barça.

The return of Ansu after a lengthy injury lay-off will be billed as a new signing and the Camp Nou can expect to see more of Ilaix Moriba, if Barça can solve the teenager’s contract stand-off. Barça B also have some exciting prospects who could be elevated to the first team on a week-by-week basis, including Hiroki Abe, Rey Manaj and the “Austrian Messi,” Yusuf Demir. Other than youth teamers, new faces are unlikely as Barça seek to balance the books.

Barcelona’s transfer activity so far in summer 2021

Players in: Emerson Royal (€9m, Betis), Memphis Depay (Lyon, free), Sergio Agüero, Eric García (both Manchester City, free), Álex Collado, Iñaki Peña (promoted from Barcelona B)

Players out: Junior Firpo (€15m, Leeds), Jean-Clair Todibo (€8.5m, Nice), Carles Aleñá (€5m, Getafe), Juan Miranda (Betis, free), Leo Messi (PSG, free), Matheus Fernandes (Palmeiras, free), Monchu (Granada, free), Francisco Trincão (Wolves, loan)

Barcelona's first-team squad as it stands:

Goalkeepers: Marc-André ter Stegen, Neto, Iñaki Peña

Defenders: Ronald Araújo, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet, Eric García, Óscar Mingueza, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Sergiño Dest, Emerson, Sergi Roberto, Moussa Wagué

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Miralem Pjanic, Riqui Puig, Philippe Coutinho

Forwards: Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann, Memphis Depay, Sergio Agüero, Martin Braithwaite, Álex Collado

How might Barcelona line up in 2021/22?

Possible XI in 2021/22: Ter Stegen; Jordi Alba, Piqué, García, Dest; Busquets, De Jong, Pedri; Memphis, Griezmann, Dembélé.