In less than a week, the hustle-bustle of the transfer window will subside completely till January, and if things were to remain the way the are, a certain FC Barcelona will be mostly unhappy with the business carried out over the two months. Only two transfers have been made till now, and most worryingly of all, Barcelona are hardly showing ambitions of making any more.
At the end of last season, it was all too clear that squad depth was not essentially a strength at Camp Nou, especially in defence. Whenever Puyol ended up injured (which was far too often for anyone’s liking), Guardiola turned to Javier Mascherano who is still essentially a holding midfielder. His transition to a centre-half role was admirable, but that hardly vindicates Barcelona’s efforts to bring in a new man to man the defensive barricades. Puyol and Gerard Pique are an enviable partnership, arguably one of the best in the world, but with either missing, Mascherano only fills the gap. Fitting into it perfectly is something only an accomplished central defender would manage.
Previously they had the luxury of fielding Eric Abidal into the middle, and fitting Adriano out wide. But with Abidal unable to play due to his liver condition, they’ve lost that cog too. To top it off, Mascherano’s height is far from ideal from that of a defender’s, thus disabling his ability to defend set-pieces with the sort of aplomb that Pique would. Alternatives have been touted and scouted for quite a long time, but nothing concrete ever emerges in that regard. Established Premier League players Vincent Kompany and David Luiz have been linked with replacing Puyol, but more recently, and realistically the Catalans had shown an interest in Thiago Silva and Bilbao’s Javi Martinez. But, Milan’s asking price for Silva was far too much, and he eventually moved to Paris Saint-Germain for a reported 32 million, and now Javi Martinez seems destined to move to Bayern Munich, unless Barcelona can somehow cough up enough to entice him to to board the next Barcelona-bound flight and sign a contract with them.
At least two more defenders need to be signed if Barcelona are to cope with the pressures of competing in three competitions concurrently, and the subsequent burden be extricated off Puyol, Pique and Mascherano. The signing of Jordi Alba was arguably a coup, especially the fact that his signing was announced just prior to the Euro 2012 finals in which he put in a majestic display, scoring in the process. Had they ambled on with the deal, his value would have skyrocketed and he could have been destined for other pastures. It strengthened their long ailing left-back options, and provided long-term cover for Abidal, but switch to the right side of defence, and the situation isn’t as would be liked.
Dani Alves has been covered only by Martin Montoya, who performed well in the closing stages of last season, and in pre-season this year, but will not be able to take the rigours of a Champions League type competition. Spanish Under-21 right-back Cesar Azpilicueta – who moved to Chelsea this week – would have been an ideal signing given his experience in the Spanish youth teams with the likes of Alba and his La Liga experience with Osasuna. But not even the slightest attempts were made to engineer a deal with Marseille for Azpilicueta. And it hardly looks as though Vilanova will go after someone else to bolster that spot.
Barcelona were met with the exit of Malian midfielder Seydou Keita, and he was subsequently replaced by the arguably more able Cameroonian Alex Song. They will be quietly pleased about that bit of business, given his ability to cross into the box, something David Villa would especially relish. But the midfield is not an area of exceptional importance, given their depth is extraordinary in that department. However, the defence is crying out for rejuvenation, and the time is short.