Barcelona are back in training but the 23 players who turned up at the Joan Gamper training ground on Monday are not the 23 Xavi wants at his disposal going into the new campaign.
There are a number of players who have question marks over their futures – including Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele – while the club have a lengthy list of players they want to bring in.
Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Cesar Azpilicueta are just some of the names who have been linked, but Barcelona are struggling financially and may have to perform a juggling act to land some of their targets.
Sportsmail looks at the changes Xavi wants to see before the season starts on August 13 and how likely he is to sign the players he wants.
Barcelona boss Xavi is weighing up his transfer plans while the club tackles a financial crisis
Which of Xavi’s squad will feature next season?
Marc Andre ter Stegen, Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati, Nico, Pedri, Sergio Roberto and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should all form a part of the nucleus of Xavi’s squad. And next Monday they will be joined by internationals Eric Garcia, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Ferran Torres and Gavi.
But others present in the first sessions are expected to find other clubs: Francisco Trincao has come back from Wolves and could join Sporting in Portugal, while Riqui Puig, Keeper, Neto and midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Alex Collado are also likely to be elsewhere.
A handful of players face uncertain futures with Xavi preparing a new-look squad to compete
Lots of business still to do then. Do Barcelona have the money?
That depends on how much more of the club’s future earnings can be sold off to investment funds between now and the end of August. They have sold 10 per cent of their TV rights earnings over the next 25 years to American investment firm Sixth Street Partners for €207m.
That cash injection meant they could close the books without losses and should be able to register free transfers Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie who are both being presented this week.
But president Joan Laporta has admitted that to sign players for transfer fees they will need sell a further chunk of TV rights money and lease the club’s retail arm Barcelona Licensing and Merchandising (BLM). The club and LaLiga are in constant communication as to what they can spend.
President Joan Laporta admitted the club must sell a further chunk of TV rights money and lease their retail arm to sign more players
Laporta has indicated that raising up to €700m, with the sales of TV rights and BLM to generate a further £500m, would leave free Barcelona to sign like a ‘normal’ club and not have to apply the 1:4 or 1:3 rule that obliges them to bring in four or, in some cases three, times, as much as they want to spend.
Their LaLiga spending cap last January was minus £144m and their wage bill was €560m. If they generate €700m from TV rights and BLM sales, and trim the wage bill, they would be on an even keel and free to pay big fees. Laporta is confident they can reach that point.
And that would leave them free to buy Bernardo Silva, Jules Kounde, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Cesar Azpilicueta and re-sign Ousmane Dembele?
No no no. Or at least if they did do that it would be previous president Josep Bartomeu levels of irresponsibility. They can’t mortgage the club in the name of bringing some financial security and then blow the cash injection all in one summer.
Laporta needs to keep up appearances that the club is back at the top table ready to bid for Europe’s top players and he is certainly doing that. But they wont get them all. Neither can they afford the humiliation of landing none of them.
Barcelona cannot embark on a huge splurge to land all their targets, including Raphinha (L), and re-sign players such as Ousmane Dembele (R) – even if they receive a cash injection
Who can we expect to arrive in defence? Will Kounde and Azpilicueta sign? And what about Gerard Pique’s future?
Pique has already told the club that no matter who they sign, he’ll still end up as first-choice. He’s probably right.
The 35-year-old, who, remember, has two years left on his deal and is owed around €40m by Barca – so they couldn’t get rid of him if they wanted to – will probably still be Xavi’s central defensive leader alongside Ronald Araujo, with Eric Garcia and Christensen completing the four centre-backs.
Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta are the full-back options with Barcelona now resigned to not getting the latter on a free, but still keen to make it happen.
Barca are keen on a double Chelsea raid for Marcos Alonso (L) and Cesar Azpilicueta (R)
Xavi called the player in the winter window hoping he would move mid-season and is still keen on him but if Azpilicueta gets a two-year deal to stay at Chelsea then he will and Barcelona will have to look elsewhere.
Alonso feels like less of a priority because Jordi Alba plays so many games and Sergino Dest showed his versatility last season covering at left-back.
And in midfield does De Jong stay or go?
The biggest barrier to De Jong leaving Barcelona is the same sticking point that emerged when they first started offering him around: doesn’t want to give up €12m net a season (now rising to 18m) and Champions League football.
Barcelona also need to sell it to supporters that they got €85m for the player because that is what they paid for him in 2019. United only want to pay €65m up front.
The latter problem could be solved by a package of convoluted add-ons but De Jong’s position might be harder to soften.
Frenkie de Jong is interesting Manchester United – but Barcelona have to justify selling a player they signed for £70m in 2019
Elsewhere, Kessie comes in from Milan as a box-to-box player who will give the team more physical presence in the middle of the pitch. Busquets, Gavi, Pedri, Nico, Kessie and De Jong make six for three midfield with Sergio Roberto and the 18-year-old Pablo Torre as seventh and eight options.
If De Jong leaves for United, Carlos Soler is in position to step straight into the vacant berth with Valencia’s blessing.
Where does all that leave Bernardo Silva? It’s true that his agent Jorge Mendes has his own parking space at the Nou Camp but where do Barcelona get the €80m-plus remains the question it’s very hard to answer convincingly.
Will the club sign Robert Lewandowski? And is it a case of choosing between Dembele or Raphinha?
It’s hard to see how Bayern Munich keep a player who has made such a public stand about not wanting to be at the club. Laporta wanted Haaland and missed out. The Polish forward is a good second option.
Xavi has spoken to the player on more than one occasion and wants him as much for his winning mentality and physicality as his goals – Barca scored plenty last season with Aubameyang finishing with impressive numbers, but Lewandowski’s personality appeals to a young coach who wants more leaders on the pitch.
Robert Lewandowski wants out of Bayern and he is a good option for Barca after missing out on Erling Haaland, who went to Manchester City
As for Raphinha and Dembele. The latter is more ‘in’ than ‘out’ right now. The offer of a new two-year deal is real and likely to be accepted. The 25-year-old French winger was not lying when he said he never had another club lined-up.
Xavi would love to have Dembele and Raphinha and former Barcelona player Deco, Raphinha’s agent, is waiting like most Barcelona supporters to see whether Barcelona manoeuvre themselves into a financial position where they can afford to outbid Chelsea.
And Cristiano Ronaldo?
It’s true that Mendes had a long business meeting in Joan Laporta’s private residence on Monday evening.
But Trincao’s future is more likely to have been the primary topic of conversation than Ronaldo moving to the Nou Camp.
It’s not a signing that Barcelona needs or can afford to prioritise right now.
It is unlikely that Barcelona will chase a move for Cristiano Ronaldo – the Portuguese star is not a player the club needs or can afford right now