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Barcelona is rebuilding after going through a season to be forgotten

El Barcelona se reconstruye tras atravesar una temporada para el olvido

It has been a season that became endless for Barcelona due to the constant blows.

Lionel Messi left crying before it started. Ronald Koeman was fired shortly after. They did not survive the group stage of the Champions League and did not come close to contending for the Europa League title either.

The arrival of Xavi Hernández as coach and a series of wise signings in January led to a series of resounding victories, but the team that until recently razed everything in Spanish football closes another season empty-handed.

The azulgranas have a couple of games left to play in the Spanish league, but securing second place is the only thing they are aiming for. The objective of the club is to reinforce itself for the next season.

That, however, is hinted at as childbirth.

Barça is still overwhelmed by the financial problems that, according to Xavi, had an impact on removing them from the courtship to sign Erling Haaland, one of the most coveted players on the market.

“We have not been able to compete at the economic level, I wish him the best,” said Xavi after Manchester City announced the acquisition of the young Norwegian striker on Tuesday.

Xavi and Jordi Cruyff, the club’s deputy sporting director, reportedly met Haaland in early March in a failed effort to bring him to Camp Nou.

Barcelona’s finances were left in ruins due to the impact of the pandemic and exorbitant spending under the management of its previous president Josep Bartomeu. The club’s debt skyrocketed to around 1.3 billion euros ($1.36 billion), prompting the league to order a sizable drop in its salary cap — to 97 million euros ($110 million) — more than seven times. lower than that of its bitter rival Real Madrid.

With Joan Laporta as the new president, Barça was right in the winter market. Director of football Mateu Alemany completed the transfer of Ferran Torres from City, the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a free agent and a loan to bring back Adama Traoré.

Aubameyang and Torres had an immediate impact, and Barça resolved their lack of goals. The unexpected 4-0 win at Madrid’s fiefdom in March ended up being the highlight of a dismal season.

For the rest, there was the ignominy of being shipwrecked in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in almost two decades. Also the elimination at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarterfinals of the Europa League. He never put Madrid in trouble in the League and succumbed to Athletic Bilbao in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.

For a rebound in results, Alemany, Cruyff and Laporta will have to make difficult decisions with a very tight budget.

“I think it’s important to reinforce yourself every year, win or lose. More if you lose”, said Xavi. “This year will not be positive because we have not fought for titles and we have not won and everything that comes will be welcome. There is the economic situation that exists and people will have to leave for them to come. The situation is complicated, one of the most difficult, but we have to strengthen ourselves if we want to be competitive. It is evidence.”

Apparently, Barça is exploring the possibility of signing Robert Lewandowski, the Polish striker whose negotiations with Bayern Munich would be stuck.

But he will also have to resolve several questions regarding various members of his current squad.

One of the priorities is to try to renew Ousmane Dembélé with a cheaper agreement. Dembele, whose contract expires at the end of the season, turned down offers from other clubs in January. He became a key player in Xavi’s attack. The French striker, with the highest salary in the squad after the departures of Messi and Philippe Coutinho, is shaping up to be the top goal-assist in the League.

The club was able to convince veterans Gerard Piqué, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti to accept salary reductions. Doing that with Dembélé, at 24 years old and a difficult quality to replace, is unlikely.

They would also have to decide whether to pay Wolverhampton to make the Traoré acquisition permanent. The winger did not have many minutes and, if the club manages to renew Dembélé, it is taken for granted that they would not retain him.

The Spanish press has speculated in recent days about the possibility of selling midfielder Frenkie de Jong and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen if they receive good offers.

In the midst of uncertainty, the Catalans have long-term tied their young figures who would be the pillars for the future. Both midfielder Pedri González (19 years old) and Uruguayan defender Ronald Araújo (23) signed renewals that will tie them until 2026.

Right now they are negotiating a new agreement with Gavi Páez, among the little redeemable of the season, along with fellow midfielder Nico González.

Nico had stood out at the beginning of the season with Koeman, but his minutes dropped after the arrival of Xavi in ​​November. His future at the club would depend on whether De Jong stays or leaves.

They also place a lot of hope in a full physical recovery of Ansu Fati. He is only 19 years old, but the striker’s bad luck with injuries slowed his growth. If he stays healthy, he could be one of the bulwarks of a new Barca with Xavi.

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