It is time for change at Barcelona. Luis Enrique is leaving the Catalan club after his third season in charge and there will be a new coach arriving at Camp Nou in the summer.
The Blaugrana are still in contention for three trophies, but find themselves trailing Real Madrid in the race for La Liga, while their hopes of making the last four of the Champions League appear slim after the 3-0 defeat at Juventus on Tuesday night.
Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, the squad is in need of improvement and here, Goal looks at the players that should be offloaded and those that should be retained.
KEEP AT ALL COSTS
Lionel Messi – The Argentine is 30 this summer, but remains Barcelona’s inspiration in attack. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has long said that he is happy at the Catalan club and wants to finish his career at Camp Nou (at least his European career!), but the Blaugrana board need to ensure he signs a new contract soon in order to be able to build their next project around their finest footballer.
Neymar – The Brazilian is the subject of transfer speculation every single summer, but Barcelona handed him a lucrative new contract towards the end of last year and although offers will undoubtedly arrive, there is no way the Catalan club will consider his sale – especially as he was signed as a long-term heir to Messi and is starting to show this season that he can be the world’s best in the years to come.
Luis Suarez – The Uruguayan striker is also hugely important to Barca’s MSN, a trident described by Luis Enrique as the best in the history of football last year. Suarez is the world’s best centre-forward right now and has taken his game to a new level at Camp Nou. He also signed a new deal this season and a departure in the summer is unthinkable.
Sergio Busquets – Not at his best this season but Sergio Busquets remains hugely influential in midfield and his performances may improve with the arrival of a new coach. In any case, he is fundamental for the Catalan club and highly valued at Camp Nou. Other clubs may try to sign him, but there is no way that he will leave.
Andres Iniesta – The midfielder will be 33 in May and is approaching the end of a wonderful career, but he has shown he still has plenty to offer with some superb showings in the current campaign. His ability to glide past rivals is unmatched by any other player in the world and he will continue to be important for Barcelona for a couple more years yet.
Gerard Pique – The Catalan defender is a captain without an armband and no other player has done more to defend the team’s interests than the 30-year-old centre-back. Pique remains one of the best in the game in his position and should spend the remainder of his career at Camp Nou.
Samuel Umtiti – The only one of last summer’s signings that can be considered an outright success. He has become a mainstay in defence and, up until the defeat at Malaga last weekend, the Blaugrana had won all of their Liga games when he was in the team. Very much part of the future of Barca’s back-line.
Ivan Rakitic – The Croatian midfielder has been a key player since signing from Sevilla three seasons ago and although this has not been his finest campaign, he is still important to the club and recently signed a new contract with the Blaugrana amid interest from Manchester City.
Sergi Roberto – The Masia graduate did well at right-back following the departure of Dani Alves in the summer and although he has struggled against stronger rivals, he is a useful player who can operate in many different positions. He also scored the goal which sealed the famous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain and is popular in the dressing room.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Now undisputed first choice following the departure of Claudio Bravo in the summer, the German shot-stopper is becoming one of the world’s best. Still prone to mistakes on occasions, he makes up for that with his footwork and his game allows the team to play a high defensive line. There is no goalkeeper more suitable for the club right now.
Jasper Cillessen – The Dutchman was signed in the summer as back-up for Ter Stegen and has done well enough in that role. There is no reason to change and Cillessen should have the chance to play for his first trophy in the final of the Copa del Rey against Alaves next month.
Jordi Alba – The Spain left-back has found himself out of the team after Luis Enrique switched to 3-4-3 recently, but a new coach may well favour four at the back and in any case, full-backs will be needed. Alba remains one of the best left-backs in the game and he will continue to be useful.
Aleix Vidal – The right-back is sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a serious injury against Alaves in February. That was a big blow for a player who was just starting to show what he could do as a Barcelona player and he should be given the chance to do so again once he has recovered from injury.
Denis Suarez – The attacking midfielder returned in a buy-back agreement in the summer and has had little opportunity to show what he can do as a starter in this team, but he has real quality and should be given time to settle and shine at Camp Nou.
Sergi Samper – Out on loan at Granada this season, the homegrown midfielder deserves an opportunity in the first-team squad. He can give Busquets a rest from time to time and is talented enough to play his part in 2017-18.
OPEN TO OFFERS
Javier Mascherano – Still an important presence in the dressing room, the Argentine’s performances have dipped dramatically this season and if the right offer comes in, the club could consider an upgrade in the summer. However, the player signed a new contract only last year and looks likely to stay.
Rafinha – Currently out injured, the Brazilian international began to feature much more after Luis Enrique switched to 3-4-3, but if that system is used next season, Barca will need a better player in that position and Rafinha has been considering his future for some time. Could well leave in the summer.
Paco Alcacer – The Spain striker was an expensive recruit at €30 million and he struggled to make an impact in the shadow of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. He has done much better of late, but Barcelona may decide to bring in another forward in the summer, meaning Paco’s place in the squad next season is not guaranteed.
Munir El Haddadi – Alcacer was brought in as Munir left to join Valencia on loan. The latter has found life difficult at Mestalla, but did score home and away against Barcelona and would not need to adapt to the team. As with Alcacer, though, he could leave if another attacker is acquired in the summer.
Andre Gomes – The Portuguese midfielder is not a bad player but Barcelona’s performances never seem to be good when he is in the team. Although Luis Enrique has been a fierce defender of the summer signing, a new coach may be less keen.
Lucas Digne – The French full-back started well enough but he has disappeared from the first-team picture at Camp Nou and is only a back-up at best. He will probably stay unless a big offer comes in but would not be missed much if he left.
Arda Turan – Things have not really worked out for the Turk. He has done well this season when filling in for Neymar on the left but is not good enough when he is used in midfield, gave away a crucial free-kick in the Clasico and has been out injured too often as well. It may be time to move on.
PACK YOUR BAGS – YOU’RE OFF!
Jeremy Mathieu – The French defender did well in his first season at Barcelona, but has been average since and was awful at Juventus on Tuesday night, hauled off at half-time by Luis Enrique with the Catalans 2-0 down. He is not good enough to be a starter for a team like Barcelona.
Thomas Vermaelen – The Belgian will be back from his loan spell at Roma and is not the answer at centre-back either. He is highly unlikely to be at the Catalan club next season.
Cristian Tello – On loan at Fiorentina, Tello is a good player but will not really improve Barcelona and it is probably time for him to leave the club permanently in the summer.
Douglas – Always a strange signing this one, Douglas is on loan at Sporting and will be back at Barca in the summer. He will be nowhere near the first team, though, so there really is no point in keeping him at Camp Nou.