Yerry Mina to sign for Barcelona, Turan and Vidal out – Ernesto Valverde’s ideal January window explored
After a disappointing start to life under new manager Ernesto Valverde, when they lost the Spanish Super Cup to arch-rivals Real Madrid, it was a general consensus that Barcelona would endure a difficult year.
However, things have turned out very differently for the Catalans, as they sit comfortably at the top of the Spanish La Liga, 9 points ahead of their closest challengers Atletico Madrid and a whopping 14 points above bitter rivals Real, who are 4th in the table.
Their progression to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League was also quite straight-forward as they beat the likes of Italian champions Juventus and Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon to top their group and will fancy their chances against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea in the Round of 16.
While they may be comfortably ahead in the league and well-placed to progress in Europe, the manager will know that the race has only reached its midpoint and that there is still plenty of time left until the end of the season. And for them to sustain their challenges across all competitions, it could be possible that Valverde and the club hierarchy decide to bring in a new face or two to the Camp Nou in January.
With the winter transfer window looming large on us, we take a look at what would be an ideal January for Barca.
In goal, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been unflappable this term and with Jasper Cillesen as a more than able backup, Valverde has little to worry about in the goalkeeping department.
The full-back areas too are strong for the Catalans, with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba in red-hot form, and summer signing Nelson Semedo and last season’s signing Lucas Digne more than capable of filling in when needed. However, the centre-back position is something that the club might look to strengthen in January.
Gerard Pique has been ever-present in the starting XI for the Blaugrana and hardly gets any rest, while Samuel Umtiti’s injury has left Barca a little short-handed as well. Thomas Vermaelen has stepped up nicely in recent weeks, but given his injury record, he does represent a risky option. And add to that, the likely departure of veteran defender Javier Mascherano, a new central defender becomes a vital acquisition for Barcelona.
There were reports of interest in Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, but the Dutchman sealed a £75million move to Liverpool yesterday. Reports in Spain claim that Valverde is targeting a move for Palmeiras defender Yerry Mina and the 23-year old Colombian could prove to be a shrewd buy for the Catalans, given his age and immense potential.
In the midfield, summer signing Paulinho has been a revelation, performing way beyond expectations, while the likes of Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have recaptured form as well, after a dull 2016/17 campaign. Ivan Rakitic too continues to be a consistent performer, and with Sergi Roberto able to fill in when needed, they seem well stocked in those areas.
However, their pursuit of Philippe Coutinho is expected to continue as Barca eye the Liverpool playmaker to take over the creative mantle from Iniesta for the years to come. While one might not feel that the need for the Brazilian is immediate, if there is a chance of signing a player of his calibre and quality, the Catalans should definitely go for it.
If they get their hands on Coutinho, that would mean an exit for one of the midfielders from the club with that most likely being Denis Suarez. The La Masia graduate has grown frustrated with the lack of game time coming his way and given that he would drop even further down the pecking order if Coutinho arrives, an exit in the winter window is very much on the cards and would make sense from both the player and the club’s perspective.
With Leo Messi and Luis Suarez in your attack, you hardly need to think about reinforcing that area. And add to that, the return of summer signing Ousmane Dembele to full fitness, coupled with Paco Alcacer’s impressive returns so far, all is well in the attacking department for the Catalans.
The club could look at the possibility of selling fringe players, with the likes of Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal likely to face the axe, while Gerard Deulofeu, who only returned to his boyhood club this summer, could also be pushed through the doors after a poor first-half of the season.
A centre-back is a must for the Catalans and if their pursuit of Yerry Mina comes to fruition, it would be a good start to the window. Philippe Coutinho’s capture will be a huge statement of intent from the club. And at the same time, some of the unwanted players like Turan, Vidal and Denis Suarez need to be forced out of the club.