Earlier this week I wrote an article detailing the difficulties I face whenever Barça reveal one of their brand spanking new jerseys, my fan instinct telling me to ‘Buy Buy Buy’, my conscience saying otherwise. Fortunately my head has so far triumphed over my blaugrana heart when it comes to our coveted merchandise. But, as I’m sure that previous piece made clear, I am not a man (or a fan, for that matter) who comes to decisions lightly, my life a sleepless haze of inner monologues, always debating the pros and cons of every little issue concerning my beloved club.
Really, it’s almost like I haven’t got a real life to be lived.
With this in mind you can imagine how hard it is for me to actually put my money down on the table and pick out the potential transfer targets I’d like to see arrive at the Camp Nou, the decision taking me all summer, by which time the deals have been done, the contracts all signed, and the new season set to begin. Luckily the club turned down my application to be director of football, otherwise Pep’s fondness for a small squad would have been severely tested – so disturbingly thorough am I in my chase for perfection.
But not this time. No, this summer I intend to get my list up and out there as soon as possible. A tick for the players I’d like to see arrive, an X next to those who do not meet my extremely high standards. And although there’s still a lot of football to be played this summer (I will have one eye firmly on Poland and Ukraine, that’s for sure), I am more than prepared to throw my hat into the ring right now and suggest a few names who I’d be more than happy to see don those new innovative Barca colours next season (not that I will be of course, but still.)
The reason for me doing this right now? Well it’s simple really – tonight’s Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao will serve as the perfect shop window for the talent I am going to suggest. I’m sure you can already predict the players I am going to point to but still, with a good few hours to kill before kick off, what better way could there be to pass the time than to sit back and think of what could be if a few of Bilbao’s boy wonders made their way east from the Basqueland to Catalunya. Maybe it will never happen, but it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?
Where to start? Well, up in the clouds obviously, where a certain Fernando Llorente resides. Standing at a not inconsiderable 6′ 5″, but with the grace and ability to match his stature, Llorente may just be the big man Barça have been searching for. Elegant and smart with the ball, tough and hard-working without it, ‘The Lion King‘ would be my preferred choice of signature when it comes to our strangely one-dimensional front-line.
Yes I know we’ve tried it with Ibra. And yes I know the purists amongst us believe that signing anyone above 5′ 7″ is a travesty but hear me out on this one, for Llorente is so much more than a mere battering ram or tough man. As he’s demonstrated since the arrival of Marcelo Biesla, Llorente is completely comfortable with the tiki-taka brand of football so loved by Barça, and he’s rather fond of putting the ball in the back of the net don’t you know.
Clever with his back to goal, quick-minded and with enough tricks up his sleeve as to make a certain Swedish striker blush, Llorente really could be that ‘little’ something extra we’ve been looking for, his size and strength allowing Messi & Co. to drop deep without fear of the team losing its attacking point of reference. But unlike some of the other attacking options currently on the table, Llorente would not be out of his depth with the ball at his feet; his creativity, work-rate and selflessness making him the perfect number 9 for Barça.
Oh and did I mention that he is 6′ 5″ – meaning he is always a threat in the air, something Barça sorely needs, both in attack and defense. Alongside this, he already has experience of playing with many of Barça’s Spanish stars for the national team, meaning it would surely take next to no time for him to acclimatise to his new home. All of which is why I would put the big Basque number 9 as my striker of choice this summer. RVP and Big Did’ Drogba will have to go elsewhere I’m afraid.
My next choice will also surely come as no surprise to anyone, so impressive has he been this season, not to mention so linked with the club. Of course it’s the dynamic and versatile Javi Martinez, a player so cool he makes Xavi look like a headless chicken. I write this now fully aware that the club are more than likely to break the bank, not to mention little Ibi Afellay’s heart, to sign Thiago Silva from Milan, with the Dutch youngster apparently being used as bait. And whilst I rate the big Brazilian (how could you not), I still find myself leaning toward Javi Martinez as my signing of choice – for one thing he’d surely be cheaper.
He’d also bring with him the kind of tactical and technical prowess that Barça loves to have in its defenders, with no loss in the way of tackling bite. Just imagine a defensive heart consisting of Mascherano, Pique and Javi Martinez – the opposition wouldn’t know if it was coming or going, and that’s without even mentioning Sergio Busquets, the Barça player who Martinez most reminds me of.
Like Sergio, the Basque defender is a no-nonsense, tell-me-what-to-do-and-I’ll-do-it kind of player, keeping his mind on the task but always playing with his eyes up, a classy and unshakeable quality about his performances. It’s this that makes me think he would fit in perfectly at the Camp Nou, not to mention the fact that he also hates Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes he would fit in just fine, methinks.
As for the many other impressive Bilbao players we have seen this season I will certainly be casting an eye over the always impressive Oscar De Marcos, David Lopez, and Ibai Gomez during tomorrow night’s Cup final, with all three on my ‘ones to watch’ list. Maybe they’re not Barça bound just yet but there’s something about them, and the way Bilbao play in general, that makes me think that they could easily find a niche in the Barça squad if called upon.
Then there’s the brilliant Iker Muniain, a player whose style and approach to the game just scream out – Barça, the only problem being, do we really need another player in that tricky little attacking player mould? For now, I’d say we don’t but if we can get a buy-two-get-one-free offer I’d happily take him off Bilbao’s hands. The fear being he will almost certainly get snapped up by one of our major rivals very soon. Oh well, that’s the way of football I guess and whilst I hate to say it, after the amazing season the boys from the Basqueland have had, it would be a brave man who would bet on all of the above mentioned players still being there next season.
Whether or not any of them end up sporting the blaugrana colours we can’t be sure just yet but come Saturday night, I hope most of the Barça players and staff are busy parading that slightly dented trophy around the Camp Nou, all except Senyor Zubi, who I hope will be on the phone convincing his fellow countrymen to swap the joys of the Basque Country for his second home in the Catalan capital. The Basques have flourished with us before, who’s to say they wouldn’t do so again, if given the chance. I, for one, hope they are given that chance.
Now bring on the Cup final!
Image Credit: RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images