With the sale of Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea, an uncomfortable truth is becoming evident at Barcelona, in that they have showed very little forward planning over the past five seasons, leading to failure in the transfer market.
With Alexis Sánchez and Alex Song also reportedly free to leave the Camp Nou, Barcelona's over-reliance on La Masia has arguably meant the club's hierarchy have neglect the transfer window during the reigns of Pep Guardiola, Tito Villanova and Gerardo Martino.
It is a difficult skill to be able to plan for the future in times of celebration and victory, as Barça have experienced for the past six years, but a review of Barcelona's transfer dealings during the period show that they repeatedly bought stop-gap signings, rather than sought to evolve the squad.
In Pep's first season at the helm, Barcelona bought Aleksandr Hleb and Martín Cáceres, from Arsenal and Villarreal respectively. Barça had been weakened at both full-back and defensive midfield due to the loss of Gianluca Zambrotta and Edmilson, whilst Hleb would ideally replace Deco's creativity. As it worked out, the pair played a combined thirty-three games for the club and whilst the club recouped €3.5 million for Cáceres in 2011, Hleb left on a free transfer in 2012.
The following season Barcelona splashed out on the mouth-watering strike partnership of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa, costing the club in excess of €90 million, replacing Samuel Eto'o and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Whilst Villa was a very successful signing, Ibrahimovic only stayed at the Camp Nou for one season, despite regularly scoring important goals, with his temperament completely unsuited to the rest of the Barça squad. This should have been abundantly clear when signing the talismanic Swede, and is a clear representation of Barcelona's short-sightedness.
Arguably, the only successful signings over the past six seasons have been Villa, Jordi Alba, Adriano and Javier Mascherano, with the latter pair not required to play a major role in the first-team, besides Mascherano's utilisation as an auxiliary centre-back.
Big money signings in Fabregas, Ibrahimovic, Alex Song, Hleb and Alexis Sanchez have joined the club in times when the squad is rich with players in their positions, so whilst they are top quality players, they haven't been able to bed into the team properly.
Paradoxically, Barcelona have showed an utter unwillingness to replace Carles Puyol, with Mascherano, and latterly Marc Bartra trusted to play alongside Gerard Piqué. Whilst Bartra is a neat and tidy footballer, when Barça have come up against powerful strikers their defence has been caught short.
With Xavi, Victor Valdés and Carles Puyol either finished, or finishing their careers, it is no longer possible to rely on La Masia to provide the backbone of the side. Whilst it shouldn't of taken so long for Barça officials to plan for the future, there is evidence that they're beginning to prepare for the next cycle at the Camp Nou, with Denis Suárez, Marc-André ter Stegen, Alen Halilovic and most importantly Neymar joining the club in recent times.
Barça must be vastly improved in the transfer window, if they want to ensure the success of the next generation. The root-and-branch approach is bound to come unstuck, and supplementing the squad with players in advance of a tricky spell, rather than signing players on a whim, is the way Barcelona will continue to dominate Spanish football.
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