Barcelona must reconsider their summer transfer targets

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By Barcelona's typically high standards, 2011-12 was an unsuccessful campaign. Conceding the La Liga title to arch-rivals Real Madrid, the Catalans were also beaten in the Champions League semi-finals by eventual winners Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola did sign off from his four-year spell in charge at Camp Nou with one trophy last season, though, as his side comfortably defeated Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey, before a summer of change befell Barcelona.

Out went Pep, and into the fray came the Spaniard's trusted aide, and former assistant Tito Vilanova, promoted to the number one job in the land. A flurry of transfer activity was expected to proceed. But, so far business has proven relatively quiet.

Jordi Alba put pen to paper on a five-year deal, after the club agreed a €14million fee with the left-back's former employers Valencia. His sterling performances for Spain at this summer's European Championships have already provided plenty of reason to suggest that Vilanova has pulled off quite a coup. So, who else is set to follow?

Whilst there is little doubt that Barcelona still possess one of the most technically gifted squads the game has ever seen, there is always room for further reinforcements in order for the club to re-establish their supremacy, both domestically and in Europe.

Defence is the area that needs immediate attention. Alba's acquisition is a positive start, but moving attacking intent to one side, it's at the heart of the back line that needs further improvisation.

Ageing patriarch Carles Puyol is entering the twilight of his career, and his absence from a number of key matches last season is evidence that his best days are behind him.

When he plays, Puyol's performances remain as robust as they are classy, but without his experience and marshalling influence, Barcelona do look fragile.

Gerard Pique is a great foil for Puyol, but has shown signs of weakness when partnered alongside the diminutive figure of Javier Mascherano, who was required to operate as a makeshift centre-half at times last season.

Further up the field, David Villa is set to make his long-awaited comeback from the leg break that has ruled him out of action since December 2011. The 30-year-old failed to recover in time to take part in Spain's Euro 2012 success in Poland and Ukraine, and will be chomping at the bit to get back amongst the goals with Barcelona in 2012-13.

Backed up by the increasingly impressive performances of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro, combined with the emergence of academy graduates Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca. Vilanova will be more than comfortable with the strength and depth of his forward options. And, that's before you even mention the mercurial Lionel Messi. He, quite frankly, needs no introduction.

Meanwhile, Barcelona's midfield department seems consistently blessed with a surplus of exquisite talent. Messrs Xavi and Andres Iniesta have proved the fulcrum on which the team's success has been built, providing a constant threat and supply line to the world's best player, Messi.

And, that's not forgetting the importance of the role held by Sergio Busquets, another key cog in the middle of the park. The addition of Cesc Fabregas added yet more quality, and with Thiago Alcantra and Sergi Roberto in reserve, Vilanova is by no means short on options.

Strange then, that the majority of targets that Barcelona have been linked with in recent weeks are midfield players. No disrespect to the likes of Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye - who has impressed immensely during his debut season in the Premier League - but, where would he fit in to the Spanish sides current set-up?

Athletic Bilbao's versatile Javi Martinez would be a more sensible option. The 23-year-old is one of the hottest properties in Spain at the moment, and his ability to play in both defence and midfield would certainly come in handy in the long-term.

Let's not forget, though, that established stars like Seydou Keita have already left the club due to a lack of first-team football, and others like Ibrahim Afellay could yet follow out the exit door this summer, because there's no guarantee of regular action.

Martinez may take some convincing that Barcelona is the best destination, ahead of clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, who also hold an interest. Either way, an uncompromising defensive addition remains the number one priority.

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