Livescore Sunday, April 21
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The whole situation with Lionel Messi proved it — Barcelona need to sell to spend this summer.

Xavi’s side were crowned La Liga champions on May 14 and have been formulating their transfer plans since. The return of Messi after two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain was high up on the manager’s list, but in the end, Barcelona just couldn’t afford it, nor was the now MLS-bound Argentinian willing to wait and see whether that picture might change.

Last year, a series of ‘financial levers’ helped the club raise significant funds to strengthen their squad, despite being over €1billion ($1bn; £859million) in debt.

They still have money problems, but La Liga has changed its rules to make a repeat of that process impossible. What’s more, in recent months the competition has repeatedly warned Barcelona they need to cut their wage bill — by around €200million — to comply with its financial regulations.

Some progress has been made towards that. Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were both on big contracts and are now leaving the club, and on Tuesday it was confirmed that La Liga has approved Barcelona’s financial viability plan — but this does not mean they can immediately go out and sign who they like.

As it stands, La Liga will only allow Barcelona to spend 40 per cent of whatever money they raise through sales and loans on new signings. For example, if they sell a player who reduces their salary bill by €100million, they would be able to register a player with a €40m salary.

Messi is now heading to Inter Miami, and Xavi and his coaching staff will press on with preparations for 2023-24. They see their rebuilding job as only 50 per cent complete. For them, what happened last summer was half the revolution, with the other half to come this year.

So, who will stay and who will go?

Goalkeepers

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

3348

38

38

72

2

0

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (contract expires in 2025)

Barcelona’s player of the season is under contract for the next two years. And with the departures of Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, he will now be one of the club’s highest earners.

The 31-year-old German has made 377 appearances since signing from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014 and has lifted 15 trophies. Fans need not be worried about him leaving — his future at the club is pretty much assured.

Inaki Pena (contract expires in 2026)

Barcelona’s back-up goalkeeper signed a contract extension last month covering the next three seasons. The 24-year-old made just five appearances in all competitions this season after spending the second half of 2021-22 on loan to Turkey’s Galatasaray.

The Catalans may look to farm Pena again next season. If that happens, Barcelona Atletic (formerly known as Barca B) keeper Arnau Tenas may be permanently promoted to the first team.

Arnau Tenas (contract expires in 2023)

Tenas is Barcelona Atletic’s goalkeeper but often travelled with the first team to fill out matchday squads this season, without making an appearance. His contract expires at the end of this month, but the club have an option to trigger a two-year extension. His involvement with the first team next season is hugely dependent on Pena’s future.

For now, the 22-year-old’s focus is captaining Barcelona Atletic on a push for promotion to the Spanish second tier — they beat Real Madrid Castilla 4-2 last weekend in the first leg of a play-off semi-final, with the second leg in Madrid on Sunday. If they do go up, staying and gaining experience at that level might be an appealing option for Tenas, who stands out for his leadership qualities and whose playing style has been compared to that of legendary Barcelona predecessor Victor Valdes.

Full-backs

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

2476

33

30

1419

24

14

1306

23

15

1162

24

11

141

3

1

Alejandro Balde (contract expires in 2024)

There are no doubts around the club that Balde is staying, even if the 19-year-old left-back is still playing on an academy contract. The club and Jorge Mendes, Balde’s agent, have agreed a new deal — the only reason it has not been made official was Barcelona’s predicament with their salary limit, but that looks set to change with Tuesday’s developments. They would previously have been unable to register the five-cap Spain international as a first-team player if he had signed that contract. Fellow defender Ronald Araujo was facing the same problem, but the exits of Busquets and Alba will free up space to make these extensions a reality.

Balde is totally committed to Barcelona and has fully cemented himself as their No 1 left-back after a breakthrough season in which he made 44 appearances for the club in all competitions.

Jordi Alba (agreement reached to leave this summer)

Alba will leave Catalonia as a legend.

Last week’s send-off represented a happy ending for the La Masia-product left-back, who was released at 16 then rejoined the club from Valencia seven years later. But this season he was not a guaranteed starter for the first time in his long Barcelona career, and the now 34-year-old found the lack of minutes difficult to deal with.

Alba’s departure has to be read from an economic perspective. The 91-cap Spain international is saving the club money by going, as he has a valid contract until next summer. According to sources close to the player — who, like others cited in this piece, asked to remain anonymous to protect their position — Alba is writing off around 50 per cent of the money Barcelona owe him.

Xavi has already confirmed he is not seeking a replacement for his former club and country team-mate, as he will look to Balde and Marcos Alonso, who will stop operating as an emergency centre-back to focus more on his natural position on the left next season.

Sergi Roberto (contract expires in 2024)

One of Barcelona’s most versatile players, Roberto agreed to a one-year contract extension in March after Xavi pushed the club to renew his deal. This is now expected to be registered with La Liga after they approved Barca’s viability plan. The 31-year-old right-back has made 349 appearances for the club since his 2010 debut under Pep Guardiola.

Marcos Alonso (contract expires in 2024)

Barcelona have also triggered a one-year extension in Alonso’s contract. Like Roberto, his deal was previously not registered with La Liga but the process will now be completed. Signed from Chelsea on a free transfer last summer, Alonso filled in as a central defender as well as playing in his preferred left-back position. The 32-year-old is certain to stay but he is expected to become the back-up option at left-back rather than deputising in the middle again.

Sergino Dest (contract expires in 2025)

Dest is under contract for another two years, but he is not in Xavi’s plans — the manager does not believe the 22-year-old United States international has what it takes to become the club’s first-choice right-back. Dest’s situation will be one of the toughest for the club to solve, as he is returning from a hugely disappointing season on loan to AC Milan. A sale is the ideal scenario, but club sources admit they could explore another loan too.

Julian Araujo (contract expires in 2026)

A bureaucratic mistake during Araujo’s signing, which was executed 18 seconds after the deadline in January, meant the 21-year-old moved from LA Galaxy of MLS to Barcelona without being eligible to play for his new club. Mexico international Araujo — who previously made one appearance for the US, where he was born, in 2020 — has been involved with the first team every day since, but has become something of a meme among the fans after being part of all their title celebrations despite not having played a single minute.

Araujo committed his future to Barcelona until 2026 when he signed for them. He is the only natural right-back in Xavi’s squad as it stands, but it is unclear what role he will play next season. He is expected to join the pre-season tour to the US next month and Xavi will decide whether he stays or goes out on loan depending on his performances.

Centre-backs

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

2428

29

28

1803

22

21

1765

23

22

1414

24

15

382

6

4

1

1

0

Jules Kounde (contract expires in 2027)

This is where the fun really starts!

Kounde was signed from Sevilla on Xavi’s personal request last summer and the manager is happy with the 24-year-old France international’s debut season. There is a ‘but’, though — Kounde has regularly played at right-back, because of Xavi’s lack of options there. His preferred position is central defence but his opportunities there are limited given the impressive performances by Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen as the starting partnership.

Kounde spoke to Xavi about this as soon as the title was secured last month and the manager was sympathetic. But, in press conferences, he has insisted his priority is to sign a new holding midfielder, not a right-back. If Barcelona do not sign a right-back this summer, the Frenchman is the best asset they have in that position.

Xavi is counting on Kounde and will ask him not to leave — just as he supported Frenkie de Jong when the club looked to push the Dutch midfielder out last summer. Even so, a big offer for Kounde could change the executives’ minds, and they know he could appeal to big Premier League clubs. Kounde should stay — but this is Barcelona we’re talking about, so you never know for sure…

Ronald Araujo (contract expires in 2026)

Before Tuesday, Barcelona’s only concern with their other defender named Araujo was finding out when his latest contract extension would officially be registered by La Liga. The 24-year-old Uruguay international is certain to stay, regardless.

Araujo agreed the new deal in April last year, committing his future to the club until the end of the 2025-26 season. In an exclusive interview with The Athletic last week, he said he had rejected more lucrative offers from abroad to remain in Catalonia and said he was not worried about the situation regarding his renewal.

And he is expected to play an even greater role next season, after Xavi put him forward as a candidate to become one of the team’s captains.

Andreas Christensen (contract expires in 2026)

At the start of the season, several figures at Barcelona saw Christensen as a player they might be able to sell this summer — and who would provide the club with instant profit, given he had just joined on a free transfer from Chelsea. But Xavi shut down that possibility as soon as possible and the 27-year-old Denmark international rewarded him by becoming one of his new team’s top performers this season. Christensen made 32 appearances in all competitions and was a key part of a miserly defence that kept 29 clean sheets.

“He was my signing,” Xavi said in April. “I have a lot of faith and trust in him. He’s always ready and aware of everything on the pitch. He’s an important part of this club, now and in the future.”

Nothing more needs to be said — Christensen will stay.

Eric Garcia (contract expires in 2026)

Garcia faces a tricky situation, having gone from being a regular starter at the beginning of the season to Xavi’s fourth or fifth-choice option at centre-back by its conclusion. The 22-year-old Spain international would be pushed even further down the pecking order with the mooted arrival of Inigo Martinez from Athletic Bilbao.

Xavi threw Garcia a lifeline when he started to use him as a holding midfielder on then-sporting director Jordi Cruyff’s advice. The idea was that Garcia’s physicality would help him in duels, while having two centre-backs behind him for protection would allow him to join in the build-up of attacks.

The coaching staff would be happy for Garcia to stay; as a graduate of the club’s famed academy, he is someone who is fully aware of Barcelona’s philosophy and who is also considered a good influence in the dressing room. But some of those higher up at the club would be happy to listen to offers for the former Manchester City man.

It is unclear what offers Garcia could attract, however, while he is on a lower salary than most of his team-mates — suggesting he is likely to stay at the club who developed him.

Clement Lenglet (contract expires in 2026)

Lenglet is another who is not expected to feature again for Barcelona. In fact, the club have already spoken with Tottenham Hotspur about converting last season’s loan into a permanent move this summer. Spurs seemed interested but could not proceed as they were waiting for a new manager to be appointed. Now Ange Postecoglou has been confirmed in the role, Lenglet’s case should advance sooner than later. Barcelona would accept in the region of €15million for the 27-year-old Frenchman.

Samuel Umtiti (contract expires in 2026)

Another expected to leave. Umtiti’s season-long loan at Italy’s Lecce has been incredibly successful for a player many people thought would struggle to play elite football again on a weekly basis. A 2018 World Cup winner with France, Umtiti left behind his knee problems and featured in 25 Serie A matches, playing a key role in Lecce avoiding relegation. Barcelona are looking to sell the 29-year-old, but it is unclear how much they could recoup for him. That said, any move that gets his wages off the books for good will be more than enough for them.

Midfielders

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

2541

36

30

2537

33

29

2346

30

28

1982

26

22

978

28

7

138

8

1

6

1

0

Gavi (contract expires in 2026)

“I’m very calm, the fans can be too.” These were Gavi’s words last month when he was asked on Spanish TV about his contract situation — the 18-year-old Spain international was one of the players who had a pending deal agreed before La Liga gave Barcelona’s financial viability plan the OK.

There was a lot of noise around Gavi before then. Despite having committed his future to the club last September, his new contract included a clause that would have allowed him to leave for free after June 30 if Barcelona were unable to register him as a first-team player. La Liga’s decision on Tuesday means that is no longer a worry. That will be a relief to the club, given how important Gavi has been for them since breaking through last season.

Frenkie de Jong (contract expires in 2026)

The 26-year-old is more secure than ever in Barcelona. The club learned how determined De Jong is to succeed in Catalonia after he rejected every approach Manchester United made for him last summer.

He enjoyed a solid season, especially after Xavi found the perfect position for him. The Netherlands international had struggled to make an impact in his first three seasons at Camp Nou playing as a sole holding midfielder in a 4-3-3 or as an attacking midfielder. Xavi’s tactical switch to using four midfielders — so De Jong is flanked by a more traditional holding player — liberated him.

He has also grown as a leader in the dressing room. When Ter Stegen was promoted to become one of the team’s captains following Gerard Pique’s retirement in November, it meant one of De Jong’s closest friends in the team — and one of the biggest believers in his quality — became an even more established leader.

That allowed De Jong to show the best version of himself. His transformation was highlighted when Ronald Araujo interrupted an interview with the Dutchman after Barcelona had won the league to shout into the camera: “This is the best midfielder in the world!”.

Sergio Busquets (contract expires in 2023)

Stalwart Busquets’ departure opens up a whole new front in terms of Barcelona’s transfer plans, as signing a new holding midfielder has become a top priority. Xavi wanted his captain to stay for one more season but the 34-year-old decided to leave after being at the club for half his life. It is not going to be easy to find a suitable replacement for Busquets, has featured in 42 games across all competitions this season, and a political battle is also taking shape behind the scenes.

Following the advice of superagent Mendes, the club board have proposed the signing of Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Ruben Neves to Xavi. The manager has pushed for other names, such as Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi and Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munich, although those two seem impossible because of their price tags.

“Our options to compete for trophies next season will depend on how well we cover the departure of Sergio Busquets,” Xavi said last month. Let’s see who wins the battle, then, and who ends up replacing one of the greatest players in Barcelona’s history.

Pedri (contract expires in 2026)

“Without Pedri, all our ideas fall apart,” was how one source from Barcelona’s backroom staff, speaking to The Athletic, described the 20-year-old’s importance to the club in March.

That was when the Spain international suffered an injury which ruled him out for a large part of the run-in. Pedri is fundamental to this team — his contract runs for another three years and there is no chance of him leaving.

Franck Kessie (contract expires in 2026)

Kessie is very likely to leave Barcelona, just a year after joining as a free agent following the expiry of his AC Milan contract. He has enjoyed some good moments, such as scoring the winning goal in the pivotal Clasico at Camp Nou in March, but he has failed to establish himself as a regular starter.

The 26-year-old Ivory Coast international probably could have been given more opportunities to prove his talent, but it was always going to be hard for him in a midfield group full of options. He is not a player who will settle for reduced involvement and he has held more than one meeting with Xavi to express his disappointment at his lack of game time. As he arrived on a free, a sale would bring instant profit for the club, plus a significant reduction in terms of the wage bill: his salary is reported to be around €7million net per year.

Pablo Torre (contract expires in 2026)

Barcelona beat Real Madrid in the race to sign Torre from Racing Santander last summer, and he arrived with high hopes for the future. But the 20-year-old’s first-team involvement has been extremely limited — just over two hours of football in eight La Liga appearances, all bar one of them off the bench. A loan is the preferred scenario for 2023-24, with Villarreal looking like the leading candidates at present. It is quite clear to everyone in Barcelona that Torre needs more minutes, and it is also the player’s wish to go out on loan. Former Barcelona manager Quique Setien, now in charge at Villarreal, knows him very well because of his past at hometown club Racing, who he both played for and managed. Barcelona, for now, are not contemplating a sale.

Nico Gonzalez (contract expires in 2026)

In multiple recent interviews, Busquets has pointed to Gonzalez as one of the candidates who could take over from him — that is quite a statement from the legendary midfielder.

Gonzalez first broke into Barcelona’s first-team squad alongside his close friend Gavi. Last August, he realised his opportunities would be more limited this season and asked to go out on loan to continue his development. He spent the campaign at Valencia, where he was unable to nail down a regular place, not helped by a metatarsal fracture in his foot that kept him out from early January to March.

The 21-year-old’s future will depend on Barcelona’s progress in signing a holding midfielder. In 2021-22, Xavi used him as more of an attacking midfielder, but he had played as a sole defensive pivot when coming through La Masia. From the club’s perspective, however, it is very tempting to cash in on a player whose sale would provide instant profit. Let’s see what happens in pre-season, but this is one to keep an eye on.

Wide forwards

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

2083

36

25

1415

25

16

1382

33

14

1381

36

12

116

2

2

23

4

0

7

1

0

Ansu Fati (contract expires in 2027)

It is not what he wants, and few Barcelona fans would have predicted it a year ago, but Fati is very likely to leave this summer.

The winger started the season recovering from a long series of injuries, but even once fully fit again he never quite seemed capable of producing the scintillating talent he showed in the past. Despite the player ending the season with 10 goals and four assists across all competitions, Xavi has not got the spark he expected from Fati, and there are many reasons why a sale would make sense from the club’s perspective.

First of all, Fati is still 20 and could potentially attract a big offer from a club who are in a position to invest in the future. Barcelona would generate instant profit as the player came through their youth ranks, and selling would also allow them to make another sizeable salary saving. According to local reports, Fati is earning more than €7million per year after tax.

If Xavi wants to revamp his attacking line, Fati looks like the perfect player to sell this summer. There is simply no one like him in that regard for Barcelona.

“I think his season has been good,” Xavi said on Sunday. “He’s scored, assisted, and been important in some moments. Why is he not unsellable? Well, this week we’ll know more about what we have to do.”

A private conversation between the Bissau-born Spain international and Xavi is expected in the coming days. Barcelona hope to receive an offer of more than €50million for Fati. We will see if anyone is willing to do so.

Raphinha (contract expires in 2027)

This is another tricky case to explain. Raphinha can be satisfied with his debut season for Barcelona, in which he registered 22 goal involvements (10 goals, 12 assists). He is very happy with life in Catalonia, and Xavi has referred to the 26-year-old Brazil winger as an “untouchable” asset. That should be that, then. But again, this is Barcelona.

Sources among the club’s board say no player is unsellable. Raphinha, as with Kounde, falls into the category of players who Xavi wants in the squad, but who could see their future change if a huge offer for them lands on the table.

Raphinha’s Premier League experience makes him another player with a significant appeal for clubs abroad. But it remains to be seen what kind of offer would force Barcelona’s hand. One would expect it would have to be significantly higher than the £63million they paid Leeds United for him last August.

Will anyone come up with that? Probably not. So the safest scenario is to count on Raphinha staying.

Ousmane Dembele (contract expires in 2024)

The France international is Xavi’s top winger. His place in the squad is pretty much assured under the manager’s watch. But there is good news and bad news with Dembele. The good news is he is also well-settled at the club, wants to stay and seems determined to thrive there. The bad news, for Barcelona, is that his contract situation must be addressed sooner rather than later if they plan to keep the 26-year-old.

Dembele signed his latest deal with the club in January of last year. It runs out next summer, but includes several clauses that could facilitate an exit in this one. His release clause is €50million, and if he decided to accept any offer for that sum, he would be entitled to €25m of the deal for himself.

But as we said before, Dembele is not expected to leave and talks over a new contract could start in the weeks ahead.

Ferran Torres (contract expires in 2027)

The 23-year-old is another of the players Xavi is expected to talk to privately to let them know why a departure will be explored.

Torres, however, is in no rush to leave, and sources close to the player have reaffirmed his wish to undergo a full pre-season at the club for the first time. A year ago he suffered an injury and could not start the campaign with the rest of the team, which is seen by his entourage as one of the reasons for his disappointing 2022-23.

Despite having cost €55million when he signed from Manchester City in January of last year, Torres knows he cannot be considered a starter at Barcelona but is happy to stay and fight for a role in the team. But that would all change if Xavi personally tells him he is not in his plans for next season, and club sources have revealed to The Athletic that this will be the case.

Given that, it would make sense for both sides to find a solution, but Torres’ team insist he will not leave at just any cost. They want to be involved in the whole process and will consider a departure only if an adequate proposal emerges. Torres’ priority would be to feature for a club competing in the Champions League, and his camp do not expect a quick resolution.

The ideal selling price for Barcelona would be around €40million, as that is the exact amount they still owe City for him, but it is difficult to picture them getting that much.

Lamine Yamal (no senior contract yet)

As club sources confirmed to The Athletic last month, there should be no worries regarding Yamal signing a new contract as soon as he turns 16 next month. During his penultimate press conference of the season, Xavi revealed the club’s 2023-24 plans for the teenager.

“The idea we have is that Lamine Yamal can be involved with Barcelona Atletic and the first team as well, so we can keep an eye on him the whole season,” Xavi said. “He is in an age bracket where he needs to play as much as possible, and we want to give him minutes, for sure.”

Yamal is involved with Barcelona’s second team as they attempt to secure promotion to Spain’s second tier. He also starred for Spain at the Under-17 European Championship last month, finishing as the tournament’s joint-top scorer with four goals as his team got to the semi-finals.

Abde Ezzalzouli (contract expires in 2026)

Of all the Barcelona players who went out on loan over 2022-23, Ezzalzouli is the most likely to feature in Xavi’s thinking for next season because he is a left winger, a position that needs reinforcing, and where Fati and Torres have struggled to impress.

Ezzalzouli’s future will depend on which players Barcelona are able to offload. In an ideal scenario, the club could sell Torres and keep Ezzalzouli in a similar role, with the difference that the latter has a much lower salary. But they may also look to sell the Moroccan, given that his value has risen via his fine performances for Osasuna this season. The club may consider cashing in on him given he is a homegrown player, so any sale would represent 100 per cent profit.

For now, Xavi plans on making that decision during pre-season.

Alex Collado (contract expires in 2024)

Collado, a 24-year-old Barcelona-trained winger, suffered a long-term injury in January that stopped his progression while out on loan at La Liga strugglers Elche. His contract expires after next season and he would like to return to his parent club to try to impress in pre-season, but the chances of him forcing his way into Xavi’s plans are slim. Another loan or a permanent transfer seems the most likely option here — Collado is said to have offers from clubs in Italy, Greece and Portugal, along with one from a La Liga side.

Centre-forwards

La Liga minutes this season

Player

  

Minutes

  

Games

  

Starts

  

2851

34

33

8

1

0

Robert Lewandowski (contract expires in 2026)

If anyone told Barcelona fans that Lewandowski would score 33 times across all competitions in his debut season and that those goals would help the club would secure the league title, they would have happily taken that. It has been a successful first year for the Poland striker, who was a fundamental figure in the dressing room from day one and a key part of Xavi’s tactical plan. There is no out-and-out No 9 as back-up in the squad but signing another centre-forward is not among the club’s top priorities this summer.

There are no doubts over Lewandowski’s continuity next season. But if there is a concern, it is further down the line. He turns 35 in August, and the terms of the four-year deal he signed on arrival from Bayern Munich mean his salary next season will be more than the €25million gross he earned in this one.

Will Lewandowski keep posting the same goalscoring numbers at such an age? That is a different question. But Barcelona have no option other than to believe he will. His performances are going to be crucial in dictating what trophies they can truly fight for next season.

(Top photos: Getty Images)



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