LaLiga Santander Key players will have to compete for places next season
Barcelona‘s disappointing end to the 2018/19 campaign will have severe consequences. Ernesto Valverde will remain as head coach, but the same cannot be said for some members of the first-team squad.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Blaugrana‘s president, and a large portion of his board believe that the time has come to make changes. The players need more competition and, as such, some players who would have previously been untouchable will now have to fight for their place in the team.
The only exceptions will be Lionel Messi and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Aside from those two, there is no player who will be able to rest easy. The idea of the board is to sign elite footballers with prestige, who logically will cost a lot of money, so some players will have to move on, particularly those on the periphery.
By having a wider range of elite players to choose from, the assumption is that Valverde will not be put in the same situation as he has done in the last two years. The board believe that this is a first, and great, step to overcoming the end-of-season fiasco, which they largely blame the dressing room for.
Players like Jordi Alba, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are, for the time being, untouchable in Valverde‘s line-up. That will no longer be the case. Not only are these five players in their 30s, but the board consider competition to be the best way of maintaining excellence in their performances.
Thus, Jordi Alba, who played in 36 of the 38 games in LaLiga Santander, will have to earn his starting role in 2019/20. There is an awareness from Barcelona‘s leaders that all of this will not come cheap; you will not get an elite player for a discounted price. Rather, they will have to spend significant funds on bringing in an outstanding footballer to compete with Alba, for instance.
The other four aforementioned players are in the same situation as Alba. Barcelona have already signed Frenkie de Jong, who will add competition for Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, if the Croatian does not depart the Camp Nou this summer.
Even Gerard Pique will be unable to relax. There is a confidence that Matthijs de Ligt will join De Jong, his Ajax teammate, in Catalonia, and the Dutch centre-back has already accepted an offer from Barcelona. De Ligt would be a serious threat when it comes to displacing Pique in the starting line-up, with the Catalan defender having had a few critics upstairs at the club over how he sometimes seems to prioritise his non-football interests over his performances on the pitch.
In attack, it will be necessary to strengthen, too. Luis Suarez underwent an operation in order to be fit for the Copa America, thus missing Barcelona‘s Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia and angering a few people at the club in the process. His age and continuous knocks, particularly to his knee, mean that a signing is needed. The No.1 priority seems to be Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno, who would compete with the Uruguayan.