Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)
This has been obvious for quite a while. After signing Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona are coveting another young star from Ajax – namely, their captain.
The man who so nearly led the Amsterdammers to the Champions League final at the age of 19 is astonishingly mature. He managed to overcome a disastrous debut for the national team in a defeat to Bulgaria two years ago and grow into the best young centre-back in the world.
Elegant, good on the ball and a smart reader of the game, De Ligt looks like the perfect replacement for Gerard Pique. He loves scoring goals like him too, as his strikes against Juventus and Tottenham show. A perfect fit.
Hakim Ziyech (Ajax)
Barcelona are now rekindling their lost links to Ajax, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them sign a third star from them after the recent announcement that Ziyech will leave the club.
With 21 goals and 24 assists in all competitions, the Morocco international has enjoyed a fruitful season, and is in his prime at the age of 26. Able to play on the wing and as a playmaker, he possesses the vision needed at the Camp Nou.
Ziyech has shown himself to be more consistent than Ousmane Dembele and is likely a better fit for Barça than Philippe Coutinho. His understanding with De Jong and De Ligt could mean they all flourish in Catalonia.
Youcef Atal (Nice)
Enough is enough – Barcelona need a top-class right-back. Not Nelson Semedo, who couldn’t really push Sergi Roberto out of the starting line-up. And not Sergi Roberto himself, who is essentially a midfielder.
The Catalans need someone who is at least remotely reminiscent of Dani Alves, still so sorely missed. Atal may be the man. The 23-year-old Algerian had a strong debut season in Ligue 1 at Nice, and proved to be a solid defender who is even better going forward.
Much better, in fact. Atal enjoys attacking so much that he is comfortable as a midfielder or an out-and-out winger. Flexibility is what Alves was about, and there is a feeling that Atal could become a major star in the same mould.
Maxi Gomez (Celta Vigo)
Luis Suarez is still going strong despite some criticism, but there is little doubt that Barça need a solid backup who can eventually grow into a long-term replacement.
Why not go for another Uruguayan who seems destined for stardom after scoring 30 goals in his first two seasons at Celta Vigo? Granted, Maxi Gomez is a different type of player – he is a bit less technical than Suarez, and thrives as a classic penalty-area poacher. And yet the burly centre-forward is mobile and tactically aware, which could be great assets when opening space for Leo Messi.
The 22-year-old is hungry for success and disciplined, and his ability to learn quickly could make him an instant hit at the Camp Nou.
Carlos Soler (Valencia)
More options are needed in midfield too, and Soler is definitely a good option. Barcelona have been following him since 2010 when Soler was just 13 – but mature enough to decide that staying at Valencia would be better for his development.
He was right, and remained at his beloved club until now despite being regularly linked to the Camp Nou. Now might be the right time for the 22-year-old to move on and enter the rotation at Barcelona.
Soler can play centrally and on the right, and was successfully tried out on the left flank as well. He’s a hard-working player, a quick thinker and a good passer of the ball. His finishing could improve, but there’s plenty of time for that, and Soler did score the crucial goal that enabled Valencia to qualify for the Champions League.
Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Jordi Alba’s mutual understanding with Lionel Messi makes him a prized asset in this Barcelona team, but he has limitations. At times the left-back has appeared out of his depth, especially in the 4-0 thrashing at Anfield in the Champions League semi-finals.
Barça need a player who would be prepared to sit on the bench, but ready to provide top quality when needed.
Filipe Luis, who is about to leave Atletico Madrid on a free transfer, fits the bill. The Brazilian is arguably better than Alba defensively, but he will be 34 in August and it will be difficult for him to find a big club where he would be an undisputed starter. He knows La Liga inside out, and his style suits Barcelona.
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