The 2016-17 season featured a Copa del Rey title for Barcelona, but the campaign ultimately did not feel worthy of much celebration. Manager Luis Enrique stepped aside for Ernesto Valverde, and the Blaugrana had to watch their rivals Real Madrid capture a league and European double.
Despite another term of wonderful attacking play from their spectacular front-line, Barcelona’s midfield was certainly a cause for concern.
In order for the club to catch Los Blancos and perform better on the European stage, improving the middle of the park will absolutely need to be a top priority.
We examine three key areas that can help Ernesto Valverde get the most out of Barcelona’s midfield for the upcoming campaign and beyond into the future.
Say goodbye to a club legend
Andres Iniesta has been a crucial part of Barcelona’s success for well over a decade, and provides strong leadership to go along with quality on the pitch. But the 33-year-old struggled for much of the last campaign, and it may be time for both the player and the club to move on.
Iniesta missed several matches throughout the year due to injury, and his pace can be a liability in the middle of the line-up.
With an attacking front that keeps constant pressure on the opposition, replacing Iniesta may just be the best way for Valverde to truly start his own chapter at the Camp Nou.
Sign Marco Verratti
A solid defensive midfielder could very well be what takes Barcelona back to the top of Spain and Europe. The player that the club should look to is Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti.
The 24-year-old possesses fantastic vision and an excellent touch on the ball. Verratti has also expressed a strong interest in joining Barcelona, and there is every reason to believe the Catalan side would feel the exact same way.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are arguably the most intimidating front-line in world football. Their combination of skill and pace is often overwhelming for any opposing defence. But for “MSN” to be at their best, Valverde will require coverage at the back.
With this thought in mind, there may not be a better option in Europe than Marco Verratti. The Italian international’s addition may see a positive effect on the play of both Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic as well, as both players were inconsistent at various points.
Change Sergi Roberto’s position
Sergi Roberto enjoyed a positive year last season with Barcelona, especially in the UEFA Champions League. The 25-year-old scored a thrilling late winner to send the Cules past PSG in the Round of 16, overcoming a four-goal deficit in the second leg.
But playing at right-back is not Roberto’s preferred position, and Valverde would be wise to utilise his skills in the midfield. As Barcelona’s hierarchy search for their next Dani Alves at full-back, Sergi Roberto would be able to contribute more in a different and more comfortable alignment.
A new era begins for Barcelona this season, and Ernesto Valverde’s ability to improve the team’s midfield will be a critical element to their potential success.