Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Frenkie de Jong are the only players safe at Barcelona this summer as the Catalan club predict less spending and more player exchanges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, sources have told ESPN.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted last month that the club would still be “capable” of landing the game’s best players, but he warned deals could be structured in a very different way after the crisis.
“There is not going to be as much money in the transfer market because of the pandemic,” Bartomeu said. “But I predict that we are going to see a lot more swap deals.”
Barcelona have already committed to two transfers that will be completed in the summer. Forward Francisco Trincao will move to Camp Nou from Braga in a €30 million deal and Las Palmas midfielder Pedri will join for an initial €5m.
However, sources have told ESPN that the club continue to target another attacker and an internal debate has developed over whether it will still be possible to sign Lautaro Martinez or Neymar — or even both — when the window opens.
There is also a desire to sign a right-back, a centre-back to replace Gerard Pique in the long term and a physical midfielder.
There’s an awareness inside the club that a number of players will either have to be sold or included as makeweights in potential deals to take on such a big summer overhaul. Various sources have told ESPN that only three players are untouchable when it comes to negotiating: Messi, Ter Stegen and De Jong.
Inter striker Lautaro has a release clause of €111m that becomes active in the first two weeks of July. However, sources say Barca have “no intention” of paying that much. There have already been several meetings with the Serie A side and the possibility of including players to lower the price has been discussed.
Neymar remains Barca’s other big target. A year ago, Barca offered PSG various combinations of cash plus players, with Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti, Jean-Clair Todibo and Ousmane Dembele all put forward. PSG rejected the proposals then, but Barca hope they will change their stance this summer with Neymar’s deal up in 2022 and the possibility of the player invoking Article 17 to force an exit unilaterally.
There are players at Barca that both Inter and PSG would be interested in. Sources explain that the Italians are especially keen on Arturo Vidal, while Rakitic, Carles Alena and Rafinha could also be included in the Lautaro operation. PSG, meanwhile, are keen to bolster the number of homegrown French players at the club; Barca have a number of France internationals in their squad.
Sources explain that in an “ideal world” Barca would sign both players, but there is now an acknowledgement they will have to choose one or the other.
The coronavirus crisis is having major consequences on finances across football, and Barcelona have seen their revenue streams tail off dramatically. Ticketing, hospitality, the club museum and the club shops have all been hit.
Therefore, the club are also looking at alternative markets to strengthen the squad in other areas, such as players running out of contract or moving into the final 12 months of deals.