After a two-window transfer ban that precluded FC Barcelona from signing and using new players throughout the entirety of 2015, the Catalan football club is expected to return to take an active role when the transfer market opens up again in January. Barca were issued the FIFA transfer ban for breaking the rules for the "international transfer of minors."
Barcelona did pick up a few new players over the summer transfer window, but with the caveat that none of those players could actually take the pitch for competitive matches until January. So, in addition to whatever new talent Barca pick up in the winter transfer market, January will also see the club debuts of summer transfers like Aleix Vidal (a winger from Sevilla) and Arda Turan (an attacking midfielder from Atletico Madrid).
Do Barca Need New Transfers?
It would be easy, at this point, to say that Barcelona don't really need to load up on new transfers in January. The offensive trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez is still largely unstoppable while younger forwards like Sandro Ramirez and Munir (both stars in Barca's most recent Copa del Rey match) have also shown promise.
Still, Messi's injury spell this fall-combined with the departure of Pedro, who transferred to Chelsea at the end of the summer-showed that FC Barcelona don't necessarily have the depth to remain dominant without their best players on the pitch. As such, expect manager Luis Enrique to hit the transfer market in January as a means of giving his football club some extra insurance.
In addition, when Enrique fielded a squad of reserve players for game six of the Champions League group stage, they underperformed. Even with Messi leading the squad of youngsters, Barcelona underperformed, finishing with a 1-1 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. The outcome didn't matter, as Barca had already secured their round of 16 spot in the UCL. However, the weak performances from many of the team's younger players-including the normally solid Munir and Ramirez-showed that Luis Enrique might need to spend some money in January to keep his soccer club moving forward.
So who will Barcelona be targeting? The rumors about the organization's potential January signings have been all over the place as of late, with most of the buzz surrounding the possible sale of Messi, Neymar, or Suarez. While it seems like Barca would be reluctant to sell one-third of their dynamite trio, recent reports have suggested that the soccer club could struggle financially if they continue to carry the wages of these three world-class stars. In fact, according to The Sun, Barcelona are paying out 73% of their revenues in player wages-a statistic that the newspaper rightfully calls "unsustainable."
Barca will probably hold off on selling any of their top three stars in January. The winter transfer window is not typically the market for premium players or world-record transfer fees-which any of these three could probably command at this point. Add the fact that Barcelona just got Messi back, that both Messi and Neymar are up for the Ballon d'Or, and that Barca are shooting to win a second treble in a row, and chances seem good that the football club will hold on to their vanguard at least until the summer. Come June, though, Enrique and company might have to make some difficult decisions regarding their top stars.
As for other transfer rumors, Manchester United's Ander Herrara, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, Basel's Breel Embolo, and Everton's John Stones are all speculated to be at or near the top of Barca's list. John Stones would help flesh out the football club's defense, which has lagged this season while the 19-year-old Embolo-a striker-would be a solid investment in Barcelona's future. Ander Herrara is a solid midfielder who hasn't gotten much play at Man United this season and will likely be moving somewhere in January, even if it's not to Barcelona. As for Coutinho, the Liverpool star is a top target for a lot of different soccer clubs at the moment, but probably won't be on the market in January.
Root for a solid winter transfer haul for the reigning La Liga champions, with a new Barcelona jersey from Soccer Box!