When Barcelona sold Pedro to Chelsea in the summer, it was widely accepted that if they were to get an injury or two in their attack, they would be left a little short.
Cue an injury to Messi, and a long term absence for Rafinha with cruciate ligament damage, and Barca are left looking towards their bench. So far youth products Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez have failed to impress, and this has led to the Blaugrana being linked with January moves for all and sundry. Here we sort out the possible deals from the simply ludicrous suggestions.
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
Signed from French second tier side Le Havre, Mahrez has been in sensational form in 2015 and this season has registered seven goals and five assists in 10 Premier League games. He has pace and incredible footwork, so he would be an able deputy for Neymar if he was willing to sit on the bench when the Brazilian, Messi and Suarez are fully fit. Only 24 years old, Leicester are likely to command a hefty fee to let the Algerian international leave the King Power Stadium.
Verdict: Barca could be somewhat interested, though more likely to end up in the Premier League, possibly at Manchester United, where he’d be more likely to start games. That’s if Leicester are willing to sell.
Robin van Persie (Fenerbahce)
The 32 year old striker moved to Turkey from Manchester United this summer in an attempt to get more first team football. He has scored 5 times in 11 appearances for his new club, but despite this there has already been a well publicised friction with Fener boss Vitor Pereira about a lack of playing time. He is too slow to play in a wide position, so Suarez would have to shunt out wide were Van Persie to feature, but the Dutchman has shown he still knows where the net is. Fener would want a profit on their £3.84 million investment, but if Enrique wants him, Barca would surely be willing to double that fee. Van Persie doesn’t like warming the bench, but a move to one of the world’s most prestigious clubs would have to be tempting.
Verdict: Unlikely. Van Persie does not offer enough improvement to the current squad, and lacks the versatility of other options.
Ricardo Oliveira (Santos)
Oliveira is a 35 year old striker who has played in Spain for Zaragoza, Valencia and Betis (twice) and moved back to his hometown to play for his former club Santos in February after a spell in the Middle East, where he represented Al Jazira and later, Al Wasl. His fine form for his club, with 35 goals in 57 games since his return, has not only seen him linked with a return to La Liga, but also a recall to the Selecao, recently scoring his fourth goal in the famous yellow jersey.
Verdict: Now settled back home, and back in contention for Brazil, Oliveira is unlikely to want to jeopardise that for another crack at Europe in the twilight of his career. Barca unlikely to be interested in any case. Non-starter.
Nolito (Celta de Vigo)
A fleet footed winger with an eye for goal, Nolito can also operate as a central striker, and was on the books at the Camp Nou from 2008-2011, making two appearances before moving on in search of first team football. A move to Benfica, and a loan spell at Granada, followed before Nolito found a home at Os Celestes, where he played under current Barca boss Luis Enrique. He was linked with a summer return to Catalonia, which he was reportedly keen on but which didn’t materialise. Then in September Nolito haunted his former employers as Celta defeated Barcelona 3-1 at Balaidos, Nolito scoring a beautiful goal before creating two for strike partner Iago Aspas. That strike one of seven Nolito has notched in ten La Liga appearances this season.
Verdict: At 29 years old, Nolito would understandably want another chance at the big time. His release clause is set at €18 million, which Barcelona would happily pay for a player of such calibre. Watch this space.
Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord)
Dirk Kuyt has been in outstanding goalscoring touch since his return to Rotterdam, bagging 12 goals in 12 games in all competitions so far. The 35 year old, who has 104 caps for Holland, is an absolute workhorse, and willing to play anywhere for the good of the team, both qualities that would go down well with Enrique.
Verdict: Kuyt is simply too old and too poor technically to play for FC Barcelona. Not going to happen.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
The Gabonese international has been sensational so far this season, scoring 20 times in just 17 games, bringing him to the attention of top teams across Europe. The lightning quick attacker, who can play anywhere across the forward line, extended his contract at Dortmund until 2020, but has since been watched by Barcelona sporting director Ariedo Braida. Aubameyang has also fuelled speculation by saying he would like to move to Spain at the end of his current contract. He has steadily improved over the past 4 years, and at 26 years old is approaching his peak. Barcelona would have to shell out quite a few million Euros to secure his signature however.
Verdict: Barcelona would certainly be interested in Aubameyang if available, as would any side in Europe. Dortmund would not want to let their prized asset leave in January, and if the deal is to be done, would probably be in the summer of 2016. Even then, if his form continues as it is currently, the transfer fee could be eye-watering.
Of course Barca may not make any moves in the January window, and may decide that they have got enough in their locker already. Messi will be back from his injury by then, and they will also have Arda Turan, who can play in the wide attacking roles, with Aleix Vidal, who can play at right full back or right midfield, to add further flexibility to Enrique’s line ups after signing in the summer.