How will Barcelona line up next year with Neymar, Wayne Rooney and Thiago Silva in their side?
Anyone who watched the Confederations Cup will be drooling at the prospect of seeing Neymar line up alongside four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi next season. The pace, technique, vision and finishing ability of both of these players will be virtually impossible for all but the very best defenders to deal with. Couple this with the intricate service of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, and we have a side to overtake Bayern Munich and reclaim their place as the top team in Europe.
Where Barcelona struggled last season was in defence; and especially when the attack was aerial. To counter this, the Catalan giants are targeting a world-class centre-back to replace club legend Carlos Puyol, who is becoming increasingly injury-prone in his mid-thirties. Although David Luiz, Matts Hummels and Daniel Agger have all been linked, PSG’s Thiago Silva, who is widely regarded as the best centre-back in the world right now, seems to be the number one target. Daniel Alves and Neymar have already started wooing their fellow countryman in the media, a tactic that Arsenal fans will remember all too well during Barcelona’s chase for Cesc Fabregas.
The Catalan club are desperate to keep hold of young Spanish playmaker Thiago, especially as Xavi is approaching his 34th birthday. Thiago however is demanding first-team football, and such is the plethora of midfield talent at Barcelona, he may have to move to Man United to guarantee it. With players like Alex Song, Javier Mascherano and young Jordi Alberto in reserve however, it seems unlikely that Barcelona will need to sign a like-for-like replacement.
If they are forced to sell Thiago, they may appease fans with the acquisition of Wayne Rooney, who is clearly disillusioned with life at Old Trafford. A large enough bid would undoubtedly be accepted by United, who use Robin Van Persie as their no. 1 striker, and have players like Kagawa, Cleverley and possibly Thiago to use in the attacking midfield role.
This Barcelona line up uses their traditional 4-3-3 formation, and includes an attacking triumvirate of Messi, Rooney and Neymar.
Alternatively, they could play with three at the back, as was often favoured in Pep Guardiola’s last season at the Nou Camp. Even without Rooney, this team looks extremely impressive, and allows Iniesta or Fabregas to join the attack as Busquets or Mascherano plays a sweeper role behind them.
Finally, Barcelona could hold on to their young star Thiago, which would gradually see him take Xavi’s place in the team. This would see Iniesta employed in a deeper role alongside a more defensively minded midfielder.
Whatever formation and line up Tito Vilanova decides to use, his side will look extremely good on paper with Neymar cutting in from the left, and the possibility of Wayne Rooney helping Iniesta and co. to feed Messi up top. Thiago Silva could, however, be a more important signing in regards to next seasons’s Champions League hopes.
If Barcelona fix their shaky defence from last season, they look as strong going into a season as any team possibly ever has.