It has definitely been a summer of change at Barça. First they welcomed back an old face in Luis Enrique as the new manager replacing Gerardo Martino, who had already left the club at the start of the summer. Two Barça legends (Puyol and Valdes) left the club, Puyol retiring from football and Valdes moving on for a new challenge at an as yet undecided club.
They have had a particularly busy summer in the transfer market. Their marquee signing this year being Luis Suarez for around €80M (depending who you ask), unfortunately due to his biting antics during the World Cup, fans will have to wait until the end of October before seeing him. Other notable signings are the two goalkeepers Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo, from Borrusia Monchengladbach and Real Sociedad respectively. In a surprising move for Barça they have finally recognised the need to have defenders and have bought not one, but two defenders in the transfer window, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermealen. Rakitic from Sevilla promises to be a really exciting move and if he can produce the form he has shown for Sevilla then he could be a very welcome addition to the squad. The most high profile players heading away from Camp Nou were Cesc Fabregas who left for Chelsea, Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal and the once young goalscoring prodigy Bojan Krkic to Stoke City. So, finally we can see if a Barça talent can do it on a wet, windy night in Stoke.
Barça’s board, players and fans will all be looking for a fresh start under Enrique and to well and truly put last season’s troubling times behind them. A season without any silverware is just not accepted at Barcelona. Although problems off the pitch last year almost grabbed the headlines more than performances on it, with the Neymar transfer scandal, the Messi tax fraud investigation, ongoing boardroom changes, amongst many other off field issues. There is definitely a renewed optimism within the club, after what could be seen as an indifferent past couple of years as they seem to suffer from a Guardiola hangover.
Luis Enrique has stated that, while he doesn’t want to lose the Guardiola/Barcelona philosophy, there is more than one way to win a football match. Definitely the prospect of having Neymar jr, Messi and Suarez as a front three is exciting enough. Then with the new players he has brought in, along with the promising youngsters such as Rafinha, Sergi Samper and Munir El Haddadi hoping to have breakthrough seasons, he definitely has plenty of options of how to move the club forward. How exactly he will do this and how long it will take for the new players to embed themselves into the Barcelona team is yet to be seen, but I’m sure if anything it will be entertaining finding out.