Barcelona's new technical committee have decided to strengthen the team if the right pieces become available, even if they can't come into the squad until next January. President Josep Maria Bartomeu is aware that there are elections around the corner, but the club can't turn down the opportunity to improve the squad if it pops up.
For that reason, they have called a meeting for March where the new director of international football, Ariedo Braida, will suggest a number of signings to Luis Enrique, who will likely have his own preferences. As was the case with Andoni Zubizarreta, March is a key month for working out a transfer strategy, defining names and beginning negotiations.
Barça have room for two players: a right-back and a central midfielder.
During Braida's last visit to Barcelona, the technical committee drew up a list of possible names as potential signings, then they came up with an idea to improve the club's current sporting structure. The Italian is already working with Italian sporting directors and agents; this weekend he will begin to work in England, France and Germany.
At the moment there are a lot of ideas, although there are no advanced negotiations. Braida, though, does think that some of the desirable names, such as Paul Pogba and Marco Reus, are unattainable. Instead, Barça will look for players with a big future ahead of them, but a smaller profile.
One of Braida's targets was also a Zubizarreta target. Reviews for Porto right-back Danilo have been glowing. The Brazilian has been contacted by Barça and he is willing to make the move, but the Catalan club will not pay more than €25million. Real Madrid's interest in the player has complicated matters and Braida may therefore look at other options, like Milan's Mattia de Sciglio, whose agent he has met this week. Another option is Borussia Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek.
Away from a right-back, both Braida and Carles Rexach are interested in a centre-back as well. Luis Enrique seems content with the Gerard Pique-Javier Mascherano partnership, with the other options in the squad failing to convince. Braida has Fiorentina's Stefan Savic in mind, but he is not a priority.
For most people at the club, including Lucho, the absolute priority is to improve the middle of the park. Barça's boss has always preferred Koke, but Atletico will not see him leave for less than €60m. It's a tough deal to do.
Braida also likes Lars Bender, another Zubizarreta target. In fact, Zubi's team had put a lot of work into getting that signing done. They'd spoke with the player and with Bayer Leverkusen -- the transfer was just one step away. Braida is not against bringing the deal back to life, but thinks he can find a more interesting midfielder.
He's a huge admirer of PSG's Marco Verratti, who looks set to flee the French club this summer.
Barça would like to close two signings before the election to cover the most urgent needs of the squad. They feel it's important to finalise these deals to avoid having to pay more in July and August, when prices go up. Braida has around €50m to spend on the two deals.
Any other needs may need to be addressed by sales. In fact, the Italian has a couple of attacking players in mind in case Pedro leaves in the summer. He likes Palermo's Paulo Dybala, who is intersting PSG, Dortmund and several English sides. It is the Argentine striker's dream to play with Lionel Messi. Dybala is ready and waiting, with Barça set to make a decision at the end of March.