Sporting director Deco hard is working hard to find players that fit
Barcelona's top priority is to sign a midfielder who has the ability to replace Sergio Busquets. Coach Xavi Hernández has asked to focus all the club's financial efforts on this position, but the market is very complicated and top-level options are impossible.
The new sporting director, Deco, has been working intensely for days to find a solution and has pointed out two names that could be feasible as long as there is a transfer agreement. They are Joao Palhinha (Fulham) and Florentino Luis (Benfica), two pivots who have shown a good level and could fit in at Barça.
Xavi's idea was to sign Martin Zubimendi from Real Sociedad, but the price of the termination clause and the player's lack of clarity -- he prefers to remain at Real Sociedad for another year as they are in the Champions League -- have scuppered the operation.
The club had made an extensive report on various market possibilities including Sofyan Amrabat, but Deco is opting more for Palhinha and Florentino Luis, convinced that they are two midfielders with more specific qualities for Barça.
In both cases, they are not easy signings by any means but, at least, the future Blaugrana sporting director is sure that the two players would be willing to come to Barça. They are two players with a powerful physique and who have developed very well on the ball. Barça had already analysed them previously and the reports on both are favourable and endorsed by Deco himself.
Palhinha is the better-known of the two. He was already in Barça's orbit last summer when he was offered, but his incorporation was ruled out due to the prioritisation of other positions. Finally, Fulham signed him for €20 million and in his first season in the Premier League he has excelled.
An undisputed starter, he has become one of Fulham's key players throughout the season. He plays in front of the defence, is an organiser and has great positioning on the pitch. He is a specialist in ball stealing and distribution and has improved his pace of play. His height, 1.90m, also makes him powerful in the air.
Palhinha's season has not gone unnoticed by English clubs and he has already had several enquiries. Manchester United and Liverpool have tried to sign him but Fulham have been unwilling to sell to an English club. Bayern were also considering him, but for now he is not a priority.
His market valuation is €35 million, but Fulham look set to ask for around €50 million, although they would be willing to talk about trades. There is plenty of room for negotiation.
Florentino Luis is the other option. SPORT already revealed a few days ago that Barça had moved with his camp after his sensational form in the Champions League.
He is 23 years old and has impressive physical potential, although he has taken a decisive step forward in his touch. He is the best ball-winner in the Champions League and is unquestionable in a Benfica team that has played very well in Europe this season.
The Portuguese international has a termination clause of €120 million, but the Portuguese club could sell him for around €40 million and could also be interested in one of Barça's discarded players. Deco has been aware of the figures for days and has already made contact with his camp to find out if he is available. There are many European clubs after Florentino Luis, but the footballer would be delighted to join Barça.
Barça's strategy is clear and involves signing an undisputed player for the position. They will not be the first options, but they will be players of projection who can play a big role in the team. And the investment will be important albeit within the extent of the club's possibilities -- they are very clear that it will only be possible to sign if there are sales that leave money in the cash box and reduce the wage bill.
That is why Deco also manages a list of 'low-cost' options that would help for a season while waiting for better economic times.
It is not ideal but this option would be activated in the event that it would be impossible to afford a large investment. Either that or they would use the youth academy or the players available in the squad, although it is too big a risk to compete in Europe. They are going to do everything possible to sign. And sign well.