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After a summer of good transfer activity, Barcelona have a squad that’s mostly in good health.

That said, they’ve not won in their last four La Liga matches. A historically bad run of games that has highlighted some weaknesses in the squad that need to be dealt with. Just how soon and to what degree will vary from player to player, but we here at Squawka have listed the five Barcelona players for whom the club will need to make succession plans for sooner rather than later.

Luis Suárez

Striker, 31 years old

Look, let’s be honest it’s been clear for over a year now that Luis Suárez is on a pretty steep decline. That’s not to say he’s terrible now, he demonstrably is not, but he’s also nowhere near the player he used to be and needs careful game management to be at his best for Barcelona.

So far Ernesto Valverde has failed to supply this management, but even if he did it’s clear that his physical limitations will only grow year upon year. The smart move would have been to sell him in summer 2018, but the next move would be to offload him and his gargantuan wages in summer 2019, paving the way for a brand new Barcelona no. 9 (André Silva is showing his great potential at Sevilla).

It wouldn’t be easy given what he’s achieved at the club and given his great friendship with Leo Messi and the fact that his family is settled in Barcelona, the city of their dreams. But short of convincing him to take a mammoth pay cut to stick around in a reduced capacity, he’s got to go for the good of the side. Imagine Barcelona with dynamic André Silva or Maxi Gómez ahead of Leo Messi? Lethal.

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Replaced by: André Silva (dream) or Maxi Gómez (realistic)
When: Summer 2019

Rafinha

Midfielder, 25 years old

Barcelona spent the entire summer trying to sell Rafinha only for no one to be interested in a permanent transfer. This sums up how well-regarded Rafinha is around the world that even Inter, for whom he excelled on loan last season, preferred to sign Radja Nainggolan than him. What’s more is that his presence at Barcelona is taking minutes away from Arturo Vidal and, as the Copa del Rey rolls around, the magical Riqui Puig. Rafinha should be sold or loaned in January in order to help Puig find first-team minutes.

Replaced by: Riqui Puig
When: January 2019

Gerard Piqué

Defender, 31 years old

Gerard Piqué is arguably one of the 10 best players in Barcelona’s history, such has been his enormous importance to the defensive stability of a side that preoccupies itself with attack. Piqué has never gotten the credit he deserves because Barça’s system has never played to his strength, instead putting him, a slow centre-back, in the worst possible situation defending 50 yards from his own goal.

Yet Piqué has consistently performed for Barça for a decade. A true master. But now he’s starting to show serious signs of decay; it’s not just poor form, form is temporary after all, but Piqué is a man of many interests. A true renaissance man, his focus goes to many areas besides football. That used to be alright, but the discipline and determination needed to excel into your 30’s demands a focus Piqué is simply not in a position to provide, his interests in poker, tennis, silicon valley and business make it too hard.

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Gerard Piqué may well be Barcelona President someday, but for now he needs to be phased out of the first-team slowly. The time has passed when Piqué could be Barcelona’s only real right-sided centre-back and chief organiser of the defence. Things need to change and his heir must be identified; able to play instantly and take over in a year or so. The club’s infatuation with Ajax’s imperious Matthijs De Ligt is only set to grow, although Athletic Club’s Unai Nuñez is a superb alternative with a €30m release clause.

Replaced by: Matthijs De Ligt (dream) or Unai Nuñez (realistic)
When: Summer 2020

Thomas Vermaelen

Defender, 32 years old

It’s kind of hard to understand why Thomas Vermaelen is still at Barcelona given that he is the club’s third left-sided centre-back, and is thus in a very strange position of needing an injury to either Samuel Umtiti or Clement Lenglet to even have a hope of playing. Umtiti is injured right now, but will be fit by the time January rolls around; and that’s why the Belgian should be sold in the winter transfer window, removing his not inconsiderable wages from the club’s books.

Replaced by: Clement Lenglet
When: January 2019

Denis Suárez

Midfielder, 24 years old

After all the noise he created by taking Xavi’s shirt number and declaring his best position was Andrés Iniesta’s, Denis Suárez has almost entirely failed to live up to his potential. His contributions to the Barcelona first-team are sporadic and unreliable; so what purpose is he serving right now? He’s played 0 minutes so far this season, and whilst that isn’t a problem so far, now that Carles Aleña is fit again and in need of first-team minutes to begin his integration, Denis is blocking his way, which means Denis has got to go.

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Replaced by: Carles Aleña
When: immediately

The post The five Barcelona players who need to be phased out of the team appeared first on Squawka News.

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