11 Dec 18
The Scottish Sun
BARCELONA have had a shadow cast over them in the last couple of years by arch rivals Real Madrid.
Los Blancos, under Zinedine Zidane’s leadership, won three Champions Leagues in three seasons.
Real Madrid have won the last three Champions Leagues to Barca’s anger
Never before had the reformed competition been retained. Enough is enough for Barcelona.
They may have enjoyed the domestic success with two LaLiga titles and three Copa del Reys but Barca must now be plotting their return to the top table in Europe.
After all, since beating Juventus in the 2015 final, they have been knocked out in the quarter-finals in three successive seasons, most disappointingly to Roma last year despite leading 4-1 after the first leg.
Lest we forget, less than a decade ago, Pep Guardiola and Barca were dominating Europe with Xavi and Andres Iniesta conducting play from the middle.
Pep Guardiola led Barca to two European triumps – both against Manchester United – in 2009 and 2011
They then beat Paul Pogba’s Juventus in the 2015 final but have gone out in the quarter-finals each year since
Now it is time for the Catalan giants to be a dominant force — the dominant force – on the continent.
And recruitment next summer could well be pivotal.
As exclusively revealed by SunSport, first on the transfer wishlist is Vincent Kompany.”Vincent Kompany?” I hear you say. Well, yes, Vincent Kompany.
The Manchester City legend is out of contract in the summer and at this stage only initial talks have been held over an extension.
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If the City captain, still only 32, does leave the Eithad next summer, he will surely not be short of offers. But we understand one from the Nou Camp is likely.
A Man City source said: “There are strong rumours around the place Barca have shown interest in taking Vinnie to Spain.
“He believes he can perform here for a few more years.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens but Barcelona are admirers of his.”
Yes, the Belgium star has a wretched injury record.
He’s been out for 790 days with injury since moving to Manchester ten years ago, missing 129 games. Ouch.
Vincent Kompany could be in line for a shock move to Barcelona, as SunSport exclusively revealed
And yes, Barcelona have an equally-experienced, arguably more successful defender in Gerard Pique at the club who came through La Masia.
Plus, he has not missed a minute this season except being rested alongside pretty much the entire first-team squad for the two Copa del Rey legs against Leonesa.
But there is still no denying Kompany would bring added guidance and class to the squad and in particular the defence.
It is a defence that has been far from water tight this season. Barca have conceded 19 league goals, the same number as 16th-placed Leganes and 17th-placed Villarreal.
Kompany would surely be quite the coup and — you never know — it could be the renaissance his career deserves after his treatment table nightmares.
He lifted the Premier League title for the third time last season
As well as Kompany, Barca look to be in pole position to land Adrien Rabiot.
The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is out of contract next summer and would prefer a move to the Nou Camp, although he has been linked with a number of European clubs including North London rivals Spurs and Arsenal.
Sergio Busquets probably has a couple of years at the very top level but Sergio Roberto, Arthur and Carles Alena are ready to succeed one of the finest midfielders of his generation. Big boots to fill, gents.
But it’s on the other side of the midfield three where things could get very, very interesting indeed.
He’s clearly not happy or playing anywhere close to his best at Manchester United.
Although Jose Mourinho, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones and Co may not be getting the best out of him, one would suggest he would thrive under Ernesto Valverde and alongside Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and so on.
We saw what he was capable of at Juventus and he performed on the world stage in Russia but the Old Trafford faithful have been limited to glimpses few and far between.
Adrien Rabiot is expected to move to the Nou Camp next summer when his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expires
Carles Alena is one of a host of young midfielders ready to make the step int the first team
Barca surely have the cash. Pogba would surely be able to express himself.
In a similar way to Kompany, a move to the Nou Camp could help Pogba kick on and compete for the trophies his undoubted talent deserves rather than let it go to waste.
When Barcelona sold Neymar for £198million last year, it felt like there was a seismic shift in power.
That PSG were now the dominant force, they had the control, they were top of the food chain.
Barcelona were forced to live in fear, constantly checking back over their shoulder to make sure their valuable assets were not going to be snatched away.
They did get Ousmane Dembele but crucially missed out on Coutinho and it was another big blow.
But then in January they began the upward curve by signing Coutinho. Statement made: we’re back.
Barca had their recession, Barca had their slump. But they are now going through their recovery and on the horizon is the boom the board, fans and city crave.
Paul Pogba at Barcelona is certainly an exciting prospect for many
He has been stuck on the bench of late and it feels as though his talent is being wasted
Barca’s front three this season of Messi, Coutinho and Luis Suarez really is not bad at all.
Coutinho’s creativity and ability to find space, work half a yard or find the top corner from distance.
Suarez’s deadly finishing, one of the best in the world and the physicality he displays which is so hard to see on the TV.
And Messi’s… well Messi is Messi.
Oh, and they also have Dembele and Malcom in the squad, two of the next generation of potential superstars.
Neither have displayed their best form at the Nou Camp since their respective arrivals. They are undoubtedly obvious talents but did their moves come slightly too soon? We shall have to see.
But one thing is for sure: Suarez will not be around for too much longer.
He turns 32 next month and despite his phenomenal hat-trick in El Clasico this season, Barca know his time is slowly, slowly running out.
The signing of Philippe Coutinho was the real start of the recovery for Barcelona
Things have not worked for Ousmane Dembele just yet but he still has time to prove himself
Long-term knee problems could take their toll eventually and when they do, Barcelona will need a world-class replacement.
Harry Kane has been tipped for a £200m move, while Kylian Mbappe will surely move to one of the two LaLiga giants at some stage in his career.
But it is Antoine Griezmann that could be the shorter-term fix.
He may have rebuffed Barcelona with that video in the summer, committing his future to Atletico Madrid.
Barca, though, will not be willing to take no for an answer that easily and will surely go back in for the World Cup winner.
It bodes well for the Champions League quest. Yes of course Real Madrid will be strong again, Juventus and Bayern Munich will challenge and the English sides, especially Guardiola’s Manchester City, will be right up there.
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But there is nothing to suggest this Barcelona team cannot get back to where they were.
After all, they still have the magician that is Messi and a balanced blend of experienced players and new, exciting talent.
So, get Rabiot, Pogba and Griezmann in, win the Champions League and be rightly considered the biggest and best club in Europe once again.
Oh, and then get them all – along with Samuel Umtiti – to convince Mbappe to head to the Nou Camp rather than the Bernabeu.