Barcelona have for the most part thumbed their noses at FIFA over their transfer ban,signing both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal this summer, despite them not being able to play until the new year.
While these are two quality signings that will undoubtably help the European Champions in the second half of the season, there is a lot of football to be played between now and then and the lack of depth in the Barca squad has to worry Luis Enrique.
Barcelona have lost three quality players from last season, Pedro, Martín Montoya and Xavi and they have been replaced by Munir and Sandro, two youngsters who have limited first-team experience with just 17 La Liga appearances between them. Meanwhile, efforts to cut short Denis Suárez’s two-year loan spell at Sevilla were thwarted by FIFA.
The lack of depth is most noticeable in midfield and attack. The six automatic starters pick themselves: Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Leo Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. Those six players are as good as anyone in world football. But behind them are Rafinha, Sergi Roberto, Munir and Sandro. Not exactly household names.
One statistic that illustrates Barcelona’s lack of depth is the number of international caps amassed by the club’s expected bench players. Barcelona’s is 31, which is all the more staggering alongside Bayern’s 258, Chelsea’s 290 and Manchester United’s 417.
The challenge for Enrique is going to be how to navigate the first half of the La Liga season without burning out his top players? Add in the added strain of the FIFA Club World Cup in December and there be a lot of games for this Barca team to navigate.
If they pick up one or two major injuries early in the season, they could find themselves so far behind their title rivals that even the arrival of Turan and Vidal won’t be enough for them to get back into the title race.