Summer 2021 has been disastrous for Barcelona with off-field problems dominating the headlines.
In the end, years of playing fast and loose with player wages came back to bite them with the club unable to offer Lionel Messi fresh terms, leading to his departure to Paris Saint-Germain.
Since then they have at least managed to register the bulk of their summer arrivals for the season ahead, something which was far from a certainty several weeks ago. Which one these new signings will make their debut against Real Sociedad in the first La Liga game of the post-Messi era, though?
Neto (GK) – There’s no danger of Neto taking the number one jersey in the long term, but with Marc-Andre Ter Stegen poised to miss the start of the season with injury, his able deputy should be afforded some minutes here.
Sergino Dest (RB) – Dest had a promising if not sensational first season at the Camp Nou, where he played a lot more football than people might have expected. He will be looking to increase his attacking output this time around.
Gerard Pique (CB) – Pique agreeing to take a paycut allowed Barcelona to register their summer signings. Talk about selflessness. Much has been made of his dwindling powers in recent times but he remains Barca’s best defender, probably.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – Long term we expect Eric Garcia to partner Pique but with Barcelona’s new arrival only just back from the Olympics, Araujo will likely start in his stead.
Jordi Alba (LB) – His contract may be one of several slowly crippling the club, but at least Alba has earned his money in recent years. He remains one of the top left-backs in world football.
Sergio Busquets (DM) – Busquets proved he’s still got plenty left in the tank at Euro 2020. Expect more of the same this season, starting on Sunday evening.
Sergi Roberto (CM) – Roberto thought he would be leaving Barcelona earlier this summer. Now, he could end up playing 30+ games this season. It’s a funny old game.
Riqui Puig (CM) – This is Pedri’s spot for the next decade but as he has played approximately 1,000 games this summer, Riqui Puig should start over him. Expect to see the latter come on, though.
Antoine Griezmann (RW) – Barcelona spent the early part of the summer offering Griezmann to any club who would listen. However, with Messi gone, the Frenchman has suddenly become a very important part of the team.
Martin Braithwaite (ST) – Nothing quite sums up the ridiculousness of Barcelona’s current predicament than the fact that they will be starting the season with Martin Braithwaite as their main striker. The sooner Sergio Aguero returns from injury the better. Provided they can even register him, of course.
Memphis Depay (LW) – Memphis is nowhere near Messi’s standard but if anyone can fill the void left by La Pulga’s departure, it’s him. Getting to see him as the main man at a top European club will be interesting this season.