Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says that “on paper” he has the best squad of his time at the club, and he is not worried about an apparent lack of depth at right-back or in attack.
Barca have spent about €80 million on four new first team players — Andre Gomes, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez — so far this summer.
Meanwhile, around €15m has been recouped with unwanted senior squad members including Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen, Adriano Correia and Sandro Ramirez having been moved on.
Suarez, Umtiti, Digne and Gomes are to be presented to the Camp Nou crowd ahead of Wednesday’s Gamper trophy game at home to Sampdoria, their new club’s final friendly of the preseason before the looming Spanish Supercopa double-header against Sevilla.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the Sampdoria clash, the Blaugrana coach said that the squad had been strengthened and the new players now had to prove they were worth a starting place.
“We have reinforced the squad brilliantly,” Luis Enrique said. “On paper, I have the best squad in my three years here [as coach]. All the new players have settled in well. They have quality and will have to compete for a place.”
The clearest gap in Barca’s squad is now at right-back, where Dani Alves has left for Juventus after eight years as first choice, and no specialist replacement available. Ex-Sevilla winger Aleix Vidal has started each of Barca’s three preseason games so far in the position, including the 0-4 defeat to Liverpool last weekend, while midfielder Sergi Roberto has also filled in there, and Luis Enrique said he was happy with these options.
“There have been only a few preseason games so far,” he said. “With Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal the position is well covered. Then we will see how they perform.”
No progress has been made on Barca’s summer-long quest for a third attacker to back-up first choice Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar over the season, but Luis Enrique said
“While the window remains open, we are ready to strengthen our squad,” he said. “That is the intelligent way to look at things. If we can improve what we have, we move forward.”
Neymar is currently facing criticism in his native country, after disappointing 0-0 draws in Brazil’s opening Olympic football tournament group games against South Africa and Iraq leave them close to another exit on home soil.
“I’ve not seen any of the games,” Luis Enrique said. “We all know that football is a collective sport and we all must balance praise and criticism, although it becomes personalised. I wish luck to [Neymar] and to [Blaugrana midfielder] Rafinha.”