Glory Hunter – Barcelona 2022/23: The Squad

To catch up on the story please head yourself over to the Chapters page.

Who are the boys who entertained you this season? In squad number order…

1 – Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
Age – Nationality: 31 – (24 caps)
Current Value: £60 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Goalkeeper
Appearances – Clean Sheets: 58 (0) – 38
Average Rating: 7.12
Key Coaching Comment: ‘World class player
Not much to say here, beyond the reality of having a top drawer keeper who played to type. It clearly made sense to give him that new contract at the start of the summer. Happy to be here and willing to keep improving, the German international who isn’t Neuer continued to progress with the dedication of a born perfectionist and deserves every ounce of praise that he receives.

2 – Riqui Puig
Age – Nationality: 23 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £19.75 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Advanced Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 13 (0) – 2 – 5
Average Rating: 6.97
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Good balance and ability on the ball
Riqui’s figures include the loan period he spent at Basel, which ended at Christmas as he wasn’t being played in his natural position. Used as a fringe player by ourselves, he did well enough when we needed to overcome an injury crisis and was especially good against the lesser sides we faced. For all the promising signs he is currently considered to be the squad’s twelfth best central midfielder, which means that 2023/24 is likely to see him go out on loan once again.

3 – Gerard Pique
Age – Nationality: 36 – (102 caps)
Current Value: £5.25 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Ball Playing Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 31 (1) – 7 – 0
Average Rating: 7.18
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Has shown a considerable decline in his strength
Gerard’s contract ends in two years’ time; surely by then it will be time to retire, having been usurped by younger models that can finally make his importance to the cause a thing of the past. Until then, this consummate team leader, who’s been a key player since 2008/09, remains our captain and steadily diminishing presence, his lack of any kind of remaining pace meaning it’s difficult to justify using him apart from against the softest of opposition. In reality, the next season could very well be his last. The decline is accelerating, and whilst I can’t bear to cut him just yet, we now have better options. How exactly do you finish the career of a club legend?

4 – Hector Bellerin
Age – Nationality: 28 – (5 caps)
Current Value: £56 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Wing Back (Right)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 32 (0) – 0 – 1
Average Rating: 7.07
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Should be considered a leading First Division player
A fine first year back at the Camp Nou for Hector, who showed his defensive aplomb again and again and became very much the first choice at right-back. Reliable and consistent, he was less exuberant in attacking play but as long as he maintained a good playing relationship with Messi or Dembele then his job was done – he did; it was. Manchester City and Juve want him, but they would have to offer far more than the £49.5 million we paid to make me consider letting him go.

5 – Sergio Busquets
Age – Nationality: 34 – (142 caps)
Current Value: £5.75 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 23 (2) – 1 – 2
Average Rating: 6.82
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Is performing below average in every area in key statistics for this defensive role
Sergio has handed in his transfer request, a consequence of his diminishing role in the side, and I have accepted it. Once among the club’s most important players, the Catalan legend is now in decline, still willing but far from as capable as he used to be. In fairness, it was always clear that part of this job was figuring out how to overhaul the old guard. Sergio’s been part of the cause since the Guardiola era, fifteen years ago, and I agree with him that it’s time to find new climes for him. He should be the first of the three team leaders to hang up his boots.

6 – Pau Torres
Age – Nationality: 26 – (22 caps)
Current Value: £65 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Central Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 36 (4) – 8 – 3
Average Rating: 7.34
Key Coaching Comment: ‘The fans like the player
Acquired as part of the effort to overhaul the Barca defence and effectively replacing Umtiti, Pau grew quickly into the role and became key to the cause, a superb, tackling, marking and heading centre-back whose height advantage helped him to be a distinct threat in set-piece situations, adding eight goals to his account. The Spaniard ended up being part of our most important games, developed a great partnership with Skriniar, and I am happy to move forward with him.

7 – Antoine Griezmann
Age – Nationality: 32 – (112 caps)
Current Value: £64 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Inside Forward (Left/Right); Advanced Forward
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 29 (15) – 16 – 12
Average Rating: 7.34
Key Coaching Comment: ‘A perfectionist who constantly strives for improvement
A high performing star practitioner, it took a little while for Antoine to gain my affections, but he really shone when Messi was injured and he was tasked with taking over from the Little God on the right wing. Having performed fitfully as a striker, he played with revolutionary zeal in his new role and ended up pretty much usurping Coutinho from the left wing after Messi returned. Flexible and technically excellent, Antoine is critical to Barca, coming into the last year of his contract and will be offered a new deal to keep him here, even if age is beginning to slowly creep up on him.

8 – Bruno Guimaraes
Age – Nationality: 25 – (7 caps)
Current Value: £63 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 22 (18) – 3 – 5
Average Rating: 6.98
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Passing ability underlines his technical prowess
Signed as a replacement for Miralem Pjanic and expected to bring the Brazilian verve to midfield that we lost with Arthur, Bruno pretty much fit the brief, impressing early though by the season’s end he had been overshadowed by the virtuosity of Bennacer. His passing and vision are brilliant, and his adeptness at finding openings and playing killer balls are a real plus for us. There’s always a great assist in Bruno, and generally great player on hand to take advantage of them.

9 – Sir Harrington Kane
Age – Nationality: 29 – (80 caps)
Current Value: £92 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Forward
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 35 (7) – 18 – 5
Average Rating: 7.02
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Gets crowd going
An £83 million signing by Koeman in 2021, Harrington has steadily adapted to life outside London, an endlessly tricksy forward who has an unerring capacity to produce when he really needs to, and displaying a goalscoring range that possibly can’t be found anywhere else in world football. Technically superb and a role model for younger players, there’s no doubt that he fits in within our set-up. His contract finishes in 2024 and it’s for certain that we will need to pay him more money to compel his hand to reach the new deal signing pen.

10 – Lionel Messi
Age – Nationality: 35 – (152 caps)
Current Value: £7.5 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Advanced Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 27 (6) – 13 – 12
Average Rating: 7.77
Key Coaching Comment: ‘The player’s recent performances have been nothing short of sensational
Sometimes, a great player somehow adds extra qualities to the cause, finding ways to overcome elements like creeping age and his evident physical decline. Despite being considered a lesser player than many of his contemporaries, Leo is quite simply Mr Barcelona, a talismanic presence who innately understands the importance of playing well and taking it the opposition. Tricky and vastly experienced, his touch, flair and balance make him a magician on the ball, so I need to see beyond the adverse elements and keep him on. For once, it’s the player who will decide when it’s time to go. For now, he stays.

11 – Ansu Fati
Age – Nationality: 20 – (30 caps)
Current Value: £76 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Inverted Winger
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 30 (14) – 13 – 2
Average Rating: 6.91
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Ability to do the unexpected is one of the main reasons behind his ability to go past his man
The team’s future is built around someone like Ansu, the Bissau born winger who is now a Spaniard, an increasingly influential player whose talent levels are enough to put him beyond Coutinho in the left wing starting role. Going forward, the aim is to alternate him with Griezmann, and occasionally take advantage of his flexibility to try him on the right and even in a forward’s role. He can do it all naturally. He’s important.

12 – Ousmane Dembele
Age – Nationality: 26 – (44 caps)
Current Value: £72 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Inverted Winger (Right)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 15 (12) – 10 – 7
Average Rating: 7.41
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Ability to dribble makes him a difficult opponent to come up against
On the one hand, Ousmane is an established player, expensively signed, whose steady mission to replace Messi is going pretty well. Fast and creative, the almost impossible job of overhauling a GOAT is largely progressing as positively as it can. The downside is his problem with injuries, the reality that Ousmane was unable to play three games without incurring a knock that would keep him out for the next three. All this despite rotating him in and out of the starting eleven to preserve his fragile fitness levels. Six separate injuries across 2022/23, ruling him out for a combined eleven weeks, undermined the good stuff he produced when he played. And it was good. The jury is therefore out. Ousname is coming into the last year of his contract, and he will more than earn a new one, however if the right offer from elsewhere comes along it will be tempting to take advantage and look elsewhere.

13 – Neto
Age – Nationality: 33 – (1 cap)
Current Value: £775,000 (approaching end of contract)
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Sweeper Keeper
Appearances – Clean Sheets: 0 – 0
Average Rating: N/A
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Decent player for most First Division sides
For my money, a keeper so inferior to ter Stegen that it was only worth calling on his services if the German ever got injured (he didn’t). That in itself is not a reason for letting Neto leave. He’s fine, happy enough to play second fiddle presumably forever, however some toe-rag once upon a time thought it was worth handing £26 million to Valencia for him, and offered him a contract that pays £105,000 per week. Little wonder that the Barca wage budget is spiralling out of control, right? In his four years with us the Brazilian has played a total of sixteen league games, surely only a madman’s idea of good value for money, so it’s time to part ways and to offer a first team opportunity to Inaki Pena, impressing on loan at Levante, homegrown, ready and considerably cheaper.

14 – Coutinho
Age – Nationality: 30 – (88 caps)
Current Value: £74 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Inverted Winger (Left)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 17 (20) – 7 – 7
Average Rating: 7.04
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Very technical
In the wake of Neymar’s big money snatch and grab by PSG a number of years ago, Barca have been trying to demonstrate that they’re the big cheese on the shelf by lavishing huge sums on star players. The message is clear – forget that dude, how about Dembele, or Griezmann, or indeed this fella, a rather incredible £137 million paid to Liverpool just to prove a point. The Scousers must have been dancing in the streets. Coutinho’s a very good player and has never finished a season at the Camp Nou with an average rating below 7.00, but the sums involved are simply ruinous. He earns £400,000 on a weekly basis, and the coaches consider him to be only the sixth best left winger in the squad, and for that matter he’s ranked fourth at AMC, a position we don’t even use. There’s no justifying his presence, and by the end of the season I preferred Fati and Griezmann over him. I want his salary back in the budget, and as a consequence will be looking to move him on in the summer. The chances are I will get nothing like his market value in terms of a transfer fee, but it’s time to move on.

15 – Milan Skriniar
Age – Nationality: 28 – (59 caps)
Current Value: £65 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Central Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 34 (2) – 9 – 1
Average Rating: 7.34
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Strength and stamina make him a very good athlete
What a guy. Milan, a £73 million capture from Inter by Ronald Koeman, turned out to be a great bit of business. He’s our best centre-back, a natural leader who has played with authority and largely filled his brief at suggesting a future for Barca beyond Gerard Pique. I don’t think there’s much less to say about this consistent, committed defender who loves his life in Catalonia and never does less than his best. He’s also scored nine goals, part a testament to those pinpoint Messi crosses but also his heading ability in dangerous positions.

16 – Pedri
Age – Nationality: 20 – (2 caps)
Current Value: £71 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Inverted Winger (Left/Right)/Advanced Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 17 (10) – 9 – 3
Average Rating: 7.03
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Made improvements on his passing
An important homegrown product who’s wanted – fruitlessly, I expect – by Arsenal, Pedri was someone who left me pondering for a while over his best position. Is he a left winger, or a central midfielder? The answer is both. Though not the team’s best player in either position, at least not yet, he’s done a fine job throughout and ended the campaign as a legitimately good option in the middle of the park. His eye for a killer pass always makes him a threat, and in classic Barca style he likes nothing better than a mazy dribble, which leaves me thinking we have someone who’s going to be a bit special on our hands.

17 – Ismael Bennacer
Age – Nationality: 25 – (49 caps)
Current Value: £62 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 22 (14) – 1 – 11
Average Rating: 7.26
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Dictates tempo
After keeping tabs on Ismael throughout my time at Napoli, I finally made him mine at the Camp Nou, motivated by another team’s offer and the prospect of having a squad option who I admired. It turned out that my instincts were correct. Ismael developed into an excellent central midfielder, raising his game to make himself an essential playmaker and producing eleven assists. His game is underpinned by excellent passing and dribbling skills, perfect for us, though his finishing needs considerable amounts of work. Ismael’s value has risen and he’s now wanted by both Manchester clubs, but understandably I don’t want to sell.

18 – Tammy Abraham
Age – Nationality: 25 – (12 caps)
Current Value: £41.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Advanced Forward
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 12 (2) – 12 – 0
Average Rating: 7.31
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Extremely interested in joining our club
Bringing Tammy in was a risk. He’d lost the art of scoring at Chelsea and we opted to recruit him on loan, on a ‘try before you buy’ basis with a sum of £21.5 million built into his package if we wanted to make his stay a permanent one. The English striker responded with a game of growing confidence, emerging as possibly our best and most natural finisher from an advanced forward’s position. A number of Barca players are thought of as superior forwards overall, but a lot of non-scoring duties are baked into their roles and Tammy, brought to pad out his goals account, did exactly that. Now fair enough, you can argue that having the likes of Messi and Griezmann firing killer balls in your direction should make you capable of finishing some of them, yet it was the reliability that struck me, his sure-footedness and developing confidence when presented with scoring opportunities. His final one goal-per-game figure is excellent and makes meeting his buy-out a no-brainer.

19 – Marc Cucurella
Age – Nationality: 24 – (2 caps)
Current Value: £51 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Wing-Back (Left)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 31 (0) – 0 – 5
Average Rating: 7.03
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Driven in pursuit of his goals
Marc was restored to Barcelona as Jordi Alba was considered to be a waning force and Junior Firpo simply not good enough. A left-back whose career has already seen us pay on two separate occasions for him (some dolt sold him to Eibar before we got him back, and later he was packed off to Getafe and was subsequently re-signed by me), I view him as an unassuming and reliable player and a more defensive-minded alternative to Grimaldo. Fast, clever and highly ambitious, he’s determined to improve and to demonstrate that he belongs, and I think he’s entirely on the right track. His accomplishments this season have recently elevated him to national team selection.

20 – Sergi Roberto
Age – Nationality: 31 – (30 caps)
Current Value: £49.5 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Full-Back (Right)/Box to Box Midfielder
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 30 (0) – 0 – 5
Average Rating: 7.12
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Works well within a team
Ah, Sergi. A natural in two positions but a master of neither, his very flexibility has stood him in good stead, and he has performed well enough either as a right-back or in central midfield. The trouble is that we now have two better options in both areas, and the player is entering the final year of a contract that pays him £175,000 per week, essentially a reward for sticking around. I don’t want to pay him this much, and as a consequence my temptation is to sell him off – Juventus want him – especially as we have several young guns (Wague, Dest, Emerson) who are queuing up to take over at right-back.

21 – Frenkie de Jong
Age – Nationality: 26 – (50 caps)
Current Value: £80 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 30 (6) – 1 – 7
Average Rating: 6.89
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Is a true model citizen
This is a strange one. Frenkie never performed especially well for me, leading me to wonder whether central midfield was our best use of him. Should he be a DM instead, or even a centre-back? I just ended up getting better from the likes of Pedri, Bennacer and Moriba, so while there’s no doubting his world class credentials I am tempted to bite if Manchester United’s interest in him develops into a big offer. We will see. There’s a big star here, but he hasn’t been operating at that level.

22 – Florentino Luis
Age – Nationality: 23 – (18 caps)
Current Value: £62 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker (DM)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 30 (7) – 4 – 2
Average Rating: 7.04
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Displays resolute characteristics
A young defensive midfielder who was signed by me as our long-term replacement for Sergio Busquets, Florentino developed into the number one choice in his position, performing at an above average level throughout and making the aging legend look slow and frankly past it in contrast. Consistent and reliable, with coaches making note of his constant efforts to let little get past him, the Portuguese has become an excellent defensive midfield specialist and our preferred starter going into 2023/24.

23 – Samuel Umtiti
Age – Nationality: 29 – (31 caps)
Current Value: £58 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Ball Playing Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 14 (1) – 0 – 1
Average Rating: 6.97
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Tries to play way out of trouble
I definitely dropped the ball here. Samuel was entering the last year of his contract and I offered him a new deal, ultimately increasing his salary to an extravagant £325,000 per week until 2025. Big mistake. The next thing I knew, he was demanding to be transfer-listed, and then we both watched as the offers for his services didn’t come flooding in. It didn’t matter what level I set his asking price at, nor my willingness to pay a portion of his salary. There was no interest. He’s valued too highly and paid far too well, and in truth he’s fairly average, making him the equivalent of an architectural folly, nice to look at but essentially useless. Barca’s turnover can absorb the blow of someone who could realistically sit in the B team until the end of his contract, but it isn’t good and I have definitely messed up in this instance.

24 – Alex Grimaldo
Age – Nationality: 27 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £33 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Complete Wing-Back (Left)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 13 (0) – 0 – 4
Average Rating: 7.98
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Improved on his technique over the last two months
The second time I have signed Alex, he was of course once a cornerstone of my Napoli side before Mourinho no longer wanted him and made him available for a cut-price £12.5 million. Brought in because (i) he’s homegrown (ii) I know his worth, Alex has simply been a sensation, overcoming his relatively limited abilities to score nearly an 8.00 playing average and impressing everyone with his winning attitude and technical merits. He’s also finally consigned Jordi Alba to history. Having two ‘trained at the club’ stalwarts in Alex and Marc is pretty much the perfect scenario.

31 – Ilaix Moriba
Age – Nationality: 20 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £53 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Advanced Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 26 (10) – 5 – 8
Average Rating: 7.11
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Considered a physical player
Long-term readers of the site will know that Ilaix became the star player for my Derby County team in FM20. The chances of him doing the same here are less, because the playing standard is at the very highest compared with what I had at my disposal at Pride Park, however that doesn’t take away from a highly positive campaign, on in which he finished bang in form, a goalscoring and assist-heavy threat whose flair, dribbling skills and all-round technical virtues are transforming him into a proper crowd pleaser. Nobody has a bad word to say for him, and I’m sure he is a rare instance of a Barca player who is being underpaid considering his worth. That situation will be remedied.

33 – Ilias Akhomach
Age – Nationality: 19 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £9.25 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Inverted Winger (Right)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 2 (0) – 1 – 2
Average Rating: 7.90
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Could improve a lot in the future
Ilias spent most of the season on loan at Sporting Gijon, before returning to us injured and being healthy enough to start in the last two league matches. He was excellent, a bright attacking force, and he will need to be. My plan is to sharpen his talents in an effort to try and lessen the eventual impact of Messi’s retirement, and while no one can truly replace the little God Ilias is definitely a special talent, someone to look out for, looking forward to increased playing time as we look to the future.

Now a note from your writeras ever, I have no idea how many people are reading this (hopefully a few!), but I am having to take a short break from updating due to real life things capturing my time. I know, it isn’t good and it won’t last forever, but I’m aiming to bring the story back at some point in June. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and a wee request from me that you perhaps consider saying hello in the comments. It’s good to feel that I’m not howling into the void here… Uncle T

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