Barcelona have spent just €3.40million on transfers this summer as they look to retain their La Liga crown in 2013-14. To put that in context, Crystal Palace have spent over five times that on Matheus Franca (who? – exactly) alone.
The Catalan club’s recent financial difficulties have forced them to act frugally in the transfer market, taking advantage of a number of high-profile free agents. This summer has been no exception.
We’ve taken a closer look at their three new recruits have fared in this summer’s pre-season friendlies.
“I just felt it was right to come here, join the club and have the opportunity to prove myself at a different club and a different country,” Gundogan said after being unveiled as Barca’s first signing of the summer.
“Xavi made his ideas of how the team wants to play very clear. It’s very similar to how we played in Man City. It’s a similar school, Guardiola, Xavi. In the way he approached the talks, the honesty from him I saw sort of my own character reflected in him.”
The Germany international’s final match for City was the treble-clinching Champions League final victory over Inter. That experience of winning, and experience of playing under Guardiola, should stand the 32-year-old – signed for no fee – in good stead for the project that Xavi is building at the Camp Nou.
Gundogan made his debut against Arsenal in Los Angeles, playing the first 45 minutes in a 5-3 defeat.
He suffered a knock in the first half of his second appearance, against Real Madrid, but his withdrawal was simply precautionary – prior to that he’d shown an early indicator of his midfield class in the 3-0 friendly El Clasico victory.
The knock was enough to keep Gundogan on the bench in the final match of Barcelona’s US tour, but he returned to play the final half-hour of the Joan Gamper curtain-raiser against Tottenham – and his presence helped inspire Xavi’s side to come from behind and win 4-2.
It’s expected that Gundogan will be ready to start Barcelona’s opener at Getafe on Sunday – but Barcelona still need to do some financial wrangling to register him as a player. Reports from Spain suggest that he’s technically entitled to walk away for free if he’s not. Gulp.
Gundogan has CHANGED Barcelona
Barcelona fans need to thank us
Look at how Madrid were chasing shadows
— Professor TREBLE (@mancityhardcore) July 30, 2023
Basque centre-back Martinez arrives to bolster Xavi’s backline with vast experience.
The 32-year-old Spain international has notched up over 400 appearances for Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao. He left San Mames after his contract expired and – after biding his time – has earned the biggest move of his career.
However, while he travelled and trained on Barcelona’s US tour, he’s yet to make it off the bench in any of their summer friendlies. Martinez suffered persistent injury problems in his final season with Los Leones and it appears that Xavi isn’t going to rush him back any time soon.
This summer evidently hasn’t been one for looking to the future. Rather than invest in youth, Xavi has turned to grizzled veterans.
Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi was reportedly Barcelona’s top target for Sergio Busquets’ successor. It appears as though they’ve been priced out of an approach for the 24-year-old.
Instead, they turned to Romeu as a cut-price alternative. The La Masia graduate returns home after 12 years away; he enjoyed an excellent campaign back in La Liga with Girona last term and certainly looks good value at just €3.4million.
Romeu’s notched the most minutes of any of the new faces in pre-season so far, featuring prominently in each of their friendlies.
He looked a calm and composed presence at the base of midfield as Barca kept clean sheets in victories over Real Madrid and AC Milan and looked effective enough against Spurs, although his late withdrawal was promptly followed by a three-goal flurry.