Coach Xavi has made a shopping list since there is more than a month left before the summer transfer window in Spain opens. His first priority is a defensive midfielder at the highest level because Sergio Busquets is leaving. Even so, the fact that the signing of a midfielder could replace Busquets – who played more than 700 games for Barca, has caused great debate among the leadership team. It exposes a power struggle behind the scenes that remains unresolved.
Oriol Romeu is at the center of the debate. Girona’s midfielder, who has played for Chelsea and Southampton, is the chosen one. Xavi is bored because this is not the person he wants. But he had to accept that the club could not buy the people he wanted like Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad) and Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich). Barca had to look for a more affordable player. Romeu, who has a release clause of around 4 million euros is considered the best possible option in this situation. The road to Romeu was long and winding.
The summer began with the news that Barca were pushing for Zubimendi and Kimmich. Strangely, they didn’t seem to take into account that neither of those players wanted to join the Camp Nou. Zubimendi is Xavi’s No 1 choice, but he has said he is happy with Real Sociedad and his future is here. The 24-year-old announced that he will inherit the number 4 shirt of legendary Asier Illarramendi at La Real next season.
Buying Kimmich is even less realistic. The 28-year-old Germany international has a contract until 2025 and he has never thought about leaving, like teammate Robert Lewandowski. After that, Barca’s recruitment department turned to other potential targets like Sofyan Amrabat. But Fiorentina has offered a price tag of 30 million euros for the 26-year-old, a challenge too big for Barca’s wallet, which is still constrained by financial problems.
Next is Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan. Xavi even called the Croatia international to tell him how important he would be to his plans. But recently, Brozovic has agreed to a salary of 100 million euros to become Ronaldo’s teammate at Al Nassr. And Inter pocketed 20 million euros.
Another target is Dani Parejo. Xavi likes the Villarreal midfielder and Parejo has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free before June 30. However, Parejo has extended his contract with Villarreal.
After all, it’s Romeu. The 31-year-old was outstanding last season for Girona and was named the Club’s Player of the Year. However, will this second-class star fit into Busquets’ shirt or is it just a desperate answer? Romeu, a Catalan practitioner who graduated from the La Masia system. He was in the first team with Xavi in 2011. He knows about Barca’s football DNA and is also aware of the pressure of playing here.
Next September, Romeu turns 32, which means he won’t be a long-term signing. But Xavi thinks this will be a reliable solution for Barca for the time being, to give them more time to restructure their finances. But not everyone wants to sign Romeu – that’s why the deal hasn’t been finalized yet. Deco becoming sports director was a key factor.
Although it has not been officially announced, Deco has closed his player management company D20 Sports to join Barca. Meanwhile, president Joan Laporta confirmed on Monday that Deco will act as the principal responsible for the signings. Deco disagrees with Xavi about Romeu.
He thinks the addition of a right-back, such as Ivan Fresneda (Real Valladolid) is even more important, to balance the squad. Deco did not consider Romeu an important future contract and wanted to cancel it. Director of football Mateu Alemany respects Xavi’s decision. Even so, Alemany doesn’t quite want to buy Romeu either. He hinted at summoning Nico Gonzalez from Valencia. This 21-year-old midfielder was in the first team with Gavi two years ago. But Xavi shook his head thinking he could not replace Busquets.
All of that puts Barca in a difficult situation. Spending money on a target that has no consensus among the recruiting department seems like a risky move, given their financial situation.
Girona was not happy with the way Barcelona handled the situation. The club complained about Xavi’s private call to Romeu or the leak of information. They think the pressure is on Romeu, which is completely harmful for the new season. Girona has repeatedly talked about Barca having to pay Romeu’s release clause, despite this making the player uncomfortable. According to La Liga rules, Romeu will have to personally go to the league’s headquarters in Madrid to deposit money for the term in the amount provided by Barcelona.
If a holding midfielder is Xavi’s absolute priority this transfer window, then no one knows what will happen next for other targets. Despite various delays it seems the Romeu transfer will be inevitable, given Xavi’s insistence and his desire to leave. Romeu also has no other option to consider other than Barca if he leaves Girona.
In fact, Romeu will be extremely happy to return to Catalonia after 11 years. And this is the biggest motivation to help him make decisions about his future. Now all it has to do is wait for Barca to give the money to release the contract and finally Xavi has a defensive midfielder.
But nothing is easy in Barcelona – as this story of Romeu is proof.