We have the €40m from Bakambu; we pretty much balanced the books in calendar 2017 with the Pato money reinvested so I don’t see us needing to use the Baka cash to make up a deficit.
Assumed out: Rodri (not by choice, but €20m if reports are correct)
Roberto Soriano is likely to depart, given he has hardly played in the last month and a half. He’s a fine player, but doesn’t seem to fit either Calleja’s formation(s) or his plans. He was productive under Escribá, playing on the left midfield in a 4-4-2, but has seemed lost in Calleja’s midfield machinations.
Nicola Sansone looks likely to depart, too. He’s not seeing that much activity with us—has come on as a sub late in matches, for the most part. For a guy who is 26 and has played for his national team, that’s not optimal, so I expect him to request a move, and Villarreal to grant it. We paid €27m roughly for the two of them; I would figure we’d sell for something around €25m probably.
Total available would thus be ~85m.
This ignores players like Jaume Costa or Victor Ruiz who could be moved rather than renewed this summer. And it certainly ignores unwanted offers for players like Castillejo, for example.
Striker: At least one striker, possibly two. It seems to me the key issue here is whether we can get Gerard Moreno for €20m. If so, since Gerard is a pure striker and Carlos Bacca is too, a reasonable conclusion would be Bacca won’t continue with us, at least not for what Milan wants to sell him for.
Alternatively, if Gerard is still a “no”, then we could resign Bacca, though he’ll be 32 in September so realistically, whatever transfer fee you pay (and €15m is too much) is not going to be recouped later.
And we are obviously going in for Ekambi; we allegedly offered Angers €16m, Ekambi has said he likes Villarreal (along with unnamed “other clubs”, of course). It will take more than that to get him, but he’ll be only 26 in September, and he can play on the wings as well.
So let’s say some combination—at least two of these three (or someone similar) for €35-45m, basically turning Bakambu’s money around for two players.
And then you have a strike force of Gerard, Ekambi, and Ünal, possibly Bacca also. That would give us many options, especially if we are playing with only one striker most of the time. (I figure Ünal isn’t likely to be reclaimed by Man City yet, and he will continue to develop nicely with us).
Midfield: Big need will be for a Rodri replacement (Bruno can hopefully come back but is hardly likely to be an everyday starter, and Javi Fuego is....Javi Fuego). I mentioned a couple of names in this article, but there have not been any particularly relevant rumors here. I still wonder if N’Diaye is even a thought.
As for attacking midfielder/second striker, if Sansone and Soriano both go as expected and we bring Alfonso Pedraza back, we have Pedraza and Cheryshev on left wing, Castillejo and Raba on the right, Trigueros and Fornals as mostly middle players. That seems a pretty full squad.
An intriguing possibility is bringing back Santi Cazorla, who would have no transfer fee. Given that he hasn’t played in a couple of years, he wouldn’t expect a ton of playing time, and it could be a low-risk move.
Denis Suarez has been mentioned too, though the Barca Blaugranes take on him seems to be that he should stick around in Barca—and I don’t think he would come cheap. I don’t see him as a real option (being a left-sided player) unless we decide to do something different with Pedraza, like make him a left back, or we get a good offer for him.
And don’t forget Leo Suarez, who missed most of this season with an ACL tear but is a very talented young player on the right wing; he looked likely to get some playing opportunities until he was injured. If our B team gets promoted, he could certainly start there; if they don’t, he probably gets loaned to a Segunda side, I’d think.
Who could leave? Samu Castillejo is the player that is likely to generate the most interest in the summer, and his contract only has two more years to run. Manu Trigueros is very underrated but seems to strike a lot of people as a player more suited to La Liga than, say, the EPL or Serie A. And he is under contract until 2022. And Pedraza...we were willing to sell him to Leeds if they had gotten promoted. Now he’s had a fine season in La Liga and could well be part of our plans, but he could attract some nice offers too.
If we have no big departures, we would only need to spend €15m or so here. But given our history the last few summers, we’re likely to lose someone (in addition to Rodri).....
Back four: We clearly need help here, and centerback is the position where we really have decisions to make, especially with Semedo providing no help.
CB: Ruiz and Alvaro are too similar; they’re each decent, but neither is particularly speedy. Ruiz would bring more money, and he’ll be out of contract next summer (I feel as if Alvaro is more of a ‘take charge’ guy back there, too). Everyone loves Daniele Bonera, and he may end up becoming more of a player-coach for us, but he won’t be other than a #4 CB.
Supposedly we’re signing Sidnei from Depor, who is capable enough, but hardly the tackling beast Bailly was. So I tend to believe if we sign Sidnei, that’s a sign that Ruiz is moving on, because a centerback group of Alvaro, Ruiz, Sidnei and Bonera doesn’t address our biggest need, that of a hard-tackling, physical CB.
Joris Gnagnon (Rennes) or somebody like him might be a possibility—a young player with lots of upside, basically what we hoped Semedo would be. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of centerbacks in the market, so the young ones that are available will cost in the €15-25m range at least. (and players like Issa Diop, who has drawn interest from EPL sides, are likely to cost €35m+).
Germán Pezzella (Betis, on loan to Fiorentina with a buying option) and Diego Llorente, whom Real Sociedad bought from Madrid last summer, are the sorts of players we’d love to have right now. But those ships have sailed....
Fullbacks: Right back is not a big need as long as Mario Gaspar sticks around; he’s still only 27 and has had another strong season. We can probably renew Rukavina for another year or two as a backup—his versatility is helpful.
Left back....Jaume Costa is a hard worker, supports the attack well, and is willing to be physical, which is something we need. And he’s under contract to 2021. However, he can get caught out of position and leave a lot of space behind him, which admittedly might be less of an issue if we had speedier centerbacks. I just wonder if Pedraza might slide in here at times. Jaume is going to get suspended—he always leads us in yellow cards—and while he’s been amazingly durable considering his hell-for-leather approach, we need at least a backup here.
Calleja doesn’t seem to fancy Adrian Marín, though injuries have had something to do with it too. Do we keep him? Or, do we tell Pedraza this is his spot to earn? (Keep in mind Calleja was a left back, later in his career, as well as a left midfielder). Either way, I don’t see us spending big on fullbacks this summer.
As for goalkeeper, no decisions needed here. Asenjo, Andrés and Barbosa are all likely to continue in their current roles.
There are decisions to make about loanees other than Pedraza:
Roger Martinez—supposedly the loan had a compulsory purchase, but no one at the club has confirmed it or a price; in any case, I doubt he is in our plans for next year, given we already have Ünal.
Cristian Espinosa—hasn’t done much at Boca Juniors. We paid €7.2m for this fellow. Under contract to 2021. (One of Cordon’s last signings, I believe; his magic touch seemed to fail him here). He can play on the right wing; if he could show something, he could be a backup to Casti, but....
Alfred N’Diaye—he wants to make his move to Wolves permanent, but there’s no sign Wolves want to pay €8-10m for him. Will anyone else, or do we give him a chance to be that defensive midfielder? He’s not a bad player, but would he fit in our scheme?
Matias Nahuel—this fellow came up in our cantera, we sent him on a two-year loan to Betis and they didn’t want to keep him, so in the middle of the loan we sent him to Barcelona to play in their B team in the Segunda. He’s done OK there; Barca might have a purchase option, though I doubt they’d take it. What next for him?
Akram Afif—He’s been playing (some) for Qatari team Al Sadd, after spending the first half of the season in Belgium with Eupen. Over the last four years he has bounced around among Villarreal, Eupen and Al Sadd (with a year in Gijon for good measure). He’s under contract to us to 2020, I expect we may just loan him out again or else let him go on a free? No evidence he is in our plans at all.
Doing the sums, I figure €45m for strikers; maybe €15m for a defensive midfielder, and €25m for a centerback or two. That’s pretty much reinvesting what we got, though it doesn’t count Roger’s purchase. (then again, it doesn’t count an N’Diaye sale).
We don’t need to sell to balance the books, and it could be we don’t spend as much as that. Here’s what the squad would look like:
Keepers: Asenjo, Andres, Barbosa
Defenders: Jaume Costa, Rukavina, Mario, Alvaro, Sidnei, Bonera, someone, Adrian Marín
Midfielders: Castillejo, Cheryshev, Raba, Fornals, Trigueros, Bruno, someone, Javi Fuego, Pedraza
Strikers: Gerard, Ekambi, Ünal, Bacca (yes, I’ll be greedy and say we get him for €8m or so).