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Jul 20, 2014

Transfer Talk: Barcelona's summer so far

With the transfer window in full swing, ESPNFC's Barcelona blogger Dermot Ledwith discusses how Luis Enrique's side are shaping up ahead of the new season.

IN -- Luis Suarez (Liverpool, 85 million Euros), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla, 18 million Euros), Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad, 12 million Euros), Ter Stegen (Borussia M'Gladbach 12 million Euros)

OUT -- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal, 40 million Euros), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea, 33 million Euros), Denis Suárez (Sevilla, on loan), Cristian Tello (Porto on loan), Victor Valdes (Released), Carles Puyol (Retired) 1) What's your expected budget and where will it come from?

Expected budget

Who can predict what the limits to Barca's budget are. With the problems and expense encountered in the signing of Neymar last season you would think funds would be looked after carefully but the signings so far of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and two goalkeepers, with more to come, suggest otherwise. What is clear is that the books need to be balanced as the sale of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have shown, and that more players are expected to arrive.

Rate your business so far

8/10. The arrival of Luis Suarez is a guarantee of headlines -- whether they are positive or negative remains to be seen -- and he will score goals, but if he can keep his nose clean for the five years of his contract it will be an amazing turnaround.

The prospect of him eventually linking up with Neymar and Messi is of course exciting and that trio will guarantee that Barca are in the hunt for trophies, however it is what Luis Enrique can build behind them that decides if they are won.

Rakitic was excellent for Sevilla last year, perhaps La Liga's top performer and a great signing to help Barca transform their midfield into a more dynamic unit.

The arrival of two top class goalkeepers at 12 million Euros each proves how hard it will be to fill the boots of Victor Valdes; they should provide great competition and bring out the best in each other.

Still to be announced is the future of the talismanic Xavi Hernandez, it is said to be up to him whether he continues or not and he still has two years left on his contract. It would be a great shame to see him leave after such a poor season, but the club would see it as freeing up big wages to allow more business to be done.

It will be interesting to see how the two loan returnees fare. Rafinha improved greatly last season after a shaky start at Celta and he will benefit from his first full season of La Liga action, as will Gerard Deuloufeu after his time in the Premier League at Everton.

Who should be sold?

You could argue all day with Barca fans about the merits of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez, they both had their moments in a Barca shirt but some big decisions had to be made after the last trophy less season and they have been dispatched.

Perhaps the more important decision is to keep Pedro Rodriguez, it was basically him or Alexis for one position as back up in attack and, despite interest from the Premier League, it appears he will start the season filling in for the suspended Suarez. A number of youngsters have already been shipped out on loan; some more may have to go out on depending on how many more players come in. There has been talk of Dutch midfielder Ibrahim Afellay being used to bring in some cash and you would expect a home to be found finally for Alex Song who has never been given a run of games to prove himself. Dani Alves may also be on his way out, but only if the likes of PSG come calling with a big offer.

Who should be signed?

Barca's need for at least one centre- back has been well documented, the retirement of Puyol seems to have finally pushed the club into action and they expect to bring in at least one top class centre-back in the very near future. At the moment the favourite is Valencia's Jérémy Mathieu. The experienced French hardman can fill in at left-back as well as in the centre. A bid of around 15 million Euros is believed to be on the table, but Valencia are holding out for more. If Barca decide to go for two centre-backs -- or do not entice Mathieu up the Mediterranean coast -- do not be surprised to hear the names of Brazilians Marquinhos and Joao Miranda being mentioned. Whether they can be prised from clubs -- who can now be considered rivals, in PSG and Atletico Madrid -- is another thing.

Problem solving: What do you need?

Centre-back is the area that Barca fans most want to see strengthened. It is five years since a player has been bought to play in that position and that was the Ukrainian Dmitri Chigrinsky who was a huge flop and was sent packing back to Shakhtar Donetsk after one season.

Last week, Luis Enrique said he would be happy to use Javier Mascherano in that position again but most Cules will tell you they want a specialised centre-back with projection added to the squad. Others will tell you Marc Bartra is that player and already exists in the squad but the jury is still very much out on him and Gerard Pique must recover from his disastrous World Cup, if a defender is not signed soon there will be a mutiny.

If Barca are to spend big money to cover that position, younger players like Tottenham's Jan Verthongen or Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels would be more welcome than Mathieu. I personally think Miranda at Atletico Madrid was the quickest and best defender in La Liga last season and would be a great signing.

The other defensive area that arguably needs improving is at right-back where Dani Alves is looking increasingly more trouble than he is worth. The Colombian Juan Guillermo Cuadrado from Sampdoria has been talked about but his price is going up by the second after a successful World Cup and he's more of a winger than a defender anyway.

A lot of cash has been spent already but when you have to rebuild a squad without potentially Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, Fabregas and Alexis -- what a five a side team that is by the way --- a lot of money is needed. There is still work to do.