Two years after Lionel Messi departed Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, it was reported that the Camp Nou outfit is keen to welcome the 35-year-old forward back to Camp Nou. The Spanish giants have come up with a cunning strategy to re-sign the Argentine, which includes selling off further players to reduce their pay cost by €170 million.
Among the high-profile players who might be released as part of Barca's cost-cutting strategy are all four of their current captains Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Busquets, as reported by Spanish newspaper Marca and ESPN. Defenders' duo Alba and Pique have contracts until the end of the current season, while Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto's deals will expire in June 2024.
Xavi Hernandez, the team's current manager, used to play with each of the four captains. Due to injuries of other players, Sergi Roberto has received regular playing time for the Blaugrana, while the left-back and the centre-back are no longer guaranteed starting positions.
The players in line to become new Barcelona captains
Rapidly acquiring a defensive midfielder who can also offer structure and fluidity to the team's play while also providing solid defensive support is a top priority for the Blaugrana. Next month, following the World Cup in Qatar, the Spain national team's captain Busquets will allegedly make a decision on whether or not to accept offers from the MLS to complete his career in the United States.
Meanwhile, Gerard Pique was one of the team's poorest performers in a 3-3 tie with Inter in the UEFA Champions League, and thus, the management is now trying to force him out of the club before next summer. Another consideration for these leaders is their advanced years; at 30, Roberto is the youngest of the four.
As several of Barcelona's leaders are among the club's highest-paid players, the club is keen to find bidders willing to assume their multimillion-dollar contracts. It is believed that president Joan Laporta has gone on record saying that the club's inability to acquire or loan players are directly attributable to the hefty pay of some players.
In addition, on the last day of the transfer window, former La Masia and Valencia academy product, Jordi Alba rejected a loan offer to play for Inter in Italy. With the potential departure of all four Barcelona captains the next summer, the club must decide on a new leader. The likes of Ronald Araujo and Eric Garcia have been lauded for their leadership, while veterans like Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ousmane Dembele are valued for their experience.