- Barca lost to Arsenal and beat Real Madrid, AC Milan and Tottenham
- Summer signings Ilkay Gundogan and Oriol Romeu have made debuts
- Sergi Roberto named club captain while Ansu Fati impressed
While fanciful dreams of a Lionel Messi return never came to fruition, it’s still been a positive if pretty chaotic summer for Barcelona.
A gastroenteritis bug that saw a first pre-season friendly with Juventus cancelled didn’t help Xavi’s on-field preparations for the 2023/24 season, but his players have since bounced back in games against Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Tottenham.
Their only defeat came to the Gunners in Inglewood in late July, winning their three remaining games including a curtain-raiser at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys before their season away from Camp Nou officially begins.
Here’s who stood out for better and for worse during Barca‘s pre-season schedule.
Winner – Sergi Roberto
Roberto is now Barca’s club captain / BSR Agency/GettyImages
In another universe, Sergi Roberto would have been thrown on top of the rest of Barca’s departing deadwood this summer. As it goes, the Spain international has instead been named club captain as one of their longest serving players.
There aren’t a ton of options at right-back for Xavi to choose from so Roberto should get plenty of game time, while the decision to award him the captaincy as a stalwart in Catalonia will take pressure off Barca’s newer arrivals.
Loser – Sergino Dest
Dest could rot away at Barca / Omar Vega/GettyImages
There is a right-back keen to play in Sergino Dest – who recently said he is looking to “create my destiny” at Barca – but nobody seems particularly interested in giving him a chance.
The USMNT international enjoyed a start against Arsenal but then featured only sparingly against Real Madrid and AC Milan. Signed from Ajax in 2020 for an initial €21m, it remains to be seen if the 22-year-old will add to his 72 official appearances after spending last season on loan in Italy with AC Milan.
Should Barca wrap up a deal for Joao Cancelo, it would almost certainly end Dest’s dreams of succeeding at Camp Nou.
Winner – Ansu Fati
Fati has impressed with minimal chances / BSR Agency/GettyImages
Ansu Fati is another player who has struggled to convince Xavi of his quality, even if he seems to score whenever he gets the chance.
The young Spaniard finished the 2022/23 in fine form and was on the scoresheet in wins over AC Milan and Tottenham. Barca need another forward capable of registering a big haul of goals alongside Robert Lewandowski and have one in Fati.
However, as manager Xavi continues alluding to, Fati could still be sold before the end of the transfer window to make ends meet. Watch this space.
Loser – Ronald Araujo
Araujo has been fiery in pre-season / BSR Agency/GettyImages
Ronald Araujo’s stock around Barcelona hasn’t fallen much this summer, but he was a central figure during one of their more fiery pre-season games against Arsenal.
His over-the-top tackle on Gabriel Jesus saw him showered with praise from Barca fans and criticism elsewhere, showing the kind of childish aggression that has got him into trouble in the past with referees.
As long as he reins it in a tad once the season starts Barca should be fine, but the Uruguayan has shown he has the capacity to cost his side by being too emotional.
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Winner – Oriol Romeu
Romeu has returned to Barcelona / BSR Agency/GettyImages
Barcelona were left with a huge void to fill at the base of their midfield when it emerged club stalwart Sergio Busquets would depart for Inter Miami.
Oriol Romeu might not have been the most attractive of potential replacements but has shown he has enough guile to protect Barca’s back four and get the best out of more attacking-minded midfielders like Gavi and Pedri.
His presence should also free up Frenkie de Jong to charge forward more regularly.
Loser – Inigo Martinez
New signing Martinez is still injured / Alex Caparros/GettyImages
Barcelona added necessary depth at centre-back by bringing in Inigo Martinez from Athletic Club on a free transfer. With over 350 La Liga appearances, his arrival brings experience to a talented but emotional defence including Araujo and Jules Kounde.
However, the Spain international has not managed to get onto the pre-season turf due to foot and knee issues and probably won’t be fit enough for Barca’s season opener against Getafe.