Andres Iniesta’s emotional departure to Vissel Kobe marked the end of an era at Barcelona.
This season, for the first time in the 21st century, Barca will count neither Iniesta nor his fellow maestro and all-time great Xavi among their midfield options.
But the days of the Blaugrana taking a vice-like grip on games from the centre of the field might continue for some time yet following a productive year in the transfer market for Ernesto Valverde.
Arturo Vidal became the latest midfield arrival at Camp Nou on Friday and, although the combative, energetic Chile international might not conform to the classic Barcelona style, he completes an impressive array of options as another three-way battle for LaLiga supremacy with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid awaits.
@kingarturo23 himself: “Thanks to #FCBayern and all the fans. I really enjoyed my time in Munich. I would like to also thank the club for giving me the chance to embrace a new challenge in Barcelona.” #MiaSanMia pic.twitter.com/VSBphbHiPG
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) August 3, 2018
Signed in January for a blockbusting €160million from Liverpool, Coutinho steadily approached his best form towards the end of the campaign and was Brazil’s standout performer at the World Cup. A world-class talent and a thrilling match-winner, the 26-year-old is at his peak and equipped to make the number eight position vacated by Iniesta his own. it could prove to be his defining season.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 27, 2018
Another player back in with Barca following an excellent World Cup. Working in tandem with Luka Modric, Rakitic steered Croatia to the final and will no doubt have enjoyed regaling Lionel Messi with recollections of his sumptuous strike in the 3-0 demolition of Argentina. The 30-year-old is entering his fifth season at Camp Nou, his fruitful alliance with Iniesta having smoothed the transition to life after Xavi.
— Ivan Rakitic (@ivanrakitic) July 16, 2018
Still an imperious performer on his day, there have been signs that the years are catching up with Busquets – especially during Champions League losses to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Roma over the past two seasons when the Barca midfield was improbably ransacked. New faces around him will hopefully have a rejuvenating effect upon a player whose capacity to read and control games from the base of midfield remains without compare.
A native of Goiania, Brazil, Arthur’s playmaking style is likely to be met with purrs of approval in Catalonia. Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal remarked the 21-year-old has “Barca DNA” and the youngster has taken early comparisons with Xavi and Iniesta in his stride. It will be interesting to see whether they become burdensome for the €40m signing from Gremio during his debut season in LaLiga.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 11, 2018
Still to undergo a medical that might not be a complete formality given his struggles over the past season, Vidal will lend a welcome edge to the Barcelona midfield. The 31-year-old can ease the burden on Busquets and represents an upgrade on Paulinho following the Brazilian’s return to Guangzhou Evergrande. A multiple league champion with Juventus and Bayern Munich, Vidal will not be overawed by calling Camp Nou home.