Things seem to be settling down for Barcelona as the 2021-22 season rolls around at the end of this week. The club recently hosted a presentation ceremony at the Camp Nou to officially announce the players that will be appearing on their roster, come next season.
For the first time in 28 years, no player will be donning the esteemed number 10 jersey after it being left vacant by Lionel Messi, who joined PSG.
The Catalans’ 3-0 thrashing of Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy came as a surprise to the entire footballing world. A toothless Bianconeri attack, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, failed to break the duck in Barcelona’s first match of the post-Messi era.
Memphis Depay and Antoine Griezmann starred in a comprehensive win for Blaugrana, citing indications of things to come.
Which players spent the least time on the pitch for Barcelona last season?
Ronald Koeman, in his debut season at the helm of the club, firmly established his authority over his squad. The Dutch manager spent no time discarding the players he did not deem fit for his style of play.
Consequently, talented prospects like Riqui Puig and Junior Firpo spent most of their time warming the bench. Although a mere 581 minutes in all competitions can be considered slander towards Puig’s talents, new signing Matheus Fernandes suffered the most under Koeman’s regime.
The recently released Brazilian could only register a paltry 17 minutes all season.
After playing 73 games this season for club and country, Pedri has returned to Barcelona and will train with the squad.— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) August 10, 2021
Barcelona offered him the chance to go on vacation for two weeks but the player rejected the offer.
This guy is a machine. 😳🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/M3wkQSvpv0
In sharp contrast, Frenkie de Jong clocked in with the most minutes played for Barcelona, devoting 4,492 minutes on the field. Meanwhile, Pedri managed to rack up the highest number of appearances for the club, appearing an eye-watering 52 times for the 26-time La Liga champions in his debut campaign.
With the squad steadily taking shape, Koeman will have to figure out an updated system to get the most out of his trusted players all the while incorporating new signings.
However, to achieve optimal results, the game-time of multiple squad members will inevitably end up on the chopping block. Here, we take a look at 5 such players who should only be used scarcely by Barcelona next season:
5 Miralem Pjanić
Tremors of the disastrous Arthur-Pjanic swap deal can still be felt by the Barcelona board, considering their current financial predicament. Miralem Pjanic was signed up for €60m last season, with his market value being a fraction of that amount.
Arthur offered himself to be part of the Pjanić operation with Juventus. The Brazilian wanted to come back, but Barça rejected the idea because they think he's unprofessional, injury prone and not decisive enough on the pitch. [sport] pic.twitter.com/fhA2wWJY6E— barcacentre (@barcacentre) August 10, 2021
Aside from the massive signing fee, the Bosnian midfielder pockets a staggering €8m salary on an annual basis. Yet he could only muster a few substitute appearances in his debut season with the Catalans.
Not only is the investment-to-output ratio completely ludicrous, but Pjanic’s impact on the pitch has also literally been non-existent, accumulating zero goal contributions in over 1,200 minutes.
With Koeman preferring to play 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba in place of their marquee signing, the 31-year-old playmaker’s future at Barcelona looks bleak at best. After a single season in Catalonia, rumors linking Pjanic with a move back to Turin started surfacing.
However, with financial troubles of their own, the chances of Juventus re-signing their former star appear very slim, meaning he could stay. Considering his decline, it would be safe for Barcelona to not heavily rely on Pjanic to come good next season.
4 Clément Lenglet
An inspiring signing in his initial years with Barcelona, things have quickly taken a sour turn for Clement Lenglet. The French defender was the most used centre-back under Koeman last season, registering 3,698 minutes in 48 appearances across all competitions. However, he quickly lost his place to academy regulars Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza due to his sub-par performances.
Bought from Sevilla for an initial fee of €35.9m in 2018, Lenglet quickly cemented his position alongside Gerard Pique as his centre-back partner. Nevertheless, his form took a huge nosedive last season, with Lenglet being directly responsible for numerous goals conceded by the Blaugrana.
🛑🛑| Clement Lenglet wants to continue at Barça. However, the club are clear, that they do not want him to continue in the first team. [@BlazquezFont] #Barca #Transfers #TransferTalk pic.twitter.com/GfUd0EubV4— SportsCrazyNation (@SportsCrazyNat1) August 5, 2021
With the aforementioned Araujo and Mingueza slowly proving their worth in defence, Lenglet could see a substantial reduction in his playing time next season.
Additionally, the arrival of Eric Garcia could restrict the 26-year-old center-back to the bench if he continues with his shaky form. Due to his error-prone tendency, Lenglet has also been linked with a potential exit.
The France international still has time on his side but needs quick rectification to avoid being axed from Barcelona.