Barcelona want Kimmich or Zubimendi as Busquets replacement – but it’s complicated

When it comes to Barcelona and summer transfer plans, it’s usually best to start with an important caveat.

If the club are to make signings this summer they will first need to bring themselves back in line with La Liga’s salary limit and spending rules — which will be no mean feat.

Back in February, La Liga further cut Barca’s permitted salary limit, from €648million (£556m; $698m at current rates) last year to a new figure of €204m.

Barcelona’s real squad cost for 2023-24 — the total of salaries and transfer amortisations — was officially budgeted at €492million. As they have exceeded their level, La Liga rules say they must make cuts before signing any more players.

Last week, president Joan Laporta said the club were “on the right track” in that regard — and this summer key players may end up being sold.

“La Liga has congratulated us for the effort we have put in order to reduce our wage bill,” Laporta claimed. “We do not have any approval yet, but we will keep pushing until the end of the season to keep improving, and they will decide what we can spend.”

Barcelona’s efforts to improve their financial situation will be covered in more depth by The Athletic — but for now, let’s take a glance through some of the key names the club are looking at.

Despite all the uncertainty, plans are already taking shape to address a priority position: defensive midfield.

It might not come as a huge surprise that Xavi and his coaching staff see the failure to cover last year’s departure of Sergio Busquets as one of the big reasons behind their disappointing season. That view is generally shared by Barca’s sporting direction, led by Deco. For once, they concur on what needs to be their next move in the transfer market.

Xavi and his coaching team have drawn up a wish list of players in that position, planning according to the best-case scenario of Barca being able to spend.

At the very top of it, there are two familiar names: Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi and Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich. Xavi and his team asked for both last season, and the fact that they got Oriol Romeu in the end is something they have often referred to when qualifying their record over 2023-24.



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Now Romeu is expected to leave this summer, and a return to Girona has strong potential after manager Michel said he would like to take him back.
Out of Kimmich and Zubimendi, Barcelona sources see the Bayern midfielder as the most likely option. They believe he would have considered a move last year if Barca had been in a position to make an offer. Now, with his contract due to end in the summer of 2025, it is likely a decision will have to be made on his future and if he were to choose not to extend at Bayern, a sale could make sense for all sides.

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Kimmich has been playing at right-back for Bayern and Germany (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

The 29-year-old Germany international will likely not come cheap. The CIES Football Observatory — a research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies in Neuchatel, Switzerland — estimates Kimmich’s value at €40m.

Xavi believes Kimmich would adapt well to the sole holding midfield role, although this is not how he has been used by Thomas Tuchel, who sees him as a right-back. This was the main reason why the German manager pushed to sign Fulham’s Joao Palhinha last summer, when a deal collapsed on deadline day after the Portuguese player had already travelled to Munich.

It is a similar case with Germany. National team manager Julian Nagelsmann, who had already worked with Kimmich at Bayern, has also preferred not to place him in midfield. He instead used Bayer Leverkusen’s Robert Andrich during the last international break, with Kimmich again at right-back.

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Zubimendi is also being tracked by Arsenal (Ion Alcoba Beitia/Getty Images)

While Kimmich’s contract situation gives Barcelona hope of negotiating on the transfer fee, with Zubimendi it seems he will likely only be sold if a club matches his €60million release clause at Real Sociedad.

Zubimendi, 25, has also attracted interest from Premier League clubs, so there is a possibility of Barca being outbid. Earlier this month, The Athletic’s David Ornstein reported Arsenal have a long-standing interest in the Spain international. On top of that, there’s the question of whether Zubimendi even entertains the idea of leaving his boyhood club in the Basque Country.

“Playing in Europe would be an incentive to stay in this project for sure, but nothing essential to me for wanting to stay,” Zubimendi said two weeks ago about his future, with La Real currently sixth in La Liga — a spot that would guarantee them a UEFA Europa Conference League place.



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“I’m happy at Real Sociedad, this is my home, although I can’t say I will stay here my whole life. Maybe there’s a point when the club does not want me here. I don’t know what is going to happen in summer, but rumours do not bother me.”

Those are Xavi’s preferences, but sporting director Deco also has his own. Everton’s 22-year-old Belgium international midfielder Amadou Onana was among them, but with the Merseyside club now likely to avoid relegation, the prospect of a deal on cheaper terms is seen as unlikely in Barcelona.

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Rodriguez was a member of the Argentina squad that won the World Cup (Jose Luis Contreras/Dax Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The last player to be mentioned is Argentina international Guido Rodriguez. The World Cup winner is nearing the end of his contract at Real Betis and is not expected to sign a new deal.

Initial talks between Barcelona and Rodriguez’s camp over a free signing in summer have been described as positive by club sources. A deal is still far from agreed, but the 30-year-old was already appreciated by Xavi last year and the coaching staff believe he could play a useful role in the squad.

But his arrival would be used to cover for Romeu’s departure as a rotation option and would not change the structural plans of the club to make a significant investment in a starting holding midfielder.

(Top photo: Getty Images)

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