My view on Iniesta replacement and will talk about some bigger issues with the Club’s midfield bench, since they are closely interlinked.
To put it in short, Christian Eriksen would be the ideal Iniesta replacement. The next best bets are Fabian Ruiz and Denis Suarez. Coutinho is far from being tactically ready for this role’s demands. Carles Alenya would be the best long term bet if his development isn’t fucked around with, the way it has happened with Masia grads of late.
From the next season, Barca’s midfield’s future looks bleak as hell. Sergio Busquets is going to be the only experienced technically capable midfielder we have. Forget the Champions League, we will be slaughtered right left center in the league itself.
Coutinho doesn’t inspire confidence in me that he can immediately take on the Iniesta role. He needs to learn the positioning, discipline and decision making that the role demands. With Iniesta’s absence, he will need to learn it all on his own and it might prove to be overwhelming for him (which is why I was more keen on Eriksen, but Barto loves Brazilians as Brazil is a huge market).
Denis Suarez would be a good prospect, except that he has his own problems with consistency and mental fortitude. After Busquets, he is the best midfielder we have in terms of technical prowess, but he has to fix up his usual habit of dropping bad games every now and then and also learn to lead the midfield.
Rakitic, Paulinho and Gomes are useless in a creative role (in technical prowess and consistent output). Ideally, these 3 ought to be sold but since Rakitic and Paulinho had “successful” seasons, they won’t be sold.
Basically, we’ve lost both the Xavi profile and the Iniesta profile, which should be the top priority for this summer.
Arthur and Fabian Ruiz would be bets for the future. Fabian is a safer bet as he has experience in La Liga. However I would ideally like to see both of them being brought.
It’s almost sure that Coutinho will be taking Iniesta’s place (as planned) and one can only hope that he does well in it. Denis, Fabian and Alenya would be the substitutes.
For the Xavi role, I have two names in mind- Thiago Alcantara or Miralem Pjanic. Both are very talented, have plenty of European experience and would at once fix a lot of issues with our midfield. Either of those should be the highest priority for the summer, but Barto won’t do anything as the “successful” Paulinho will suffice in his eyes. Fabian and Arthur (if Arthur is brought after Barto ditches his plan to build a NBA and Wrestlemania team by focusing on “physical presence”) would be the substitutes.
Sergio Busquets needs an immediate substitute and it isn’t Rakitic. Rakitic would get slaughtered by high pressing teams. Sergi Samper should be kept to be Busi’s understudy (however the biggest possibility is that Samper and Alenya will be sent out on loans, for their “development”). Oriol still needs time in the B team.
Man, writing this gave me such a headache. Our midfield will be a mess next season.