Last summer Barcelona spent well over €100million on six players to reinforce their already talent-rich squad.
The reigning champions of Spain’s business was roundly applauded as they appeared to recognise a need for strength in depth rather than adding yet another budget-consuming superstar.
But, with the season drawing to a close, there is a general feeling that Barça have disappointed. Manager Luis Enrique well step away at the end of the campaign, and a quarter-final exit in the Champions League can only be classed an underachievement for a side which boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez and Andrés Iniesta.
They remain in the race for a third straight La Liga title but Real Madrid, level on points and holding a game in hand, are favourites.
FC Barcelona training session: Focused on Riazor by fcbarcelona
A Copa del Rey final against Deportivo Alavés will surely see Barça add to their trophy cabinet later this month. But whether 2016/17 is remembered fondly will hinge on their ability to secure the league title; to that end, time is running out.
So, nine months after the transfer window slammed shut, we’ve taken a look at which of the six players Barcelona signed can be considered a success.
André Gomes – Fee: €55million
Portuguese midfielder André Gomes was on his way to sign for Real Madrid when Barça nipped in to steal him away from their great rivals. Signed from Valencia for €55million (€20million of which made up of conditional add-ons), the 23-year-old did not come cheap.
Brought in as the long-term heir to replace the ageing Iniesta, Gomes’ success at the Camp Nou will only truly be known in time. But his start to life in Catalonia has been thoroughly underwhelming.
Rather than performing especially badly, Gomes has faded into the background when he has played for Barça this term, seemingly unwilling to take any kind of risk with the passes he plays and too content to passively hand responsibility to a more established team-mate.
Recent performances have been encouraging, however – scoring twice against lowly Osasuna last month and impressing in the derby win over Espanyol – and the Blaugrana paid too much for Gomes to give up on him yet.
But whoever is in charge for Barça next season will be demanding much more from the gifted, yet frustrating, young midfielder.
Paco Alcácer – Fee: €30million
Another signing from Valencia, Spanish International striker Paco Alcácer was brought in to provide cover and competition for the “MSN” frontline.
It was always going to be a tough task for the 23-year-old centre-forward as Suárez, Neymar and Messi rarely get rested, so he has found opportunities hard to come by.
But when he played, Alácer struggled to make his presence felt early on, having to wait until February for his first goal. Since then, though, the 13-cap La Roja man has scored six goals from ten games, offering a more direct, conventional approach from the centre-forward position.
He may not have set the world alight but considering what he was brought in to do, Alcácer’s addition has proved to be a reasonable success.
Denis Suárez – Fee: €3.5million
Léo Messi x Denis Suarez pic.twitter.com/zxGOlDh24e
— ㅤ (@aymenxzu) April 30, 2017
A former Barça B standout, Denis Suárez was re-signed from Villarreal last summer for just €3.5million, as Barcelona exercised the buyback option they had on the player.
Like Alcácer, Suárez has not been able to hold down a regular starting berth at the Camp Nou but, in truth, he was never really meant to.
The ex-Manchester City academy star was brought in to add depth to the midfield department. And, with his direct dribbling style, athleticism and sound technique, he has rarely disappointed when deputising for the likes of Iniesta, Ivan Rakitić or Gomes.
Samuel Umtiti – Fee: €25million
If there was one area of the team that most people would have pinpointed for strengthening last summer it would have been the defence. But few would have named Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti as the man to fix that issue.
But the 23-year-old has been outstanding for Barça since making the switch from Parc OL, forming a solid understanding with Gerard Piqué.
Though not the tallest central defender around, Umtiti is strong, fast, positionally sound and, crucially, an outstanding passer. The France international’s ability to receive the ball under pressure and pick out colleagues with accurate forward passes helps Barça play their way through even the most vigorous press.
Outside of the superstar frontline, Umtiti has become perhaps the player that Barcelona miss most when he is not there.
Lucas Digne – Fee: €16.5million
After impressing on loan with Roma last season, Barcelona moved quickly to snap up French left-back Lucas Digne from parent club Paris Saint-Germain to provide competition on that side of the defence for Jordi Alba.
A strong start to the campaign saw Digne leapfrog the Spanish international in the pecking order, but a combination of injuries and Enrique‘s switch to a full-back-less 3-4-3 formation has seen the 23-year-old’s game time reduced since the turn of the year.
However, with age on his side and some impressive displays already under his belt, Digne could yet carve out a bright career for himself at the Camp Nou.
Jasper Cillessen – Fee: €15million
Dutch International goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, 28, is the only player Barça signed last summer over the age of 23. Brought in to be Marc-André ter Stegen’s understudy, the Blaugrana clearly wanted a ready-made solution between the sticks for whenever their German No.1 is unavailable.
Having been a regular for Ajax and with 30 caps for the Oranje, there are few backup goalkeepers around Europe of Cillessen’s calibre.
Limited to just seven appearances for the campaign due to ter Stegen’s presence, the Dutchman has not been seen enough to be properly evaluated. But it seems Barcelona are in safe hands should their first-choice keeper be ruled out for any length of time.