Barcelona will go back to 2013 this summer when they complete the signing of Antoine Griezmann. Back to the feared front three as the focus of their team.
This season’s deviation into 4-4-2 will be put to one side as the Frenchman forms a new three-pronged attack with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Griezmann will, in effect, be the new Neymar. He arrives 12 months too late but the club see that as a necessary pill to swallow so that they can effectively get him half-price.
A year ago he was the obvious replacement for Neymar but Atletico Madrid had been hit with a transfer ban and were desperate not to lose him because they would not have been able to buy a replacement.
His buy-out clause had been doubled to 200m euros (£175m) but now it’s 100m (£88m) and for a top international in his prime Barcelona see it as too good an offer to turn down.
He will replace Neymar off the pitch as well as one it because he shares Suarez and Messi’s penchant for ‘Mate’ the bitter herb tea-like drink sucked through a metal straw and passed between friends.
He got a taste for it at Real Sociedad playing alongside Uruguayan Chory Castro and became hooked at Atletico Madrid alongside Uruguayans Cristian Rodriguez and Diego Godin.
What Greizmann’s arrival as the ‘real Neymar replacement’ means for the temporary Neymar replacements Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho remains to be seen.
Coutinho’s future looks a lot clearer with a place in Barcelona’s three-man midfield. He has the unenviable task of replacing Andres Iniesta but since no one really expects him to be just like the original he starts with the wind at his back.
His brilliant performance in the Spanish Cup final bodes well although in that match he played as high up the pitch as fellow forwards Suarez and Messi. Now comes the real test – he has to become a Barcelona midfielder.
Dembele’s future is less clear. Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu called him a ‘long-term project’ this week and said loaning him out was not currently an option.
He will play when the front three are rested but if it’s continuity he needs to really get to grips with the technicalities of playing for Barcelona then it seems unlikely he will get that.
How many Barcelona new-editions there are elsewhere will be completely dictated by the players they sell.
Full backs Lucas Digne and Aleix Vidal, midfielders Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes and forward Paco Alcacer would all be available at the right price.
But there are limited takers for Alcacer and Gomes at the 30m euros (£26m) asking price and although Napoli showed an interest in Denis Suarez last season he has said he wants to stay. That desire to fight for his place will only increase in the first post-Iniesta season.
Rafinha wants to stay at Inter where he is on loan, but they are baulking at the 35m euros (£31m) asking price. If they qualify for the Champions League they could make the investment.
Barcelona have 21-year-old Gremio midfielder Arthur Melo arriving in January 2019 although they could yet sit down with the Brazilian club and negotiate his arrival this summer.
But even with his arrival there are concerns among Barcelona’s technical directors that as Arthur gets used to Europe and Coutinho gets used to Iniesta’s midfield role the midfield will over-rely once more on Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.
If Barcelona can sell the players they have made available then there may be room for another midfield recruitment and Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot could fit the bill. The 23-year-old only has a contract until 2019.
Another way of reinforcing the midfield will be to move converted right back Sergi Roberto back into his old midfield position. That would mean signing a right back.
Last summer Valverde wanted Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta. He still fits the bill because he could play right back or in the centre of defence where Barcelona might be short if the Colombian Yerry Mina has to go out on loan so that Arthur can take the club’s final non-EU place in the squad.
But Valverde was over-ruled last summer and the board still favour a younger player with Real Sociedad’s 22-year-old Álvaro Odriozola a more likely option.
Whatever happens at the back all eyes will be on the forward line once more. Messi, Suarez and Griezmann will be out to do what Messi, Suarez and Neymar did in 2013-14 and win the treble.
BARCELONA POSSIBLE LINE UPS
Alternative No 1 (Dembele benched)
Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba
Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho
Messi, Suarez, Griezmann