It will have dawned on many at the oddest of moments, such as when travelling to work or making dinner, that Barcelona’s forward line from November onwards will be made up of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez.
This trio of striking ridiculousness will score a hatful of goals each if they get the ball, but that’s far from certain based on Barca’s strange 2013/14 season under Tata Martino, when a similarly-stellar side palpably struggled and finished potless.
With Messi and Neymar in the starting line-up, Barcelona lost away to Real Sociedad, Valladolid and Granada in the second half of last season, and drew the last three games of the La Liga campaign with the Argentine phenomenon, Sanchez and Pedro on from the off against Getafe, Elche and champions Atletico Madrid.
Clearly there was something very much awry with Barca’s legendary midfield, which has now lost Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea and will, in all likelihood, see a 34-year-old Xavi further marginalised.
Sergio Busquets and, particularly after such a strong World Cup, Javier Mascherano look set to share the anchor role under Luis Enrique – when the latter is not needed at centre-half – while Andres Iniesta’s magnificence will surely see the 30-year-old retained as Blaugrana tiki-taka-in-chief.
Fresh blood is required though, and the capture of Croatia maestro Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla, who at 26 looks close to his peak, may prove an even shrewder move by the Camp Nou high-ups than landing Suarez.
However, perhaps of even greater interest to the La Liga watcherati could be the progress of Rafinha Alcantara, younger brother of Thiago Alcantara, who abandoned Barca for FC Bayern Munchen 12 months ago.
Going by WhoScored.com’s ratings, Rafinha clocked up the best average score of any outfield Celta Vigo player last term whilst on loan at the Galician club, who Enrique led into the top half of La Liga in his sole campaign in charge.
The 21-year-old is more attack-minded than his brother, who often operated in a deep-lying central role for FC Bayern last term, and Rafinha could be the man to replace the forward thrust from midfield – alongside Iniesta – that has been lost with Fabregas’ departure.
Rakitic, on the other hand, seems certain to be deployed deeper in midfield, as he was for Croatia at the World Cup and at times for Sevilla last season, although most of his club appearances in ‘13/14 were at number ten.
With that in mind, Rakitic will do well to match last term’s 12-goal La Liga tally, despite his undoubted presence in a better team.