Football Manager 2018: Barcelona Guide, Player Ratings & Tactics

Barca are tearing up La Liga once more, but can you take them back to the top of Europe and persuade Lionel Messi to stay on FM 18?

Alastair Pusinelli by Alastair Pusinelli

Barcelona may have lost out to Real Madrid for the first time in five years last season, but they are still one of the biggest clubs in the world. Success at Barcelona just go tougher, so can you take the club back to the top of both Spain and Europe in Football Manager 2018?

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in attack, you can overpower any defence, but with main man Messi out of contract at the end of the season, there may be some change ahead in Catalonia. 

Philosophies

Barcelona Chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu will welcome you to the club, and present you with Barca’s philosophies. These are to play possession football, play attacking football, sign high profile players and develop players using the club’s youth system. Those philosophies are not surprising for the mighty Barcelona, but do bear them in mind over the course of the season.

Expectations

Next up, Director of Football Pep Segura will discuss the expectations for the season with you. These are adjustable, but the default is to qualify for the Champions Cup in the league, and reach the semifinals of the European Champions Cup. The Spanish Cup and Super Cup are regarded as not important. 

With just two targets, you can be slightly more ambitious, and you could aim for a La Liga victory, which would give you an extra £15 million for your transfer budget. Aiming for higher than the semis in Europe would be a brave move in your first season in charge.

Budget

Transfer budget: £71 million

Wage budget: £4.8 million per week (Current use: £4.6 million)

Formation

Barcelona have used a variation of systems to deal with the loss of Ousmane Dembele this season, but you should opt for the 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation. Alternatives include 4-2-1-3 DM Wide and 4-3-3 Wide.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen goes in goal, with Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba making up the back four. 

Sergio Busquets is joined by Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta in midfield, with Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez making up the attack.

Jasper Cillessen, Javier Mascherano, Nelson Semedo, Paulinho, Andre Gomes, Gerard Deulofeu and Paco Alcacer should be the men on your bench.

Key Players

You will all know who Barca’s star players are, but perhaps the lack of top talent behind the attacking duo may worry fans at the Camp Nou in the coming seasons.

Lionel Messi – CA 4.5 star (195), PA 4.5 star (199)

The undisputed star of Barcelona, Lionel Messi is a four-time Ballon d’Or winner. There is uncertainty surrounding the Argentine however, with the right winger’s contract up at the end of the season. With 523 goals in 602 appearances for the club, you should look to get the ball to the 30-year-old as much as possible.

On FM 18, Messi has a 195 PA score, which has fallen from his outstanding potential of 199. His attributes of 20 finishing, 20 dribbling and 20 technique make Messi one of the most dangerous players on the game, with his potential ability only matched by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Luis Suarez – CA 4.5 star (185), PA 4.5 star (188)

Joining Messi in attack, Luis Suarez is the clinical finisher of this Barcelona side. The former Liverpool striker has 126 goals in 163 games since making the £65 million move back in 2014. His positioning and awareness in the box means the 30-year-old can often just roll the ball home to score.

The Uruguayan international has 19 natural fitness, 18 finishing and 18 dribbling to contribute towards his 185 current ability rating, which has only just fallen from his 188 potential. 

Gerard Pique – CA 3.5 star (169), PA 3.5 star (170)

Surprisingly, it’s Gerard Pique who is the third best player in this Barcelona side, which perhaps shows the drop in quality from Messi and Suarez to the rest of their teammates. Pique is no slouch by any means, winning six La Liga titles, five Copa del Reys, three Champions Leagues, a European Championship and a World Cup.

Pique can be flattered that his 169 current ability has only fallen by one from his 170 potential, and at the age of 30 there is no reason why he can’t hit it again. The 30-year-old centre back offers attributes of 18 positioning, 18 composure and 18 important matches.

Young talent

Barcelona have a fantastic record for bringing through young talent. Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Victor Valdes Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba have came through the Barca setup, as we eagerly await the next young star to appear for the first team. 

Carles Alena – CA 2 star (120), PA 2.5-3.5 star (140-170)

19-year-old midfielder Carles Alena made his debut for the Barca first team last season, and got a run out in the Copa del Rey this year, so he is highly regarded at the club. Five goals in 11 games for Barcelona B this season suggest he could be the attacking midfielder to replace Andres Iniesta in a few years’ time.

Alena has a decent 120 CA rating on FM 18, with his potential between 140 and 170. 18 flair, 17 first touch and 16 technique are the youngster’s attributes, so try to give him some game time where possible. 

Marc Cucurella – CA 1.5 star (111), PA 2.5 star-3.5 star (140-170)

Perhaps the highest regarded talent in the Barca youth setup is left back Marc Cucurella. The 19-year-old has worked his way up from Spain U16s to the U20s, and got his first appearance for the Barcelona first team in the Copa del Rey this season.

Cucurella’s 111 CA rating can rise to between 140 and 170, but his attributes will be randomised on the game. 

Sergio Gomez – CA 1.5 star (85), PA 4-5 star (140-170)

Sergio Gomez is yet to play for the first team but remember the name. The left or attacking midfielder was a regular for Spain in the U17 World Cup earlier this year, scoring both of La Roja’s goals in the 5-2 final defeat to England.

Like Cucurella, Gomez’s attributes will be randomised on FM 18, but his current ability rating of 85 will remain the same. His potential is also between 140 and 170 so be sure to monitor his progress over the next few seasons.

Team Report


Strengths
Weaknesses
Midfield Depth and star midfielders (Ivan Rakitic, Javier Mascherano) Overall Depth
Youth Prospects Defence Depth
First Touch Jumping reach
Passing Wage Budget
Attack Depth
Decisions
Coaching Staff
Teamwork
Star defender – Gerard Pique
Leadership
Work Rate
Transfer budget
Aggression
Scouting Staff

Dynamics

Team Leaders – Andres Iniesta (C), Lionel Messi (vice-captain), Gerard Pique

Highly influential – Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba, Luis Suarez, Sergi Roberto, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Arda Turan

A new feature for Football Manager 2018 is Dynamics. This reflects the atmosphere in the dressing room, social groups, and which players have the most amount of influence over the squad. Be careful of your tone and what you say to the more influential players in the squad, as saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could turn the dressing room against you.

Transfer targets

After selling Neymar for a massive £200m in the summer, there is still £70 million left in your transfer budget for you to reinvest. This should be enough to bring in one big signing as well as a player for the future.

Centre back – Giorgio Chiellini (CA 167, PA 167)

Depth in defence is what the club lacks, with Samuel Umtiti not quite of the standard to be playing week-in, week-out for Barca. Javier Mascherano is now past his peak, and is more comfortable in defensive midfield, so a new centre back is what the club lacks.

Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini would be the perfect stop-gap at centre half, with the 32-year-old one of the best defenders in the world. With just one year remaining on his contract, you can pick up the Italian veteran for around £25 million plus bonuses.

For that price you will get Chiellini’s 167 current ability, which is his peak, with attributes of 19 tackling, 18 positioning and 18 strength. Wages of £111,000 a week are expensive, but shouldn’t be a problem for Barcelona.

Alternative options:

  • Leonardo Bonucci – Age 30, AC Milan, Italy, CA 173, PA 174, Value: £35m, Wage: £238k
  • Toby Alderweireld – Age 28, Tottenham, Belgium, CA 165, PA 166, Value: £48m, Wage: £80k
  • Mats Hummels – Age 28, Bayern Munich, Germany, CA 171, PA 171, Value: £46m, Wage: £171k
  • Jerome Boateng – Age 28, Bayern Munich, Germany, CA 175, PA 175, Value: £49m, Wage: £205k

Left wing – Thomas Lemar (CA 149, PA 172)

Arsenal chased Thomas Lemar in the summer to no avail, but with a lack of conventional left wingers at Barcelona, the French international could be a great fit. Lemar would add depth to the squad, and would be one of the stars to come through when Messi and Suarez move on in a few seasons’ time.

The 21-year-old’s 149 CA consists of 17 technique, 16 dribbling and 16 first touch, with the potential to hit an impressive 172. You may need as much as £50 million plus bonuses to secure Lemar, with his wages likely to rise close to the £100,000 a week mark. 

Alternative options:

  • Keita Balde Diao – Age 22, Monaco, Senegal, CA 149, PA 169, Value: £25m, Wage: TBD*25m, 
  • Marko Pjaca – Age 22, Juventus, Croatia, CA 147, PA 169, Value: £17m, Wage: £48k
  • Hirving Lozano – Age 22, PSV, Mexico, CA 145, PA 167, Value: £11m, Wage: TBD*
  • Alex Iwobi – Age 21, Arsenal, Nigeria, CA 142, PA 164, Value: £25m, Wage: £30k

Players to sell

Despite all of Barcelona’s quality there are a couple of players who have been brought in just to serve as injury cover, without adding much in terms of ability.

Thomas Vermaelen

Belgian centre back Thomas Vermaelen arrived at Barcelona from Arsenal in 2014, but four seasons later, he has made just 11 league appearances for the club. Injuries have troubled the 31-year-old, and he’s always been the fourth or fifth choice central defender at the club. You should look to sell the 145-rated man for around £6 million and free up his alarming £129,000 a week wages.

Aleix Vidal

In the form of Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo you have two reliable right backs, so there is no real need for Aleix Vidal. Former Sevilla man Vidal can also operate further forward, but he’s not of the calibre to challenge the wingers either. Look to sell his 149 CA for around £15 million and save on his £79,000 a week wages.

Finances

Barcelona’s overall balance may be on the up, but the rest of their finances don’t look as rosy. After an initial rise, turnover is set to drop next sure, with expenditure continuing to grow. The club’s profit is set to turn to loss, but your transfer budget will slowly grow over the next two years, so you can continue to bring in top talent. 

Back to the top

Real Madrid finally got the better of Barcelona last season, so Barca need to make sure this doesn’t become a habit. Rivals Real have lifted three of the last five Champions League titles, and have leapfrogged Barcelona as the top dog in Spanish football, which should be all the incentive you need to lift trophies this season.

Make sure you sort out Messi’s contract scenario as things could look very different if he were to move on, and perhaps lifting trophies again is the tonic for him to remain at the Camp Nou. 

Barcelona first team squad player ratings & roles

Player
Age
Pos
Role
Duty
Role Ability
CA/
PA
Starting Lineup
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 25 GK Sweeper Keeper Support 3.5 star 165/
180
Sergi Roberto 25 DR Wing-Back Defend 3 star 157/
166
Gerard Pique 30 CD Ball Playing Defender Defend 4 star 169/
170
Samuel Umtiti 23 CD Ball Playing Defender Cover 3 star 160/
167
Jordi Alba 28 DL Full-Back Attack 3 star 159/
165
Sergio Busquets 28 DM Deep Lying Playmaker Defend 3.5 star 165/
171
Ivan Rakitic 20 MCR Deep Lying Playmaker Support 3.5 star 167/
168
Andres Iniesta 33 MCL Advanced Playmaker Support 3.5 star 166/
183
Lionel Messi 30 AMR Inside Forward Attack 4.5 star 195/
199
Ousmane Dembele 20 AML Inside Forward Attack 2.5 star 162/
185
Luis Suarez 30 ST Complete Forward Attack 4.5 star 185/
188
Substitutes
Jasper Cillessen 28 GK Goalkeeper Defend 3 star 145/
155
Javier Mascherano 33 D (C)
DM
Defensive/ Ball Winning Midfielder Support/
Defend
3 star 157/
169
Nelson Semedo 19 D (R)
WB (R)
Full-Back Attack 3 star 150/
164
Andre Gomes 23 M (C)
AM (C)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3 star 151/
167
Arda Turan 30 M (RL)
AM (RLC)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3 star 154/
166
Rafinha 24 M (C)
AM (RLC)
ST (C)
Inside Forward Support 2.5 star 153/
167
Paco Alcacer 23 ST (C) Advanced Forward Attack 2.5 star 149/
157
Reserves
Thomas Vermaelen 31 D (C) Ball Playing Defender Stopper 2.5 star 145/
155
Lucas Digne 23 D (L)
WB (L
Full-Back Attack 2.5 star 147/
157
Aleix Vidal 27 D (R)
WB (R)
M (RL)
AM (RL)
Wing-Back Attack 2.5 star 149/
153
Paulinho 28 DM
M (C)
AM (C)
Box To Box/
Mezzala/
Carrilero
Support 2.5 star 148/
155
Gerard Deulofeu 23 AM (RL) Winger Attack 2.5 star 148/
161
Denis Suarez 23 M (LC)
AM (LC)
Advanced Playmaker Support 2.5 star 150/
166

How is your FM save going? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Alastair Pusinelli

First console: GameBoy Color / Favourite Game: Assassin's Creed 2 / Currently playing: Football Manager 2020

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