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Barcelona's excellent summer transfers are what got them to the Champions League final

The Blaugrana had to nail their tricky summer transfer window, and they did just that.

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A year ago, Barcelona were in an uncomfortable position. They'd finished second in La Liga, but barely resembled the powerhouse side that had dominated in Spain and Europe just a few years earlier. The side as a whole was a step slow, a touch weak. Changes were needed, and luckily for Barcelona, they're a club with the resources to make lots of changes.

They were very aggressive in the transfer market, signing seven players for a combined sum of more than €150 million. They could afford to go a little crazy without much fear of inciting the wrath of Financial Fair Play, because last summer would be the last transfer window Barcelona would participate in for a long time, thanks to a year-long transfer ban that took effect once the window closed.

That added a new wrinkle to Barcelona's planning. Not only did they have to reinforce their squad strongly in order to return to the status they felt they deserved, they had to plan well ahead, anticipating potential departures and making sure their squad was strong enough on all fronts to keep competing the following year. The results have clearly been great so far -- Barcelona have won a domestic double and made the Champions League final.

And it wasn't just their acquisitions that were huge, but their decisions about who to sell. Barcelona lost two major players in Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas, who both left for the fertile pitches of the English Premier League. Longtime captain Carles Puyol retired and goalkeeper Victor Valdes was released. Barca found superior replacements for all of them.

Their biggest signing of the summer was that of Luis Suarez, available for transfer from Liverpool thanks in no small part to another fit of on-pitch misbehavior -- biting an opponent for the third time in his career. He was still mightily expensive despite that, but so far Suarez has lived up to his €81 million price tag, expertly leading the Barcelona line. He's scored 24 goals in all competitions, including six in the Champions League, and all while keeping himself out of trouble.

The way Suarez combines with Lionel Messi and Neymar up front for Barcelona has made the Catalan giants ludicrously impossible to defend against, as any of the trio can either score themselves or set up one of the other two at any moment. Suarez has also looked comfortable swapping with his forward mates, and can start or pop up in any attacking space. The connection Suarez has formed with Messi and Neymar is incredible, and may only get better over the next couple of years as they grow further.

The purchase of Ivan Rakitic might have been overlooked when it was made, but no one's overlooking the Croatian star anymore. Rakitic has long been a favorite of fans who dig deep into the world of football to find hidden gems, and this season he's shown why. His energy in midfield, calmness in possession, and the combination of both willingness and ability to effectively help in defense has been a vital cog for Barcelona all season long, helping ease the transition away from the aging Xavi and into the future. While he may not have the slick passing skills that Xavi does, Rakitic doesn't lack creativity, and his superior all-round play has made Barcelona's midfield more balanced and complete than it was previously.

That balance has greatly helped Barcelona become the team that it is, capable of dealing with virtually any opponent with seeming ease. Another helping hand that's helped them along that way is Jeremy Mathieu, another versatile player -- there's a theme here -- who can play in the heart of defense or at fullback if needed. Mathieu doesn't quite have the pace he did in his younger years, but he's still quick enough to deal with all but the fastest strikers, and his skillset gives Luis Enrique something different compared to Barcelona's other defenders, allowing him to mix and match depending on the opposition.

While other signings have had a significant impact as well -- goalkeepers Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have both performed admirably for Barcelona this season -- those three are the ones who have really helped re-shape and even re-create Barcelona in some ways. Where last season they could be static, listless, and run out of options too easily at times, now Barca are a dynamic threat that can create danger through a number of means, thanks in very large part to those three signings. The best part? All three can and almost certainly will be major players for Barcelona for several years to come.

Not all of Barcelona's signings worked out perfectly -- the injured Thomas Vermaelen springs to mind -- but on a whole it's hard to find anything to criticize about their summer and how things have worked out. It was well planned, near-perfectly executed, and it leaves Barcelona not just staring at a potential treble, but also looking well set up for the next several years because of it. They needed to nail this past summer's transfer window, given the state of their team, and they exceeded expectations.

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