He’s 23 and looks like 13, is generously listed as 5’7”, and once played for Barça’s youth academy. It’s becoming somewhat of a familiar refrain, isn’t it? Born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the same city as Víctor Valdés, Alba first joined up with Barcelona’s younger teams in 1998 at age 9, but he was dismissed in 2005, having been judged not good enough, not big enough, and certainly not Barça material. He was 16 and looking like becoming another might-have-been, after all. He joined up with Tercera side Cornella, did well, and caught the eye of Valencia. He signed for los che in 2007 as a member of their B team, was loaned to Segunda side Gimnastic for a season, and then made the move to Valencia’s first team upon his return.
108 matches later, Alba makes the move home. Or, well, er, home in the same sense as Cesc, right? He’s back after a 7 year absence—extremely formative years that changed him from a talented kid without the right combo to a starting left back at Euro2012. That’s some big steps and they were, I think it should be said, made outside of La Masia. It shows incredible self-belief and a will to succeed that he didn’t crumble to pieces or hold it against Barça (attention Mourinho). It also shows that even the great La Masia can make mistakes and is forced to pay the difference later.
Welcome, Jordi Alba! May your years here be full of trophies and, uh, fondue? I’m not sure what he’s all about, so maybe it’s that. Maybe he too loves Legos and he will begin to form a partnership with Messi that will go beyond goals and assists.
Thoughts on his transfer, independent of my hopes for him as a player: At €14m he’s generally considered a bargain in today’s market, but Barça did purchase him with 1 year left on his contract. My first reaction is to say that we overpaid: Afellay was €3m for 6 months, after all. Not having been privy to all that was going on, however, there are several factors that could have been important: did Jordi Alba play hardball and threaten to sign a contract extension with Valencia, thus upping his price by a good €10m? Did he do the opposite and refuse to sign an extension, thus lowering the price? Did Barça negotiate well or badly? It’s impossible to really know, but the deal might better be considered as two signings: €7m is being paid up front and another €7m will be paid next summer. There are no variables, no appearance or performance bonuses to Valencia. It is €14m and we’re done with it.
As someone who believes pretty strongly that Barça is in a far better financial position than Rosell is making out (more on that in the coming days), €14m is not particularly massive a sum (Rayo Vallecano fans are throwing eggs at their screens as they read that), but if Rosell is to be believed about the team’s coffers, €14m for 12 months is quite steep. There are sporting concerns, of course, given Abidal’s absence (sob!) and those have to be considered. If we win La Liga, will €14m seem like a piddling sum to have doled out on an integral piece of the puzzle? Villa, Afellay, and Fontas are returning from injury, so that alleviates pressure to sign other players as well. If we invest €14m for an entire summer, that’s not a bad turnover (we’ll see about that in August, though) and you could say the penny-pinching is really working.
Somehow, though, I think we’ll sign someone else in some splashy deal. Or perhaps we’ll find out that Tito is made of adamantium and no matter how often Rosell threatens to purchase some Brazilian bobble (we’re not naming names here), he remains inflexible. That would be great.