Douglas, scouting and risk, aka “The parade of incompetents”

"Wait ... what ... really?! So happy right now!"
“Wait … what … really?! So happy right now!”

It is safe to say that few transfer rumors in recent history have caused a greater stir than that involving Douglas Pereira dos Santos, aka just call me Douglas.

After a season of Cuadrado, and this spendy player and that spendy player, and what is Enrique planning, all of a sudden the name Douglas popped up and the reaction was “Who? What?”

Then frantic research began as well as anecdotal commentary, and the general consensus is that he sucks, and would need GPS and a telescope to even get within taxicab distance of Barça quality.

The player’s eventual fate is unknown, but this situation does spark some rather interesting thoughts about the transfer market, rumors and how supporters deal with them.

Idiots, the lot of them

It seems that in general around Barça among many of its supporters, there is a notion that things that the club does is suspect. And while some aspects of this notion are supportable in a casual perusal of frequent-flyer miles piling up to Switzerland alongside lawyer bills, let’s stick with the transfer market. It isn’t difficult to find comments about our scouting being ineffective, and the technical staff — but not Enrique! — and ZubiZa (who gets credit and blame for far more than he should) being incompetent, and a player such as Douglas is the latest shining example of this.

Now, for this supposition to hold water, you have toss the transfer business that the club has done this season out of the window. So addressing depth and height shortcomings (yes, I had to …) with quality, and mostly cost-effective additions to a world-class nucleus, well, any fool could have accomplished that. So let’s get back to Douglas.

Any transfer is a risk. You needn’t look any farther than Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas, both integral, productive parts of a Champions League and Premiership Top 5 perennial in Arsenal. At Barça they became mostly detested laughingstocks. Risk. Afellay came to Barça for 3m with the rep that he was talented, but broke easily. And he promptly started living up to both parts of his reputation. In any transfer, a team is rolling the dice with millions and millions. Hleb, Ibrahimovic, Txigrinski can also be added to the Snarl List.

Managing this risk means a number of things to a big club. It can make it tentative or high risk, willing to take a chance on a player or only wanting a sure thing.

Plucking the apple early

People wonder why Barça doesn’t find players such as Benatia before they become high-profile, expensive players. RM did it with Varane, and look how he turned out, right? Roma signed Marquinhos for what, 2m? Now look! Then blame lands at the feet of the all-powerful ZubiZa and our scouts.

But it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to wonder if that is what Barça should be doing. Obviously every team wants that diamond in the rough, that Toure Yaya that comes for a low fee and blossoms into a world-beater. But really, how many of those are out there and further, how should that work in the context of a club with a powerful academy, such as Barça?

You might speculate that the first team looks for players who can drop directly in or at least be competitive for a shot at cracking the XI, or at worst adding depth to become a quality squad player. The other task, at the secondary level, is to find players who can develop in La Masia, and map out a path for them into the first team.

This means that a player such as an inexpensive Marquinhos or Benatia is a huge risk at that nascent stage, when a team thinks he might be ready. You have to buy him for the first team, rather than B. So he might develop, in which case you have your low-priced, high quality gem, or he might not, in which case you dump him on a free or something. While it is a risk that Barça can afford financially, it isn’t a risk that the club should be taking from the sporting sense. This ultimately means that it has to go in after these sorts of players once another club who can afford to take that risk, does so.

If you are Benatia and two clubs come calling, Barça and Roma, both offering the same transfer fee, but one says “We will buy you for our B team, and see how you do. If it works out, we can write in an auto-promotion clause or something, but you see how much talent we already have.” The other says, “We are buying you for our first team, where you will play, and probably start.”

So Roma rolled the dice on Benatia and Marquinhos and came up sevens. They snagged each of them for a comparative pittance, and are now hitting the CB jackpot as each blossomed into 40m players that we were or were not linked with. This prompted more rants about our scouts and why couldn’t they find that low-priced gem, they’re incompetent, etc. It’s an unfortunate narrative that I wish would stop even as I know it won’t anytime soon, because there is such a level of mistrust and apprehension around the team and club these days.

The last times the club took a risk on such a player, in Henrique and Keirrison, still echoes among culers. But rather than those situations demonstrating exactly why it is such a risk for a team such as Barça to slot a “maybe” into its first team, they have become so many other things, most of all a demonstration of the malleability of memory.

Henrique was a risk, a dice roll that a player had the stuff. So was Keirrison, who actually had more bona fides than Henrique. Neither one panned out. It happens. The larger danger than cost is that the team tosses away a first-team slot. We all know how that goes, with the likes of Cuenca, Afellay, Dos Santos and Tello sitting around last season for various reasons. I suggest that the very real danger of throwing away a first-team slot makes a huge club such as Barça more risk averse and further, that it should.

In specific …

Let’s delve deeper into the Three Examples, as I like to think of them, and ask ourselves if they pass the mirror test, as in what would we have done had their names come up in transfer conversation:

Marquinhos: Promising youngster at Corinthians, made 6 league appearances for the club, was an unused sub in the Libertadores final. Roma plucked him for 1.5m, a fee that would rise to 3m if he, essentially, didn’t suck enough to play X number of matches for Y duration. And to the first team he went. (“Brazilian football, and he couldn’t even make the squad for the final, his team’s biggest match. Hmph!)

Benatia: Joined Marseille, didn’t impress, knocked around L1 before going to L2 side Clermont. After two years went to Udinese, then signed to Roma for 13.5m. (“Hmph! Some dude who couldn’t even make it in France second division? Does anyone think he’s really Barça quality?”)

Varane: Came out of the vaunted Lens youth system and when he was ready, all the big clubs came nosing around him including us, if rumors are to be believed, but Zidane had him locked down for RM, and that was that.

Loves me, loves me not …

Supporters like players, and don’t like other players. When it comes to the transfer market, there is also the believing whom you like, or who fits your desires when it comes to a player, real or rumored. If you like a player, you will believe the sources that say he is good, and discount the ones that say he isn’t. The reverse is also true when you don’t like a player.

And in a world where every move, every signing is scrutinized, it’s hard to sit back and say, let’s wait to see how he does. So Vermaelen is an injury-riddled joke of a player. Mathieu is a chain-snoking has been. Bravo isn’t Barça quality, and a waste of money. Rakitic should have been Kroos … ZubiZa is stupid, and on it goes.

In the risky world of transfers, a team manages its risk as best it can. If the Douglas deal happens, I frankly have no idea who the heck he is. Some say it’s a risk worth taking, because 6m is a pittance to a big club, that he might develop (he’s 24 years old) into the next Alves. I reckon we will have to wait and see, something that for many folks, when you get right down to it, is part of the fun of transfers.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. I’ll tell you why I detest Zubi and the rest of the technical staff. Add in the board as well. They simply failed to do their jobs before this summer started. Or they had no interest in doing their jobs in the first place.

    Also, don’t even think of giving me that austerity crap. That they had to “run a tight ship and weren’t given money to spend” is all BS. They’re still doling out fines and ‘scouting fees’ and what not to Neymar Sr. and the tax people and others.

    Don’t even get me started on the much touted ‘transparency’. The club is anything but transparent. So smug are they in their ways that they have failed to make a single coherent argument against the transfer ban. There’s just so much dishonesty with the club that is was just a matter of time before it trickled down to the pitch.

    Remember Abidal weeping as Ro$ELL and Zubi seemed to laugh heartily in that press conference? Remember out current President (hopefully soon to be ex. Fingers crossed the tax case does the damage and puts some brain cells into our socis) Bartomeu lying through his teeth and going back on his promise that Abi’s contract would renew once he started playing again? Yeah.

    Also, there’s a complete lack of responsibility among the technical staff. “Tito wanted only T.Silva” “Tata said we don’t need another CB” “Puyol is our CB signing”. Never mind offering youth players low salaries and low buyouts in the hopes of cashing in on them. Thiago with 90M was an anomaly. What you say? His buyout was 18M? You’re wrong

    The team suffered as a result. You can only go so far when you have to play Song and Adriano as CBs vs the likes of Sevilla and EE. By the time the technical staff rose from their slumber, it was already too late. But what happened later was a farce.

    The technical staff focused solely on T. Silva. Him or no one. Where was the scouting network? Back then, Mathieu, a year younger than when we signed him, who is said to have all the qualities we wanted, was available for a measly 10M. The technical staff *chose* not to sign him then. Even now they’re saying they signed because Lucho signed him. Still no responsibility.

    Why not take a risk on him back then? Why not give Tata an excellent squad player who could play more than one role in the team? The result of this inaction was not that difficult to see. Tata was a CB short in the most important games of the season, where trophies were lost – Atletico, Granada, Getafe. Not to mention the CdR final where Bartra who was rushed back from couldn’t stop Bale, and us conceding a schoolboyish goal.

    And it doesn’t end there. The whole world knew we desperately wanted to buy players which led to us paying over the top for many players in this transfer market.

    So no, forgive me if I don’t have any faith in the nincompoops that run the “Sporting Project” of the club. Not because of any personal dislike but they have proved their incompetence/untrustworthiness in these matters over and over again. I don’t know if we’re actually going for Douglas, but this case inspires no confidence in me.

    Give Zubi and co. the benefit of the doubt? Absolutely not.

    1. I agree with this too. They’re finally doing their jobs properly because they’re trying to cover their asses due to upcoming elections and the transfer ban, again, a TRANSFER BAN. That alone should definitely should put a dent in any “benefit of the doubt” given to these people.

    2. hear hear VJ. there’s nothing this board has done, in the transfer market or otherwise, to make up for their glaring mistakes and breaches of both our trust and sporting ethics. they haven’t EARNED my benefit of the doubt.

    3. I agree with everything you said, except for the buyout clause

      I agree that it was 90 mil, but there was a clause that drops this to 18M if Thiago had played 30 minutes or more in less than 60% of matches. Unfortunately, tito didnt use him frequently and he was struggling with injury. bayern paid 25M to avoid taxes (they would have to pay 32M if they activated the buyout clause).

      note, thiago made 34 appearances in 58 matches (58.6%) and had he featured in the last two la liga matches, it would have been 36/60 (60%). it was bad man management by tito too. but yes, barca should have done more to convince thiago to stay.

      other than that, i think rosell has cast a dark spell on the board, and i give credit to bartomeu for trying to turn things around.

      vertonghen was PUBLICALLY offered to barca for 12 million. mathieu for 8 million. rosell didnt sign either
      vermaelen signed for 10 million+variables, rakitic for 18 million, ter stegen for 12, douglas for 4m+variables. these are bargains, and good ones at that. so lets give the bartomeu board a chance to prove themselves.

  2. Enter the fantasy realm of your random cule.

    *Random cule, Randomly flipping sport channels on TV, And stumbling upon a football match in some mediocre league*

    Random cule: Why is this CB has the word ‘Barca Quality’ written on his jersey, Weird…

    *5 minutes later*

    Random cule: Now the fans in the stadium are holding up signs saying “Barca Quality” and pointing their fingers are at him, hmmmm, He doesn’t seem that special to me, But i might as will investigate him.

    *Random cule writing on forums, Asking on twitter, Ultimately stumbling upon a fan of that club*

    Random fan: This CB is the s**t, He can become one of the best CB in the world, He’ll blossom at barca that’s for sure, He was born to play for you.

    Random cule: He’s not even a starter in your own club!

    Random fan: Our coaching staff are a bunch of imbeciles, Never mind them, He is the one!.

    Random cule: I don’t know man, Even the stat websites don’t rate him high, Are you sure you’re not over hyping him?

    Random fan: If you’re that skeptical, I know some jurno, I can ask him to write an article about him claiming what a potential he has so you and your friends have a reason to believe it.

    Random cule: No that’s okay, I’ll just contact his club and ask about his status.

    *Few days later after managing to get in contact with the president*

    Random cule: I’d like to inquire about your barca quality CB.

    Random president: Thank god you finally called us, All the papers are ready, We can finish the deal today.

    Random cule: wooow wooow, Slow down buddy….

    Random president : And even though we know he’ll become one of the best, We’ll give him to you for a very very cheap price, Almost as a gift.

    Random cule: Wow, That very generous of you… I don’t know what to say really…Thank you?

    *A few weeks later at a press conference for Luis Enrique*

    LE: Speechless, Absolutely speechless, This new guy exploded in training, Shakira had a nervous break down watching him, And will probably never start for FCB again.

    *random cheers from the back and a few claps*

    Random reporter: So this new meat and bartra will be our starters from now on?

    LE: *Laughs*, Bartra was so overwhelmed with his quality, All the confidence he built up over the last two years was shattered, We had to send him back to the B team.

    *everyone gasps*

    Random reporter: What about mascherano?

    LE: Very sad to say, After witnessing the awesomeness of this new guy and realizing what a bad CB he has been for FCB, He couldn’t bear the shame anymore, And tried to commit ‘seppuku’, Fortunately we managed to stop him at the last moment, He’ll probably retire from football.

    *The end*

    1. Im laughing so hard at this, well done. Idk why it’s necessarily a bad thing to be skeptical of a signing as random as this when the scales are so tipped in one way v. the other. For every Benatia, Marq, Varane, there are hundreds upon hundreds that never pan out, so Im not sure what focusing on them proves? Of course some prospects end up panning out.

  3. Santos fans and Brazilian culers who watched him play weekly consider him to be a mediocre player at best. And then, there are Barcelona ‘scouts’ (if we have any in Brazil that is, Traffic reps don’t count) who think he’s a worthy replacement for Alves next year. These are probably the same guys who recommend us Henrique and Kerrison. So yeah, I think I know who I’d rather trust in this case.

    Barcelona’s scouting department/planning department/Zubi/whoever is responsible for signing players for us has signed Neymar, Suarez, Mathieu and Rakitic who I consider to be potentially great signings so they’ve done well here. They have also not signed any centerbacks until this summer which is without a doubt a sign of gross incompetence. Let’s not forget Song. I think the club has done a good job this summer even if they’ve overpaid a bit, but it’s easy to see why some are wary of things Zubi does.

    And of course you didn’t mention David Luiz who was one of our top CB targets for a long time and also a terrible one. Including him in this article would have substanstially damaged your narrative of a competent scouting department.

    In other news, Atletico won! quite happy for them.

    1. David Luiz was thought to be a headless chicken while Barcelona were being rumoured to sign him – until PSG signed him. Then the tune of the screaming changed to “Zubi inutil, you let David Luiz escape!!!” The screaming all but died out after the semi-final, so pardon me if I have more faith in Zubi and his signings than I have in the attention span and spine of the average Barcelona fan.

      That’s not to say I’m thrilled about Douglas. Too many coincidences put together.

      P.S. The way I see it, Di Maria is not going anywhere. 😀

    2. I shudder to think what kind of Barcelona fans you’re in close contact with Peter lol they sound exhausting. For me, my twitter timeline was ecstatic when PSG saved us from Luiz well before Brazil got eviscerated , Especially at that fee.

  4. I want to address a number of related issues that keep cropping up. I’m not picking on anyone in particular as this comes up so regularly that everyone has had some sort of input in this.

    The board – the root of all evil, usurpers of the realm, wasters of talent and the worst decision makers in history.
    Zubi – the incompetent sporting director.
    Success in competitions.
    Success in transfers.

    There’s a culture of blaming the board for everything. Rosell and Bartomeu are different. They were once on the same board but so were Rosell and Laporta. Since Bartomeu has taken over, we have solved the Neymar issues and got his transfer info released, we’ve been given a transfer ban and signed a player who bites people. Let’s not forget though, that Neymar was signed by Rosell and the ban has been given because of issues under Rosell and that player just happens to be the best striker in the world.
    They have been blamed for neglecting the sporting project because they didn’t sign a defender for the past number of seasons. Well, if you are against the board then you’ll blame them for not signing an alternative to Thiago Silva but it was quite clear that he was the only one that was considered good enough as he was the only one they bid for. Marquinhos? We showed interest then PSG outbid us just like when we tried to sign T.Silva. If you’ll recall Thiago admitted that he went to PSG because of an agreement with Leonardo.
    As for Mathieu, last year he was a LB who had played 10-15 games at centreback and Valencia were financially unstable. Now, Mathieu has played an additional season at CB but Valencia have no such financial issues. Because of this the fee went up. We have now been able to assess him fully and deem him to be worth it. I don’t see the problem really even though I’d have preferred the fee to be lower.

    Zubi has the hardest job in the world I reckon. The most demanding fans, a unique footballing style and a core group of players that he can’t get credit for. We have produced a group of players from within the club that very few teams in history have and Zubi gets no credit for it. Any player that comes in from outside better be at least as good as these ‘best of all time’ players like the best keeper in our history, best captain in our history, best Spanish player of all time, world cup winning scorer and possibly the best player ever fullstop. So we buy some fantastic humans and expect them to instantly get a place next to these aliens.
    The other thing, which is probably an even bigger injustice is that we don’t judge him on the players he signs… we actually judge him on the ones he doesn’t. I mean what the hell??? He didn’t sign Varane, or Benatia or Marquinhos or Kroos so he is clearly incompetent. Instead of looking at Rakitic who was the best all around midfielder in Europe except for Vidal but cost €40m less than the fees rumoured for Vidal, and most likely a much better buy than the ‘too-safe’ Kroos in my opinion. Or Suarez who is clearly the best striker in the world and was probably the best player in the world this past season. Or Neymar the best young player in the world.
    Txiki, who got no where near the ridicule or scrutiny was the one responsible for Chiggy, Hleb, Keirrison, Henrique, Caceres and Milito. Still, he had nothing to do with Rosell so he had that going for him.

    I’m not trying to come off condescending or anything but success is rare. We’re one of the most successful teams in history but we’ve still finished second more than we’ve finished first (24 to 22). In fact we’ve won the league 22 times in 83 seasons. It’s not long ago that we went five seasons without a title win either.
    Cules due to recent success seem to think that it is easy to win or that we have some divine right to win because we play ‘better’ football. Unfortunately, unlike some sports there’s no style points. People think that the board blew all the talent at our disposal all the while forgetting that we were a disallowed Messi goal away from winning the league, one that was contested with the top two teams in the CL and another who won the Europa League. And for the record, our points total with this underperforming, defensively weak and offensively impotent team would have been enough to win the EPL or our very own La Liga in any but the last five championships.

    And lastly, on transfers. What is deemed a successful transfer? Some teams view profit and the success. Teams like Udinese’s and Porto’s success is down to their transfer dealing. Others view making a bigger difference in quality between you and your competition success like Bayern’s recent stripping of Dortmund’s talents.
    For Cules, the transfers of Alexis and Cesc have been failures but we won trophies with them and sold them on for at least the same fee as we bought them and had them for three seasons without either really setting the world alight. Sounds like reasonable business. Adriano was signed for around €13m including the add-ons and has been a quality squad member for years. Is this successful considering that he won a CL? I reckon so.
    Vermaelen is a risk but less so than others that have moved this summer. David Luiz and Mangala fetched over €100m between them but fully fit and in form Vermaelen is certainly a better player than those two. Mathieu is very little risk with his Liga experience. Bravo is a secure second choice keeper who is closer to starting quality than virtually any 2nd keeper out there. The exception may be Keylor Navas but he’s not anywhere near as good with the ball at his feet, so not suitable for us. ter Stegen should turn out to be a marvelous keeper and Halilovic has the potential to be the best signing in anyone’s recent memory.

    Overall, I’m not saying that people have to be positive or that everything we are doing is wrong, but rather to try to look at things a little more objectively. If you hate the board be my guest but don’t dismiss everything that they do as bad because of it.

    1. Literally, this is exhausting. It’s not your fault, this was well written and factual, but my god it’s exhausting.
      What other fanbase bickers within themselves so much? There’s the ” cynical cule” vs. the “anti-board cule” vs. ” the itk cule” vs. the ” I’m smarter than you cule” vs. the ” ‘All cules are cynical/ ingrates’ cule” vs. the ” The sky is falling cule” and on and on. It’s just so tiresome.

    2. Actually, every fanbase bickers among themselves. We just don’t see it because we aren’t part of that fan base.

      Things tend to grate on someone when they aren’t part of that way of thinking. There is room for all views to exist. I don’t mind someone thinking that ZubiZa is incompetent, as long as they respect the opinion of someone else that maybe, just maybe, that might not be entirely the case.

      Every sporting director makes errors, but in reality, excluding the sins of omission which are on the board rather than ZubiZa, our current sporting director has a pretty darned sterling track record when it comes to transfers, with Song being the only real blemish, as the wrong player bought for the wrong reason.

      This season will tell us a lot about how our technical group evaluates talent, and we will know more. But I just think they key is that we call can get along. The point of this post wasn’t that Douglas is good or bad, or to defend the board or ZubiZa. It’s simply to say that we just don’t know. And because we don’t know, it’s impossible to say.

      Comments is where we also differ. I didn’t think ciaran’s comment was “exhausting” at all. I thought it was well thought out, and would think that even if it didn’t accurately reflect my view of things. I love seeing comments such as that. For me, they aren’t tiresome at all. They’re a huge part of what makes me keep writing for this space, and coming here to comment, etc.

      We all care about this club. There needs to be a place where we can discuss this club that we all care about. Many of us do it in many different ways. I say what I always say about comments, which is that there is no law that says anyone has to read them all, or all in their entirety.

    3. I really don’t know what to say to agar as, if you find someone else’s opinion so exhausting then I can only recommend a diary rather than a blog.

      In regards to Douglas, I have no real opinion. I’ve no idea if the guy is any good. I’m not arguing that fact with you at all because he could be terrible or terrific or mediocre. I don’t make decisions on players that I don’t know and I don’t trust youtube at all.

      My issue in reality is that Cuadrado is too expensive, Douglas is too cheap, Piszczek is too injured, Dani Alves is too attacking, Montoya is too defensive. It’s like Goldilocks. Then, everyone has their own ‘ideal’ signing for the position and no one else will do. I’m guessing that you have an idea of who you think would be the best option and it could be one of those mentioned above or someone completely different. The thing is that someone other than you will have an entirely different opinion on that ‘ideal’ player.
      Then, from the comfort of our keyboard, we tear apart everyone else’s opinions. That is where I get frustrated.

      If we look at signings in hindsight, all the ‘incorrect’ opinions disappear and the I told you so’s appear. Juliano Belletti probably wouldn’t have been good enough. Larsson was too old. Deco too ill-disciplined. Edmilson too injury prone, Marquez not proven and Ronaldinho didn’t work hard enough. You could replace the names of each of those with each and every one of our new signings and you wouldn’t have to change the arguments except that that bunch of players brought us a CL and a few league titles.

    4. You guys misunderstand or ,more likely, I was unclear. The back and forth between all segments of the fan base is what I find exhausting, that’s what I meant. Not referring only to this space but just social media. I
      Guess I’ve found Barça ( and arsenal) fans to be the ones that ” have a go” at one another easier rather than just bicker about club matters like all fans do.
      Your comment wasn’t exhausting at all. I was an English major I don’t mind reading lol and I wouldn’t have complimented it if I disliked it.

    5. Very true, it’s a shame such a post has become necessary. People too quickly lose perspective on things.

    6. ciaran, will you marry me? I mean, you already know what I want to say and how to say it, so I reckon there’s only one logical step left.

  5. What do you know, kx… You’re not from Brazil 🙂

    Besides Football players are like Steel balls.
    If they’re round, heavy, solid thingys at this moment; they’ll be the exactly same for the rest of their lives.

    There’s no chance in hells or heavens that they’ll improve or learn a few new tricks along the road.

    P.S. A team full of non-world class players just beat Evil Empire.

    1. Nobody argues that protection of minors is not needed. However, there’s a world of difference between the stuff described in that article and what Barcelona does. The problem is that according to FIFA they have the same punishment. It’s just like having the death penalty for both violent murder and jaywalking. Actually, they don’t. The regulations of FIFA do not establish a penalty.

      Personally, I’m less worried about the “two season ban” and more about the kids in La Masia. For example, Ben Lederman is 14. He won’t be able to play until he’s 18, unless his parents get EU citizenship first(16) or Spanish citizenship.

      The rule clearly needs examination, either by establishing exceptions for regulated education centers, or by removing the stipulation “for non-football reasons” for the movement of the parents, or for example by including a clause that obliges the club to provide for the player’s education and well-being until he becomes a legal adult and establishing a standard of well-being that is higher than the median of the country where the club is located.

      The idea is to create both motivation for clubs to look for and take on kids, but also to bind them legally. If a club knows that it has to spend a considerable sum for a youth player, most clubs would either don’t do it or will be choosy, but once choosing they will be stuck with the choice and would have to try to get the best of their chosen player, which would decrease the possibility of throwing the kids away. And punishments – FIFA would have to consider actual cooperation with Civic authorities in order to get more muscle. I mean punishments for not just the clubs in terms of monetary fines and restriction of various actions, but also potential judicial sentences.

      I realize I speak as a culé and that such decisions would greatly benefit Barcelona(or Real Madrid, or Ajax, or Bayern, or City), but it´s common sense.

    2. Dear Peter, Sitting far away in India, I can only try to imagine what must be happening there. I have always thought La Masia is the best and all. But then while reading Ballague’s Messi, it gives some hint that things are not that well sorted out by the club for the incoming kid or his parents. I repeat, I dont know if Ballauge is completely trustworthy or not, but in that book, there are places where Messi and his family were absolutely tired of how Barca treated them initially.
      The rule of Fifa can be absurd, but when the rule was there, club should have shown some respect to it, and they didnt. The way the club came out explaining their side, when the ban came out first, it was quite clear club was completely aware about the law breaking, and that it was coming. And sadly, they didnt even have a valid argument other than to point at the values of the school.
      This club is dear to us, but the people who represent it are arrogant and may be foolish too.

    3. The problem with youth players is that clubs and FIFA want to have it both ways. They want to treat them as little professionals, but also protect them from abuses. I just don’t know that the two aims are compatible.

      Look at Lee, the catalyst for all of this current hooraw. He is a stellar talent that every big club wanted, and we got him. What makes him different from another coveted transfer of an adult player is that there are these rules governing the treatment of minor players, that are intended to protect those players.

      Barça’s argument that its Masia does so much for its wee charges and is therefore, due a little bit of leeway in how the rules are applied to it is, prima facie, a sound moral and ethical argument. It only fails when you apply the rule of law to it. It also fails when you ask, “So, what did you do with those three years during which you knew that this was coming?”

      I would suggest that if FIFA was serious about protecting minor players, there are a number of things that need to be put into place:

      — Ensure that more academies deal with the whole player, not just the footballer.

      — Ban other clubs from poaching coveted youth players. If they are minor players subject to these protections, don’t allow minor players to be treated like professionals.

      — Allow clubs to set parents up with jobs, etc. What’s the harm? Does it mean that a bigger club might be able to offer a more lucrative package to a family? Sure. But they do now, anyway. So codify and enforce it in some way.

      As it is, there are some rules in place, and Barça broke them. Did they break the spirit of them? Nope. The defensive bleatings about La Masia are spot on. But Lee is no different than Suarez, in that a lot of clubs wanted him, and Barça presented the best package, and got him.

      The problem is that FIFA wants it both ways with its youth players, and that is simply impossible.

    4. I don’t know all the ins and outs of what went on between our lawyers and FIFA but I would suspect that our club was trying to delay as long as possible or get some kind of exception to the FIFA laws on underage signings. As with most laws there are winners and losers, and it was just unfortunate that La Masia becomes the big loser in the new FIFA law.

      It would be no different than if there was an international ban on getting a job in another country if you were not a citizen there. Some countries would be ecstatic that they could keep their own highly educated and productive citizens and others would be upset that their talent pool would be lacking for the jobs they need to fill.

      With the new FIFA rules, the big winners will probably be the better clubs outside the EU who will now be able to hold on to get their country’s best prospects until they are 18 or older and then sell the best ones to the wealthy clubs in Europe. So there is no doubt that top clubs in areas such as South America will benefit. Barca, as the “Harvard” of football academies will unfortunately no longer be able to attract the best youth in the world which is a major blow as we will not be able to train the best youngsters in the world as prospects for the 1st team unless they are Spanish or over 16 and in the EU.

      The timing of the FIFA ban is interesting too in that it could be argued that some of the incidents surrounding the club last year made it a more vulnerable target as FIFA was in a position to challenge a club whose image had been tarnished and would not look a hypocritical organization trying to attack a squeaky clean club that was still perceived as some kind of paragon of virtue.

  6. Very intresting article,
    7 days to close the window and we are still hearing the rumour of koke,reus, cuadrado and lastly douglas, think the douglas deal is imminent, but koke and reus never gonna hapend, we have many talents in those positions, buying them will obviously be waste of talent and money,

  7. Peter Lim brought Cancelo, Gomes, Moreno, Mustafi.
    Enzo Perez on his way too.

    Barça, Atleti, EE, Athletic, Sevilla, Valencia. Six strong teams.
    Not too shabby. RIP 100 Points league.

    Another season for Eusebio. Paco Jemez for Barça B ? Wishful thinking.

  8. Pedro trained as normal today, and Neymar did part of training with the group. Enrique said he counts on both of them for tomorrow. Vermaelen and Adriano did physical training on the pitch but separate from the group, along with Ter Stegen.

  9. Excellent points all around on the Douglas affair and the transfer ban. On the Douglas matter, the club has spent about 6 mil euros on a player who is not highly regarded but may be good enough as an option or backup next year at rightback. The problem may be that there does not seem to be any great prospect at right back for our club in that other options are too expensive.

    We can certainly buy a RB better than Douglas but that player would be extremely expensive as any club knows we are desperate to find someone and it is getting very late in the transfer window. So we are talking about a deal on par with Fellaini money if it comes off.

    The question becomes who will play right back when Dani leaves next year since the transfer ban will almost certainly be in effect. The answer right now is Montoya, Adriano, or possibly Bartra. None will be a world class at the position but what is the alternative at this point. I don’t know that much about right back options at Barca B, but I assume no one will be deemed worthy for significant minutes on the first team next year. Cuadrado is too expensive and many have pointed out that RB is not even his natural position.

    The reason we are looking at Douglas may be just as insurance or as a gamble as most transfers are. What if Montoya, Adriano, or Bartra gets an injury that will keep them out for next year. Maybe Douglas will never even play any significant minutes for Barca and I agree his signing does seem strange, but there must be some reasonable explanation for it even if Douglas ends up a complete flop.

    Again, I am not justifying the signing but trying to make sense of it. Interestingly, the club may even be able to get a better deal on Cuadrado or another right back in the next week because they now have Douglas, though I know this seems unlikely to be the strategy. Let’s give the club at least till the end of the transfer window to see if there is method in their madness.

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