Players come and go. It’s one of the game’s certainties.
There’s also supporter uncertainty about why players migrate. Rare are the times when we know the real reason for a transfer, much of which explains the varying levels of supporter distress. The game is passionate and emotional.
This Barça summer of ire has included elections and migratory Masia gems in Deulofeu, Adama Traore and Martin Montoya. After all the tizzy generated by those first two, a new It couple is ramping up the rage machine: Alejandro Grimaldo and Sergi Samper, because rumors.
Transfer rumors meet a need. If people need to think that the board is a collection of reprehensible gits, then “They want to sell Messi!” and culers go mad. If the mood is different, “Busquets to United” is scoffed at. It’s the genius of transfer rumors, which work like a crop being sowed. Tend them right and a harvest of clicks and reads results.
“Pogba is coming, for 90m.” “Well, okay. He’s young, brilliant, he’s the future!” “Grimaldo is leaving in January.” “Rage! Snarl! Stupid Enrique! Grrr!”
He is our player (weep! Weep!)
Supporters think that their club is the best. Culers are no different. When a player wants to leave, it’s “Why would he do that?” Add a famed academy that is all the rage, sprinkle in a once-in-a-lifetime graduating class, a bit of incomplete knowledge and Masia Mania is born. A rumor popped up that Samper will be leaving the club in January, or would leave if the right offer came along, or that he is close to a deal with a “Champions League club.”
ANY player will leave for the right situation. Alexis Sanchez discarded his “dreams” and “dream club” when Arsenal came calling. Pedro to Chelsea? “Do I get to start, Don Jose?” Why would Samper or Grimaldo be any different, and what reason is there except the romance of supporters that suggests they are different. “We raised him, put so much into developing him. Stupid board!”
Usually someone at the club is blamed for doing something wrong, for allowing things to get to a state where the player wants to leave. A great many players have come and gone from Barça in recent years. The two that bothered me were Sanchez and Thiago Alcantara, because both would have been very useful. But only one really generated a row in the culerverse because of the circumstances (unfavored board and sporting director) and the player’s status as La Masia jewel. Yet both players wanted to leave Barça for the same reason: playing time. Sanchez was tired of being stuck in that phone booth on the right side and passing to Messi, while Thiago saw a future where he could walk into a big club’s midfield and took it.
It’s rarely a question of money when it comes to the big clubs. Usually players leave because their “better” job involves more playing time or status. Thiago and Sanchez would have been out of their minds to stay at Barça given their ambitions, and there was nothing reasonable that the club could have done to keep either of them. Moving on has worked out beautifully for both.
Coaches want competition but players don’t, no matter what they say about relishing the chance to fight for a place. You want to come to work every day and know that your job is secure, whether you are a center back or accountant.
Players at lower levels want first-team football, and they aren’t as wedded to the idea of staying at the club as getting that first-team football. That’s Samper, Grimaldo and any other body toiling away at Barça B right now, or ever. Makes perfect sense. For an academy, bringing talent along at the right pace – for player and first team – is crucial. Sometimes the player is more impatient than he should be. Other times the club agrees to a contract clause that it shouldn’t have, and players leave before their “time.”
When that happens, it sucks. But it can also be argued that rarely does a youth player leave before his time. Before Thiago, who was the last youth player to leave the club who had culers rending garments and tearing hair in the way that Thiago, and now Samper have? What you as a supporter have to hope is that there is a plan, a path to the first team that has been laid out for the player, even as club and coach owe us exactly zero when it comes to explaining what might be going on. This makes supporters, based on who is managing the club, see the worst. But sometimes bad timing can also lead to a youth transfer.
Players come and go
Grimaldo and Samper are toiling away for Barça B, a side trying to hack its way out of the Segunda B thicket. Grimaldo and Samper are also very talented and rumored to be on the move, Grimaldo on a free and Samper to Arsenal, because that club serves the bogeyman need. “They always take our youth players!” Both were rumored for first team football this season, and neither one was promoted. Now what?
Lots of people are stupid, at all levels of the club, so many assert. The club is losing another jewel, Enrique won’t give them a chance, the board wants to monetize youth players, there is no long-term planning, etc, etc. Should rumor come to pass, it will be nothing more than an employee wanting a better job.
A youth player at the Barça B level isn’t a babe in the woods He’s a professional, with agents and advisers and an entourage. For me, what made the Thiago transfer vexing was less that he was a talent the club developed, and more that a kick-ass player left, even as his leaving made perfect sense for him. Passion shouldn’t preclude logic. Samper and/or Grimaldo would be foolish to stay at Barça if they think they can get a better job. And that is nobody’s fault except the breaks of the game, and building a team to meet the insatiable demands that a board and supporters have for silverware.
Barça isn’t unique in its necessity for balancing youth development with the necessities of first-team success. Denis Suarez came to Barça because he was impatient at City. Things don’t always work out as they should for player and club, even as supporters try to find explanations why things aren’t happening as so many believe they should.
“Enrique likes big, physical midfielders and that’s why he doesn’t like Samper,” is a favorite. Reckon he’s chomping at the bit to replace Iniesta with Matuidi, Rakitic with some Premiership bruiser. Lord knows why he countenanced the purchase of Arda Turan, who Toure Yaya can wear as an amulet. Passion and fervor need to find a reason why Samper isn’t in the first team. Quality can’t be the reason, even as supporters are ill-equipped to judge talent in the way that coaches are. Yes, coaches make mistakes, or a player can be talented enough but have a more talented player blocking his path. Breaks of the game.
Que sera, sera
This is easy to type for someone who isn’t really all that interested in players as entities, but players come and go, and that’s okay. Rare is the player that a big club wants to keep and can by taking a reasonable action, who is allowed to leave. Grimaldo and Samper are caught up in a brutal first team environment. Remember how stupid coach after coach was for not playing Montoya? Vilanova, Martino, Enrique, all stupid. #freemontoya! He was loaned to Inter Milan, where another coach’s name can be added to the stupid pile.
It wasn’t that long ago that players such as Gio Dos Santos, Gai Assulin and Andreu Fontas were moved along without that much of a collective peep from the culerverse. Dos Santos even had a hat trick in his final Barça match. The ire at the potential loss of a youth talent is easy to understand because emotion aside, talent is expensive in the open market.
Logic argues that if Samper goes anywhere it will be on a loan or, as is the new club policy, sale with buyback. Because starting next season he will need lots of first-team football to develop, more than Barça could possibly offer and more than Arsenal could possibly offer. The biggest necessity for youth players is patience, for everyone involved.
As fond as we all are of the cradle-to-retirement nature of the club and that La Masia turns out these talented, hard-hearted gems with ball skills and an insatiable desire for beautiful goals, Masia roots aren’t the be all and end all, right? We know this because of the excitement that comes from rumors about transfers from other clubs, excitement that often doesn’t think a whole lot about what the transfer might mean for potential Masia graduates. And that’s fine, because the quality of the player as related to first team needs, should be paramount. Nobody wants an all-Masia XI that is playing in Europa League. So people get swoony over the potential of Paul Pogba without fully considering what paying 90m for a 22-year-old midfielder would be saying to the other attacking mids who are almost ready to graduate.
And that leads to more transfer rumors, more buzz about this player or that player leaving. But those comings and goings are logical, just part of the business that is football.