We don’t know anything.
In a really good post about Douglas, the price of coffee and outsized bile connected to a player, Isaiah asks a lot of questions and the comments are fascinating.
Within that space, Peter brings up Keirrison, and queries about why his transfer didn’t receive, and isn’t receiving the same thundering outrage as that of Douglas, as it was significantly more expensive for the club. People explained why, and those explanations make perfect sense, even as they illustrate a larger point about Douglas, transfers and pretty much anything else connected to the clubs that we support.
We don’t know anything.
With his Keirrison query, Peter was striving to make the point that there is a different level of scrutiny applied to everything that Barça, that any club does in the here and now. But that is a function of an unprecedented level of access and discussion facilitated by social media, Twitter in particular, rather than in any sort of preferential lambasting. Sport and MD cover the club. Twitter accounts exist solely to disseminate information and rumors about the club. We can follow journalists who follow the club, we can follow board members and presidents. From all of this we can glean information, stuff that we think we know, stuff that can lead us to conclusions that suit all sorts of different sets of confirmation biases.
The reality is that Keirrison, were that move made today, would bring down a shit rain of unprecedented proportions.
For the unfamiliar, Keirrison was a Brazilian striker signed for EUR14m, and was immediately sent on loan. He bounced around for a while and as near as anyone can tell, is now out of football. He never played a minute for any team at FC Barcelona, and scant minutes at any of his other loan destinations. The reaction to that deal was different because the football world was different. Douglas is Much More Important now in part because of an observation made by Diana Kristinne, one of my favorite Twitter accounts, who said:
Modern football has a desperate need to draw permanent conclusions from temporary situations. Which leads to extremism.
Here is what should have happened with Douglas: The club buys him, says it’s a risk and supporters say “Well, reports on him out of Brazil aren’t good, but it’s only 4m. It’s a risk. Let’s see what happens.”
But exactly 1.7 culers did that. Douglas was a cheap punt on Brazilian ball skills and pace that didn’t pan out. The detestation of the player is because of the attendant hysteria ginned up by some social media accounts that has permeated the culerverse. So suddenly everyone “knew” that Douglas was crap, the deal was a Traffic scam, etc, etc. But people know nothing of the sort, but they know that they don’t trust a board, need transfers to be a sure thing and view any player that isn’t a sure thing as a waste of oxygen, never mind roster space. Vermaelen out, Mathieu out, Adriano out, everybody who isn’t a contender for an award at their position, out.
Transfers have to be a sure thing in football today. Arsenal signed Alexis Sanchez and visions of titles danced in their supporters’ heads. Angel Di Maria was supposed to be the answer for PSG. It happens at every club, the “sure thing” desire for a transfer. A club’s supporters want every transfer to work. They want the player to be a smooth, strong, seamless fit into the team, even one with a system as complex as Barça’s, or that player is a failure. Hero to zero in a few months. Turan and Vidal are already considered failures, and they have barely played a half season at Barça.
Teams, Barça in particular, don’t have time to waste. They also have demanding fan bases. It’s charming that even needing just three points from three matches, Leicester City supporters don’t dare mention the word “title,” because they can scarcely believe it. It’s like when something wonderful happens and we keep looking, for fear it’s a dream. That team, its fan base and the way everyone there is dealing with success is unprecedented in the here and now. This team is on the verge of winning the Premiership title, but nobody believes it.
Big clubs such as Barça are a different matter. Championships are an expectation. Being in contention for a mere double is considered a failure. The club also has to build for the future while winning NOW. Right now, or woe betide the person who failed, as long as it isn’t a favored person. Then woe betide the other person to be blamed, because it couldn’t have been the favored person’s fault. Everything has to happen, all at once: building, bringing in and blooding young players, retaining veterans, winning championships and keeping a balance sheet in the black.
Scrutiny is unprecedented. Recently, the FC Barcelona president, Josep Bartomeu, said that the club’s financial performance shouldn’t be linked to the club’s sporting success. People heard that and lost their minds. But the statement was a simple one, that even if the club doesn’t perform on the pitch, the money should still keep rolling in. Makes perfect sense unless viewed through a prism of extremism and distrust. Then it becomes, “The board doesn’t care about the sporting project.” Transfers ramp up that hysteria to the next level.
Player moves are complex. Because of the information that is available these days, supporters believe that they know a lot, when in fact they don’t know a fraction of the information that is available to the technical staff and the people who make player evaluations. But even then, technical staffs take risks. Douglas was a risk, as explained by Andoni Zubizarreta. The risk didn’t pay out. We know that now.
Isaiah asserts that Douglas was a waste of a roster spot, but who was the club going to put in that spot? It isn’t like there is another player available for the same price (by a board forced to take the kinds of cheap punts because of the price of its stars) who could have occupied that slot. The Douglas rage, in that context, becomes even more theoretical and misguided.
The player isn’t worth the rage expended on him, nor the discussion or outrage. He has become a punch line and a symbol, but of what? For me, it’s so many things, all outlined above. But every transfer is a risk. Every. Last. One. Suarez could have easily been a fighting, biting mess as a goal machine. Neymar could have been the player that almost everyone expected coming out of Brazil, Robinho II. The list goes on, the risk is always high. Was Fabregas a success or a bust? Depends on who you ask.
Meanwhile Douglas sits there, a risk, an object lesson, a punch line and objet d’ire. But here’s the thing: people, including me, don’t know shit. Yet throwing up our hands, sitting back and waiting to see how things pan out just isn’t an option in this age of the immediate conclusion. The answer has to happen now. A transfer has to work now. The question has to be answered now. Titles have to come now. We have to know what the club is doing now. Now, now, now, now! Luis Enrique was a fool for not promoting Grimaldo, for not giving him a roster spot. The player went to Benfica, where he is doing what he would have done at Barça: not playing.
Barça supporters are fond of la pausa, that moment in play where the attacker waits for the mayhem to settle, for the world to shift before working his magic. Football supporters need some mental la pausa, along with the understanding that not everything works. Ever. That everything is a risk and that your club isn’t trying to screw up, even as it often does.