Ignorance isn’t bliss. Far, far from it.

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.

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Written by:

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.

19 Comments

  1. dl
    April 29, 2016

    “But exactly 1.7 culers did that”
    Hey! You forgot me!
    1.71 culers!

  2. Davour
    April 29, 2016

    Many times this idea of unrealistic expectations has been discussed in this space. Surely things will settle with a little patience; wait until Messi (and Iniesta) declines or retires, and we will be back to being a normal, big club (I wouldn’t be surprised if we experienced a Man U period of re-settling post legend). This has been – and is – a surreal ride. I for one really feel that the CL exit was a wake up call to what I knew but didn’t feel: titles are a privilege, not a right.

    Douglas? He was a bluffing poker hand that didn’t pan out. But to win, you need to try a few of them to win. In retrospect, you should have folded, or played that discarded 8 and 3, since a pair of 8s materialised on the flop. It all seems so easy when re-constructing how it could have been done. Who would have bought Ibra, knowing what happened? How many would have dared sell Ronnie et al BEFORE knowing? Etc. It is a gamble. It doesn’t mean decisions can’t be reviewed, but it means there needs to be some humility and balance in doing so.

  3. TITO
    April 30, 2016

    They just f.cking won at Anoeta. I was seriously expecting them to drop points there.

  4. Davour
    April 30, 2016

    No help from Sociedad. Bale is becoming quite the aerial dominant. Seems to me that RM often overcome these defensive opponents by this approach – strong headers. We have a more difficult (but oh so elegant) approach, slightly tweaked with Suarez.

    Anyway – hoping for a good game vs Betis, and that the rest has been helpful!

  5. Jim
    April 30, 2016

    An interesting article, about participation, Kxevin, and one which particularly interests me as an (ex) teacher.

    With regard to Keirrisson I agree there’s no doubt that were it to happen today there would probably be a huge outcry. That, it seems to me, tells us more about social media today than anything about the quality of the disaster that was that unfortunate player. Times have changed, matches are in HD and replayable on YouTube and folks are just more ready to take part and contribute than merely reading newspapers.

    With the caveat once more that I’m not on Twitter ( and folks will appreciated how hard I’d find 140 characters ! ) and having spent a large part of my previous life trying to persuade youngsters to take part in discussion and have their voice heard it seems to me to be,in principle, a good thing. Where it concerns me is where it descends into abuse or has no discernible thought or justification given for that opinion.

    If we agree that participation on the basis outlined above is to be encouraged the next question which you rightly raise is whether there should be a decent distance before we pass judgements.. It strikes me that this depends on the topic under discussion. I would argue that Douglas is coming up to his second anniversary with us and seems to be on the verge of leaving so maybe now isn’t that bad a time for folks to have their say. We’ve always ( kind of ) had an agreement here tha players are entitled to a full season to assimilate our ways before assessing their worth to the teamand that to me seems fair. It would also be fair to argue for or against the current board in the same way.

    However, there are other issues which are more transient in their nature: the current form of a player , what happened in a particular at game and the like. Judgements are passed on these because by next week we’re onto the next topic so I think it’s fair for people to make these comments. These are sometimes proved correct sometimes not, often made in the heat of the moment but all are an outlet for fans who can’t affect the the game in any way but have lived the emotions along with the players.

    I quite like the discussions after games because it lets me see how others view a game. It doesn’t have, I’m guessing, the immediacy of Twitter, but then way back in the day I wasn’t too enamoured of the negative nature of some of the live blogs we used to have. ( I still bear the scars of my lone support of Maxwell 🙂 )

    As you’ve rightly said before, some previous contributors now choose not to to contribute which is a pity and I’m still not sure how they could see this place as threatening or more negative than Twitter seems to be but there are new ones and it’s good to hear them. If all that was ever posted was either positive or left until a suitable time had elapsed it wouldn’t be a very lively place !

    Anyway, for no particular reason other than I have another couple of hours to kill before the game, current topics occupying my mind are Mathieu’s ridiculous ( feel free to argue here ) decision to have his meniscus removed knowing that this will cripple him in later life and the suggestions that Samper wont necessarily be promoted to the firsts next season. And of course tonight’s game. …

    • ooga aga
      April 30, 2016

      Is that what happened with Mathieu? I saw he was training with the team a couple days ago and looking quite frisky and I thought “my, that was a quick recovery.” I dont know much about mensicus issues…

    • Jim
      April 30, 2016

      Ooga, I write a philosophical treatise on the nature and state of participation in social media and all you took from it was the state of Mathieu’s cartilage ? 🙂

      From Barcastuff :

      Mathieu: “I decided to get my meniscus removed. I could have problems walking when I’m 60, but I want to live my passion for football now.”

      Ouch !

      You have to admire his courage and desire to play ( I’m guessing mainly the Euros ? ) but not a decision I’d have made. I’ve got enough little niggles I never realised I’d have after I finished playing without choosing to endanger my ability to walk .

  6. barca96
    April 30, 2016

    Our rivals in world football all have a much stronger bench than us. I envy when I look at Atletico, Madrid and Bayern. I count Juve as a rival too but I never watched any of their matches so I can’t comment on that.

    • Jim
      April 30, 2016

      It’s difficult,Barca. If you’d asked me who was the most talented player for Atletico last season I might well have answered Turan. It’s just so flaming difficult to learn and fit into our system, plus you have to have the courage to play your own game alongside some of the best in the world. I’d have Ter Stegen and Mathieu in a team of mine in a heartbeat while SR and Rafinha are pretty decent subs. The problem, bench wise, is upfront. As has been said before, the problem is the quality drop off because the starters are so good.

  7. Jim
    April 30, 2016

    Well, that’s just brilliantly. Pique booked and Messi will miss Espanyol, maybe our hardest game left.

  8. TITO
    April 30, 2016

    There was a lot of intention in getting that yellow card, maybe Granada away will be much more difficult. We’ll see.
    Anyway, i knew Betis will get a man sent off the way the ref is showing the cards, but we have to show more guts and play faster, especially one-two’s.

    • Jim
      April 30, 2016

      Can’t tel what he said but it was the most peacable yellow I think I’ve ever seen. He was just talking in normal tones. That’s a bit harsh unless he was swearing. Mind you, ref does look a bit bonkers. There’ll be more off before the end.

    • Jim
      April 30, 2016

      Thank God for that. Commentator on Sky just said he made a mistake and Messi isn’t banned ! Wonder if he did it deliberately to spice up the game ?

  9. lala10
    April 30, 2016

    Enter Your Comment… the team is way way short of being competitive. They will likely limp to the title and might struggle against Seville. Tooo slow in everything

    • ooga aga
      April 30, 2016

      A professional victory that I will take all day. Betis was camping in their own area and living on the edge of whats legal, and rightly had a man sent off because of it. We were slow to start but our complete domination of the match began even before the sending off. Coulda been 0-5 easily. I guess you and I saw the match differently.

  10. Tata2
    April 30, 2016

    Wasn’t able to watch, so was the sending off dubious? cos some folks on the guardian are insinuating it was

    • ooga aga
      April 30, 2016

      Not for one second. Both hard to argue and even the player himself walked off without arguing. Nor did any other Betis player protest. I wouldn’t worry about what commenters on the guardian say much.

    • Davour
      April 30, 2016

      Second that… clear as day. That player had send-off written all over him even before that incident.

      Good win, but frustrating game. Slow passing, and even Busi taking too long to let the ball go. Happy to see Neymar looking better – he looked more confident and created. But now Suarez is crap… really, how is it even possible to run offside that often? Nice goal, though, once it came, from another divine pass from Messi.

      In the end, we dominated them without a doubt, and with sharper finishing it would’ve been over sooner. Go!

  11. ooga aga
    April 30, 2016

    Luis Enrique in presser after matchsaid the pitch was very dry and therefore the ball was moving slowly.. Funnily he said this penalized Betis more because “in the play of the red card, if the ball had been moving faster the CB would have gotten to it.”

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