Benvingut, Denis Suarez, aka “One bad pass away … “

Transfers are a lot like first dates. Two compatible people find themselves in a situation of mutual expectation and dependency. Best clothes, best face, don’t say anything stupid, wonder if these shoes are okay …

Some people are expecting to not like the person, not to hit it off. Others are wondering about how their children will look, if their parents will like this person and hyphenization options on the marriage license.

Only with a transfer, that first date becomes a lot like the American TV show “The Bachelor,” where millions of people are hanging on the outcome of that initial rendezvous. They comment on social media, slag potential mates for a single flaw or poor sentence, and believe in their heart of hearts that the bachelor or bachelorette should have chosen someone different.

Into this maelstrom comes another transfer, Denis Suarez, returning from “loan” via Villarreal. Culers aren’t quite sure what to make of this one. He came from Manchester City at a cut rate, in a deal laden with incentives (might cost, in total, just a tick over 13m if all stipulations are met). Supporters are, in general, suspicious of cheap players unless another team makes the deal. So Monchi buys a defender for 6m that turns out to be a 40m gem, and “Why can’t we do deals like that?” But when Barça does take a risk on a cheap player, it’s “Why are we wasting a roster spot on a prospect? We should have gone for … ”

Suarez came, and shone with Barça B before going on loan, where he blossomed, though not without some hiccups.

At Sevilla, under Unai Emery at the same time as Gerard Deulofeu, he suffered from (according to him) ill use and a lack of trust, both of which were hindering his development. He and Deulofeu were, in effect, saying the same things. One went to Villarreal, the other to Everton, and it’s here that their paths diverged.

Suarez became a midfielder/winger extraordinaire, part of the Villarreal XI as the team made waves both in Liga and Europe. He’s capable of mazy, crazy runs, pinpoint passes and dynamic wing play. His work rate is high, and he becomes a potential replacement for Rakitic, Iniesta or Neymar. Deulofeu remained the player that Luis Enrique sent away to develop.

Denis Suarez also is the exact example of how a loan is supposed to work but so rarely does. We need look no further than the likes of Deulofeu and Adama Traore for an illustration of this. All three were too good for Barça B, but not ready for the first team.

Of the trio that left on loan, the least hoopla accompanied the departure of Suarez. Much of this is attributable to the fact that he wasn’t Masia, wasn’t touted, just this dude the club picked up for a mil or two from some Premiership club. We are all quite familiar with the storm attendant to the moves of Traore and Deulofeu, even as smart observers tapped Suarez as the player most likely to return to Barça.

What is supposed to happen with a loan is that a prospect goes to a club where he will get significantly more playing time, develop into a much better player than he would have had he stayed with the club that owns him, then return a mostly finished product, a first-rate player at a bargain price.

The situation of the three players is worth a much deeper look as regards external factors, but prima facie, Suarez went, worked and grew as a player while the other two continued to do the same things, and remain where they were sent, probably never to return.

Yet the return is even more complex because with a club such as FC Barcelona, it comes with an immense burden of expectation. Look at the savaging of Samuel Umtiti after his international XI debut against Iceland, as social media comparisons to Dmitri Txigrinski already started popping up. He went from a player known only by youth football followers and Ligue 1 nerds, to a man in the spotlight, found wanting. A transfer is, like that first date, one wrong move away from being written off for good.

“You saw that pass. Told you he wasn’t Barça quality.” And a legend is born as a transfer goes into a hole there is no climbing out of. Jeremy Mathieu, one of the club’s consistently good defenders last season is considered an old, expensive failure, a disaster in the making every time he starts or subs on. It’s a legend with no basis in reality. Arda Turan is already written off as a failed transfer, despite the history of quality players having a difficult time their first season at Barça. And on it goes.

Suarez is the right move at the right time for so many reasons. He’s versatile, a slot-almost-anywhere player on a team of Swiss Army knives. He’s also young (as is Umtiti and a just-renewed Neymar), crucial for a team looking to continue its excellence as its iconic players age. It’s also a really fine move by a technical staff that — we will recall — was bereft of the abilities to scout and make fiscally smart moves. Suarez is an example of both, and now he’s back.

What will happen? That’s up to the player and his coach. Expectations are high because of his play with Villarreal. So this date is just beginning. What the people watching from the other tables need to do is, just as has been cautioned with Umtiti, sit tight and wait for things to work themselves out.

In other news

The best-laid fiscal plans of mice and men can suddenly go awry. In 2005, under then-president Joan Laporta, the club did a land deal, selling a chunk to a construction company. But it’s even more fun than that.

Former club president Nunez was quite the real estate whiz, snapping up land in L’Hospitalet for a song, and keeping it on the club books. When it came time to balance the books the Laporta board, like a dude with bills due who is looking for stuff to hock to make the nut, there was this land in l’Hospitalet.

The club sold it to Inmobiliaria Mar for 35m Euros, a sum that enabled Barça to finish the fiscal year with a profit. Recall back then that one of the lawyers — acting allegedly as an unpaid consultant — advising in the sale raised eyebrows due to a potential relationship with Laporta, even as the Barça president insisted that they just shared office space in the same building, rather than any potential shenanigans.

But because the club hasn’t complied with conditions of the initial contract, it now has to buy back the land at the original sales price, plus pay any fees and interest. That tidy sum is a tick over 47m Euros. An ordinary board meeting on 4 July almost certainly became a rather extraordinary one, as the board has to figure out what to do with this situation that, on the surface, throws a rather significant wrench into the club’s fiscal program.

In a statement, the club said:

“The Club’s legal and financial services areas are studying the implications of the decision.”

There will be appeals, of course. Oh, boy, will there be appeals. That this situation will affect the current fiscal year is unlikely. More details to come as this all unravels, including what conditions went unmet, etc.

Suffice it to say, the upcoming club fiscal presentation by Susana Monje will be particularly interesting.

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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.

26 Comments

  1. CaribbeanCule
    July 4, 2016

    Nicely and rightly said Kevin.
    Us fans need to chill and be patient, allow the new young players to settle, give Arda and Vidal the benefit of the doubt and see how their second season goes. Give the Board, Sporting Director, coach & staff the entirety of the window. Show some faith in previous good work.

    Too often we’re too quick to judge.

  2. July 5, 2016

    Denis is a good addition to the squad, I would not say that he could really be a replacement for Neymar. But how do I know though, how he would turn up to be when playing with a very high level of superior players like Messi, Iniesta etc. I think he will grow immensely.
    The land deal looks like a riot.

  3. Davour
    July 6, 2016

    I already saw him make a mistake in a highlight-reel, so my expectations are extremely low…

    On a more serious note, I hope he is strong enough to dare make mistakes – from what I’ve seen, he may very well slot in perfectly, they way he runs, passes and moves, creating space. If he can be consistent enough, and reach the next in his development, this can be good. But I for one will wait for next season for a proper evaluation. Promise is all I hope for this year, same with Umtiti. Arda and Vidal are up, however – let’s hope they have adapted.

  4. georgjorge
    July 6, 2016

    In other developments, Messi was found guilty of tax evasion in Spain today.

    I admit to not knowing much about the case. Some on here said that the Madrid bias of the administration played heavily into this. That could be the case, but I find it very hard to believe someone like Messi being found guilty without there being at least some evidence for tax evasion.

    Football for me is an escape from the duties and annoyances of “real life”. But super-rich people (respectively their fathers) feeling they don’t need to contribute their share to society financially really, really doesn’t sit well with me.

  5. July 6, 2016

    I understand that if the sentence is less than two years it will be converted to fine. I wonder will authority are not looking at Bale and other Madrid players. That doesn’t not justify our players been guilty of tax evading.

  6. July 6, 2016

    Tax evasion/tax fraud in many cases depends on the interpretation and of the will of the judicial system.

    Case in point: Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Jose Mourinho had the same problems. They paid a fine and the State Defense Attorney claimed they had acted unknowingly and involuntarily. Interestingly, all three had their cases AFTER they departed from Real Madrid.

    In the case of the Spanish Princess, a woman of financial education and a director of a bank, the State Attorney lobbied for the exoneration, claiming she didn’t know what she was doing and “she did it out of love under the guidance of her husband” ( Quote),

    In comparison, the State Attorney in Messi’s case (the same one in the cases before – a woman who has served on Florentino Perez’s board of directors in his first reign and then as a director in one of his firms, an ultra-right conservative and the daughter of a Franco functionary), the State Attorney pressed for charges to be levelled against Messi, believing that he has acted as the mastermind of an underground mafia network (These are the exact words of the closing statement of the the State attorney representative).

    This is f*cking selective justice to reach specific politic and personal gains, nothing more, nothing less.

    • georgjorge
      July 6, 2016

      I can understand where you’re coming from, and the statement about the mafia is ridiculous. Still, you can’t be found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to 21 months (converted to a fine) if you haven’t done anything wrong at all. At least, I sincerely hope that even in Spain, justice hasn’t been brought that low – and this case of course has a lot of exposure.

      So for me the question isn’t whether others abuse the system even more and get away with it, but what it says about Messi that HE did.

    • July 6, 2016

      Like I said, a LOT, practically everything depends on interpretation. Practically every rich person who does not have any idea of finances hires financial experts to handle their money. These experts are usually lawyers and accountants looking for loopholes in the tax system and advantageous situations. For example the tax havens are perfectly legal, but depend on interpretations of interpretations of vague clauses in tax regulations.
      For example, the international image rights of an Argentine like Messi, should they be tributed in Argentina, or should they be tributed in his financial address (Barcelona, Spain?). What happens if that Argentine also has Spanish citizenship?

      Cristiano Ronaldo is Portuguese, but he lives in Spain. He should be filing tax reports to Spanish Tax office, but he tributes…. in Ireland. His international image rights with Real Madrid should be, by rights, sent to Spain and taxed in Spain, but are sent instead to Madeira, which is a tax haven, just like Ireland.

      The 40m given to Neymar are NOT salary. They were paid to his dad, and his dad paid taxes on those 40m in Brazil. There is a treaty between Spain and Brazil, that income taxed in one country cannot be taxed in another. However, the different interpretation of Spanish court declared that the money is salary, and so should be taxed in Spain. So what happens now is that Neymar father will have to file a demand to the Brazilian government to get back the taxes on those 40 million. And then he has to give it to Barcelona. How likely is this? Have you read about it in the papers?

      As a matter of fact there is a documented case of image rights: Barcelona was paying the players their image rights as bonuses, at a time when the concept of image rights was being created. The players paid taxes on those to the Spanish government. The spanish courts decided that the money should be accounted as another type of income and that Barcelona should pay the amount to the Government and then demand the money back from the players (at which point most of those players were already retired). Yeah, Barça would demand the money and another media campaign of “ruthless club grabbing the meagre pensions of old people” would be started.

      It´s not a simple matter. Never was, never would be.
      The ones that try to sell it as a simple matter of a rich guy who tries to get even richer by not paying what he´s due – be careful about those.

    • Davour
      July 6, 2016

      Well, I think it is obvious – if not before, so after the released documents from Panama – that there are numerous flaws in the financial system (understatement of the year, I know). This doesn’t excuse crimes, but it puts it into a context where so called financial advisors (a title which means nothing) are setting up schemes, often for their own benefit (fees, etc., advantages on the market). This case seems to be along these lines. Still, it is obvious Messi’s father should know better – but regarding Leo: he was 19 years old, focused on nothing but football. He signed papers because he was told; why wouldn’t he trust it was being handled correctly? Should he have suspected his father? To me, this is a stupidity of the kind many, many teenagers commit – only Leo was a in a particular position where things became more serious.

      This matter is a symptom of a system gone all wrong – and this should be part of the context. It is too bad that many of these immensely rich superstars cannot simply pay their taxes and be done with it – though you never know when your career will end, and I guess Messi sr wanted to make the most of the cash.

    • georgjorge
      July 6, 2016

      I can get behind the idea that many rich people are evading taxes, and that they are often doing it by either not knowing or preferring not to know what their accountants and lawyers are up to. And I understand that the media spins some cases this way and some the other way due to their own agendas.

      However, I can’t get behind the idea that it would be impossible for a rich football player to pay their taxes in a way that would not leave them open to a court case. It is excusable for a 19-year-old to sign anything, especially if presented by someone he trusts a lot. But as I understand it, great football players are just as responsible for the things they do (be it themselves or through delegation) as all other citizens.

      Bottom line: Do you (Peter) think that Messi allowed his father and others to avoid a lot of taxes for him? Or do you think that was just another media spin on something that was actually done the right way?

    • July 7, 2016

      There is no one single bottom line.

      Do I believe the Messi family hired a renowned firm to handle their finances? Yes, they do, yes they did. And got burned before, with the previous financial manager. That’s why they hired a firm with reputation. You may not know, but the tax reduction is an industry, and a booming one, especially in the USA. The problem is that Messi generates income globally. What part of the money he makes beyond borders must he be required to pay taxes on locally?

      I stress again, it’s an interpretation, because there are many loopholes and tax incentives. It’s not a question of “willful ignorance of the law”, because there is no such unified law. It’s often a question of the government saying “I like this” and “No, this is illegal”. But now we see it being used very, very selectively.

      To illustrate my point, the State Attorney has taken part in six high-profile football-related cases of “not paying their taxes”: Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, Jose Mourinho from Real Madrid, and Messi, Mascherano and Adriano from Barcelona.
      Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Mourinho’s cases began EACH time AFTER the person was no longer in Real Madrid. The State Advocate representative EACH time considered that the defendant had acted unknowingly and should not be held accountable for the actions of the accountants they hired, that if the defendant paid the fine and the amount due the case should be solved.
      Adriano, Mascherano and Messi’s cases began while they are Barcelona players. The State Advocate EACH time pushed for trials, stating firm belief that the defendant had knowingly acted in bad faith with the intention to commit fraud and each time a prison sentence was actively pushed for, apart from the fine.

      Now here’s a rub: Mascherano and Xabi Alonso used the same exact tax account firm. The same exact process was used for both of them.
      Messi was defended in the case by the tax revenue rep, who reported that Messi had immediately settled all his accounts with the Tax office when he was informed of the irregularity..
      The prosecution wanted all charges dropped. off Messi. The only one who wanted to proceed with the case – AFTER Messi had settled his accounts, was the State Advocate. Oh, and that’s just in:
      The State Advocate representative, who compared Messi to an organised crime boss, has quit his post and has joined to work for the tax office.

      NOW do you get it?

  7. July 7, 2016

    The truth remain there is no ignorance in Law, is either you know or chose not to know and face the consequences. All these excuse would have been more tenable if Messi was 19 years. Happening now is barring the consequence of ignorance. Yet other people from other end are doing the same thing and authorities are looking other way, that doesn’t mean our own must also join them in doing what was wrong.

  8. July 7, 2016

    There are many layers in this case. On the surface, Messi screwed up. He was 20 at the time of the offenses, and should have known better. It’s one thing when a 16-year-old kid signs whatever someone gives him, so that he can go back to his PlayStation. When you’re 20, you should be in control of your stuff. Messi wasn’t.

    — The whole point of this wasn’t Messi or Barça, but to send a message, and a very clear one. It’s why the sentence recommendation was below the level that would result in any jail time. But the message was sent, and I will guarantee that anybody who owes taxes in Spain is on the phone to their people to make sure they have gotten religion. Messi is the highest profile person, so you tap him.

    — As Peters notes, ignorance is no defense. That said, it isn’t as simple as “even a child knows you have to pay taxes,” as one prosecutor notes. The case is a lot more complex than that, and it’s easy to see a player telling his people just just handle it, and tell me where to sign. But I don’t believe Messi was as ignorant of what was going on as so many want to suggest. Impossible. Ignorant of the details and nuance? Absolutely., in the same way I don’t really know what my accountant does to minimize my tax bill every year. I just know that he is trying to.

    But he did it, technically, and got tapped for it. That fact exists, irrespective of who else might have done what. It’s like when you are in a gaggle of cars that are speeding, and you get tapped. Were the other drivers speeding? Yep. Doesn’t mean that you weren’t.

    Lots of people are espousing various conspiracy theories, but the bottom line is that if your house is clean, it doesn’t matter who comes calling. So they will pay the fine, make headlines for a few days, then move on. And that will be that. And Messi now understands the necessity of hiring the highest-quality firms to manage his affairs.

    This AS piece, though rather hyperbolic and heavy-handed, makes some points worth making: http://en.as.com/en/2016/07/07/opinion/1467852131_325991.html

  9. July 7, 2016

    L’Equipe says new Barça signing Samuel Umtiti will be starting in the semi-final against Germany. Some observers were saying that he didn’t have a very good game. I thought otherwise and so did Deschamps, apparently. Big stage for him.

  10. Jim
    July 7, 2016

    I’m not sure I’d be throwing any brickbats at Messi over this. If he did his own tax returns and handled his finances maybe but think about the amounts we’re talking about here. How can anyone say ignorance of the law is no excuse ? That is legally true but ridiculous – unless you’re convinced you know all the laws of your own country. Question I asked the constabulary on the night of my 21st birthday in a street in my home town. Is making a human pyramid in the street a breach of the peace or not and who decides ? The answer from the officer concerned was that he decided and it’s pretty much that way with taxes. It’s all interpretation.

    As a young teacher I remember receiving a (very) small allowance for the damage blackboard chalk did to my suits. Until one year I didn’t receive it. When I contacted the local tax office ( for in those days we had them) I was told that there was a new person in the office who had decided we should be using dustless chalk and had removed the allowance – and that was just in our town not even the whole of Scotland !!!

    Looking forward to seeing Umtiti again tonight. I didn’t think he had a great game or showed us what he is capable of so it’d be good to see him against a top side, although I suspect their defence might get a good working over from Germany. Could be quite a few goals in the game. Tbh, I’d be surprised if Umtiti retained his place for this match just down to experience but here’s hoping.

  11. Jim
    July 7, 2016

    Good. Umtiti starting and it won’t happen often but I’m supporting the French!

  12. dl
    July 7, 2016

    From the mbm on the Guardian:

    90 min: France owe Umtiti a great big hug. He has been a rock in this second half. His interceptions when the score was 1-0 broke Germany. Kroos tries to pick a pass in to Gotze but this time Pogba stretches his muscles to cut out the danger.

  13. Ryan
    July 7, 2016

    It looks like we’ve signed a quality defender! Nice defending from Umtiti, and he showed some of his vision with that pass he made in the first half.

  14. July 7, 2016

    I think his signing was a great decision most especially when you look at what previous signing from that league has brought to the club. Having said that we ll have to give him time to settle down and acclimatised to barca game. On the other end,I hope Pogba will not end up in EE. That guy is too hot a player to be allowed to move to the capital. Barca or England is ok by me.

  15. Jim
    July 7, 2016

    Never upset to see the Germans leave a tournament. . . And they deserved to. They were pretty poor but that was largely down to the improvement of the French. At the start of the tournament I said they didn’t look like a team. Well, they fought for each other all night and hounded the Germans out of this. Much, much better from Pogba, Cissoko was everywhere and the whole defence played brilliantly. The Germans were never able to catch them short of numbers. Having said that, it was never a penalty. However, it was after that I looked round the German team and thought who is good enough to make the difference here and the answer was probably none of them would make it into our first team. Even Neuer looked pretty poor at the second. No need to hug his front post from that angle and that extra step cost him when he flapped at the ball.

    Much better, especially from Umtiti from our point of view. What I really , really like is that he stays at home and does his defending and showed a good left foot tonight. Not a typical Barca defensive performance in that he always had more than enough cover around him but on this display he looks a good buy particularly at that price. Well done the club for settling it before the Euros.

    We did, didn’t we ?

    • Davour
      July 8, 2016

      Strong defensive display by France, and a close to vintage performance by Griezmann. But without that penalty Germany probably walks away with the win, I would say. Losing Gomez was a blow, especially with an underperforming Müller. Now let’s hope France manages to do the job against Portugal – brave an early onslaught to avoid being stuck in the Portuguese trap of boring its opponent to death.

      And a final note on the Messi case: I think we can simultaneously say that there is a clear bias within parts of the Spanish system, that the global tax system is crazy, and that the Messis (rather than Leo, to me) should have been more careful. Still, background, education, etc. plays a part, too, when suddenly you become wealthy. You can understand this context without arguing he should be exonerated.

  16. ooga aga
    July 8, 2016

    Sandro Ramirez signs for Malaga. Good luck Sandro.

    And good luck France. I gotta predict: If portugal wins, Crynaldo wins Balon D’or (despite being so overrated), and if France win, it goes to Griezmann.

  17. July 8, 2016

    Umtiti was absurd. He also has yet to misplace a pass in the Euros. Went forward twice, and both forays resulted in French chances.

    Most engaging about him as a defender is how calm he is. Very Puyol in that respect. There was one German attack where he just closed down the angle to a single lane, which Lloris easily dealt with. A lot of defenders feel the need to do something, make something happen. So they lunge in, attempt a tackle, try something. Should that effort fail, danger is the consequence.

    His positioning is sound, and his hops let him win balls. He also has closing speed to fix the problems that crop up. People tend to overblow performances, good and bad. Umtiti wasn’t the mess that many characterized after his Iceland match. Very solid. Nor is he the second coming now. What he is, is a very strong CB prospect, and one whose potential makes me happy that Mascherano is staying, to train and indoctrinate him.

    The technical staff said they had been scouting him for almost seven years. Of course, people who find reason to call bullshit on that have called bullshit on it, but he’s one of the hottest, if not THE hottest young CB prospect in Europe. We got him for a bargain price. That’s really cool.

    It’s also different from Pogba, who is apparently causing a bidding war, that United look to win. The player would prefer RM, but will go to the highest bidder. What I like about Barça transfers is that the players seem to want to come. That gives negotiating leverage that is not to be underestimated, even as I am sure Aulas is still muttering about not being able to have a bidding war for Umtiti, who might have gone as high as Stones money, in the 40-50m range.

    It’s great business, just like Denis Suarez and others.

    Deschamps has a problem on his hands. Rami is the “starter,” but the way Umtiti played, he’s crazy if he doesn’t start him in the final. He had no compunctions about starting him in the semi, based on the strength of that Iceland performance compared to Rami. So we’ll see about the final.

    — The club also signed Marlon, from Fluminense, another CB prospect who will start the season with Barça B. He’s a U20 member for the Brazil NT. By midseason, I expect we will be seeing him making first-team appearances in Copa matches, etc. He looks to have the goods.

    • Davour
      July 9, 2016

      Yes, it’s very encouraging, the way the club is doing business right now. Is the Vermaelen-deal done? Now all we hope for is a useful back-up 9 (unless we can use Ney as a 9 and employ Arda or Denis on the wing, but it would be nice to have a strong header/target player available when needed). I wonder about the fate of Munir…

  18. July 9, 2016

    I hope the club invest the remaining transfer fun on the most important aspect of the team. Can we totally really on Vidal or get another replacement for Dani? Any club for Pogba but EE will please me.

  19. Jim
    July 9, 2016

    I’m not sure I’d describe Umtiti’s performance as “absurd”. I thought he had a good game and answered a few of the questions I had from his first appearance in terms of adjusting his position when called for. However, there is a danger of reading too much into a lot of what was just good CB play. I’d have been upset if he hadn’t made most of the interventions he did. When he didn’t, there was always plenty of cover from Koscelny and others. Most of it was completely under control because Germany actually didn’t manage to stretch France, partly because France always managed to have enough numbers back. It’s a different story when a team breaks against you and it’s just you and Pique – or worse if you’re Pique and it’s just you !

    For me, one very average game and one pretty good one but nothing more. Doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see how he develops. He looks like he has a lot of potential for that position with good technical ability and a real sense of when it’s necessary to go to ground and when it’s not.

    Final thought, I’m not sure I want Masche to be the one to say anything about CB play to the lad. . .

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