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.