It happened all low-key like, easing in on cleated little cat feet.
It began with the grabbing of one of the hottest young CBs on the market in Samuel Umtiti, rolled on with the return of Denis Suarez, continued with the addition of Lucas Digne, seemingly out of nowhere then continued with Andre Gomes and, potentially, Pablo Alcacer.
All of these players are 22 years old. But more remarkable than that chronological confluence, is that Barça has had a monster summer on the market. The staff has built, from my chair, the best team in Europe.
At season end, one that felt unfinished in the wake of the Champions League exit to Atleti, there was always this ideas that oh, for the lack of depth, the kingdom was lost, in that crazy world where a treble is the standard.
Nobody knew what would happen in the wake, but it’s safe to say that few of us expected this. By Pep Guardiola’s third season the club was forsaking him in the market as he went to war with a team as deep as a dog’s piddle. This year, even after a bumper crop of signings in Luis Enrique’s first year, the board mimiced Gang of Four, shouted “To hell with poverty,” and continued the squad overhaul.
Quality costs. Quality of the kind sufficient to buttress that murderers’ row of an XI costs even more. Only the most optimistic of culers, a guy sitting in a cave somewhere in the Catalan hills, suspected that the club would react in the way that it has.
Digne subbed for a pranged Mathieu in the Sevilla leg of the SuoerCopa, and gave his best outing of a pre-season during which he had already sparkled. It seemed so long ago that fragile, aging Adriano was the only LB option, if Mathieu was occupied at CB. If Mathieu was injured at the same time as Alba, it was Sergi Roberto, or panic.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lionel Messi spoke out against a board that promised him a competitive team, then reneged on that deal, claimimg austerity. Irrespective of whether this current board is viewed as new or a continuation, there is a laudable commitment to sporting excellence, at least on the football side of things — which is, let’s face it, the jewel in the crown that is Barça.
The team has also eliminated players who weren’t up to standard in Montoya, Tello, Adriano and Bartra. This last raised eyebrows by showimg off for Dortmund, and many social media glitterati showed themselves incapable of grasping the idea that a player could not be good enough for the best team in the world, yet plenty good enough for a Bundesliga bridesmaid.
What is left, should the Alcacer transfer happen, is a fist. One with legitimate depth at every position except the one occupied by the best player in the game.
So many said that Sevilla looked toothless in attack in that first leg, which is true. Whether those folks want to lay it at the feet of Sevilla or a Barça that took care of business, depends on perspective. What can’t be argued however is that Barça looked about as good as its summer market performance in calmly dispatching Sevilla 0-2.
The latest trick is the still-rumored, but buttressed by some sound sources, Claudio Bravo transfer to Manchester City. It is fitting for this market summer that the club pulls off a deal in which everybody wins. Bravo gets to start for a Champions League and Prem contender. Barça ends the keeper debate and locks down its No. 1 for the nexf decade. The club more than doubled its money on Bravo. City gets a keeper more in line with the desired style of its new coach.
And this is all atop the excellent performances by Jordi Masip in pre-season. Even Marlon, the CB acquired for the B team, shone in pre-season, pointing to a bright future.
It’s the kind of summer that other clubs used to have, and we would watch from afar as another never-gonna-be was promoted from Barça B. Now that Barça is having that kind of summer, people in the entorno are having to search long and hard to find stuff to say.
The club is crap at selling, some rant, that Adriano was somehow worth real money, given the salary that put off many a suitor. Vermaelen went on loan to Roma, and the belief was that the market was willimg to pay good money fkr a high-salaried, often broken backup CB. The club sold when it could, and jettisoned for salary purposes what it coukdn’t sell. People snarled about Alves leavimg on a free, not considering the salary demands of the player.
There is talk that the club sold Bravo cheaply, by people who think that any club was going to lay out 40m for a 33-yo keeper who had become an impediment to the future. “It’s 40m or nothing,” huffed some, as unaware of market reality as the kid who wants a pony as a birthday present.
Others snarl that Barça had to go to the market, that it’s a shame that Masia talents weren’t available. Names such as Deulofeu and Grimaldo are cited, and solace found.
We used to want to be the club that took care of business. Now that we are, many crave some other club, shifting the target to ensure that it is never reached. Okay.
Meanwhile the club has assured not only depth and quality depth, but a talented future, thanks to the Summer of 22. And because those players are all young, they can be sold on shoukd an academy prospect enter the frame.
It’s all kinda weird. Yes, we can all wonder about the stadium project and its fiscal effects. We can wonder about this or that. We have to worry. It’s the culer nature. But on paper, the weirdest feeling of all — confession time — is that the club really hasn’t put a foot wrong this season, and it’s a struggle to deal with that.