Transfers and money in the real world

Transfer season is that time of the year when everyone has the answer. Levon does, laid out in a pair of posts here and here.

Players come, players go and the answer is little more than a pen stroke away. But there are a number of things to consider in this fantasy land, all mitigating against unicorns and bunnies and stuff.

Barça has the highest wage bill in world football according to a just-published study from Sporting Intelligence, at something around 280m per. It is three times that of Atleti’s, 30m higher than Real Madrid’s and almost 100m higher than Juventus, the two teams battling in the Champions League final on Saturday.

Any transfer notions have to take wages into account, particularly as Messi is due for a new contract in the coming months, along with a stadium project still to be undertaken. Any new transfer will, in this world where the petroclubs are wielding their might, along with a cash-rich Premiership where the last-placed team earned more money than the Bundesliga winner, have to be compensated for his migration. Trophies aren’t enough. In a day and age where money makes football go ’round, wages guarantee loyalty. Instead of kissing badges, players should be kissing their AMEX Centurion cards.

What are the sources for potential new revenue for the club, in a league that will always be handicapped by language and global reach, two of the things that define a possible TV contract. The Premiership is, in the United States, on NBC. On the final day of the season, that network put, through its various cable outlets, eight matches on at the same time, including the one on the main network.

Meanwhile, on the last day of the season, in the U.S. market BeIN had to choose which match to show live, splitting the screen at key moments, and showing the other match on delay. Hell, if Catalunya does achieve independence and Bara gets kicked out of La Liga, it would be a boon. Just apply to join the Premiership. Acceptance would be a snap, given that on any given weekend, probably a quarter of the population in Barcelona is English. Short of a license to print money, Barça is going to hava a difficult time continuing to play that game of big-money transfers.

This all makes it difficult to see the team splashing for the massive prospects some people are throwing around. In the not-too-distant future, especially when the stadium project begins, the club is going to have to emphasize promotions and getting quality from within the overall structure. A low-cost, homegrown XI is about as unrealistic as people calling for a slew of big-money transfers. But squad positions heretofore being filled by transfers such as Gomes, Digne, Alcacer and the like will need to be filled by promotions. Given the state of the B team right now, you can only wonder if Valverde and his abilities at identifying, promoting and getting the best from youth players was part of the reason behind his selection.

Another, even more compelling issue is that the club wasn’t that far away from being in for another three-trophy season. Even as culers hold up Real Madrid as the avatar of roster depth, bench depty and general magnificence, Barça finished 3 points off that team. Many supporters act as though Barça was thisclose to relegation. The Liga season came down to a single match on any one of three occasions. Show up against Alaves, Depor or Malaga and they win the league. Nick an away goal or two (lord knows opportunities were there) against Juventus and that tie probably ends differently.

Injuries to key players at key times were crucial this season. Rafinha, as that shuttle between lines in the Luis Enrique system, was invaluable. He couldn’t stay fit, and the other player who would have been as useful in that role, Sergi Roberto, had to play RB. Iniesta, the brilliant glue that could be counted upon to sparkle and hold the midfield down during key matches, could barely get a long enough injury-free run to be able to hold the form that he showed off on precious few occasions this season. Just when a solution for the right-sided attack was found in Aleix Vidal (5 assists in 7 appearances), he was scythed down and lost for the season. Messi was knocked, Busquets was knocked. The wonder was, given the abuse he routinely takes, that Neymar didn’t miss any significant time.

Yes, the team should have had replacements for those injured players, but come on — who replaces Iniesta or Messi? And Rafinha’s skill set is more rare and valuable than many culers are willing to admit.

“Messi had a fantastic season and carried the team.” So what. Should we dismiss Barça because it has the best player in the game, or thank our stars for such a reality? Barça is close. Very close. So close that a proper RB might have made enough of a difference to change the season. Or Suarez not going missing in April. The margins were that fine.

For all of those reasons, not to mention that transfers bedding in led to a lot of difficulties this season, it’s hard to argue for a significant overhaul of the club. The right side will get some attention, if we can trust the words of new coach Ernesto Valverde, who believes that Messi shouldn’t be playing right wing so much. Midfield Messi? Maybe. The possibilities are interesting.

If we assume that Alcacer and Gomes will be given the time they deserve, particularly as regards the way both came on late in the season, that is two questions answered. Vidal is going to stay, having been assured by the club. Should Rafinha stay? Valid question, given that the attention paid to the right side will almost certainly include an RB. It might be worth keeping Alena and Sergi Roberto for midfield along with Gomes, Rakitic and Iniesta, even as names such as Jean Seri are being bandied about.

An argument can be made for Real Madrid being as strong as they are simply because they didn’t mess with the team, as the big two have changed roles. It used to be Barça that was the stable colossus, while RM chased answers, summer after summer in the transfer market, leading to a perpetually unstable team.

What would I do as king of the forest? Add a midfielder, an RB and a CB and call it a day. The larger question, however, is who’s out? First, this would be my ideal XI for next season:

Ter Stegen
Pique CB to be named later Umtiti
Busquets
Vidal Messi Iniesta
Alcacer Suarez Neymar

Looking for new homes from my view would be Mathieu, Arda Turan, Denis Suarez and Rafinha, for reasons of (respectively) old age, surplus to requirements and made redundant by circumstance.

Who would I add? Jean Seri, Nelson Semedo and either Lemos, or keep Marlon. So the roster looks like this:

GKs: Ter Stegen, Cillessen
CBs: Pique, Umtiti, Marlon (Lemos?), Mascherano
FBs: Alba, Digne, Semedo, Vidal, Nili/Palencia
MFs: Busquets, Gomes, Seri, Sergi Roberto, Alena, Iniesta, Rakitic
FWDs: Alcacer, Messi, Suarez, Neymar

That’s a 22-player roster with depth at every position, whose principal formation would be a 3-4-3, changeable to a 4-3-3 dependent upon need. If Neymar is out, the back line picks up Alba or Digne. Rakitic gets more rest which makes him a lot better. Busquets can be spelled by both Sergi Roberto and Andre Gomes. The team also gets younger, and is set up for — assuming reports are true — the arrival of Yerry Mina the season after this one, when Mascherano will be ready to move on.

It’s also inexpensive with, potentially, the Turan transfer financing one of the two transfers (either Seri or Semedo), forcing the club to dip not all that deeply into the coffers.

The biggest transfer for this season will, hopefully, be a coach willing to rest key players so that they are prepared for the stretch run by remaining fit and sharp. Balance and rotation will be crucial, two things that will be Valverde’s biggest challenges.

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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.

46 Comments

  1. Davour
    June 2, 2017

    I haven’t seen Seri much – do you think he has the quality to deputise for an Iniesta in great need of rotation (and at risk for injuries)? I’m not sure Vidal would manage that CM role, though I see the point about him dropping to RB when needed. Perhaps him at RW with Roberto at RCM would be a better balance? Depending on opponent, of course. And can Semedo over a CB role in 343?

    I take it you see Samper as a lost cause (not sure), and don’t want Deloufeu to return (agreed). We’ll see!

    • June 3, 2017

      I work with a lot of Portuguese people, all of whom follow their league and all of whom support either Porto or Benfica.

      Funny enough they all told me last summer it was obvious that Gomes did not have enough quality to play for Barça. This summer they all agree Semedo has what it takes to be a great right back for Barça.

      @Kevin what I think is interesting is that your principal formation is 3-4-3 (which I like) but your potentially most expensive signing, Semedo, will have no role in that formation.

      As for the fantasy-land some of us inhabit, unicorns notwithstanding, our wage bill is massive, this is true. However we also earn an enormous amount of money and the Rakuten deal gives us an extra 25M. I also sell more players (Rakitic, Paco) so I have more cash to spend and if money is still an issue, in order to pay the salaries of the talent I want to sign, I would bite the bullet and sell Gomes and bring back Samper.

      Money is an issue but we are still one most powerful players on the market.

  2. Rivaldo
    June 2, 2017

    No time to waste next season… back on top with the youth. I would make some bold decision.

    First off. No 3rd keeper – leavr that spot for a B teamer.
    GK – Ter Stegen/ Cillessen

    A Right Back is definitely needed. Youth, speed and readiness. We buy Bellerin … and Davidson – less counter attack goals.

    CB – Pique/Umtiti/D. Sanchez/Marlon
    RB – Bellerin/ Vidal
    LB – Alba/Digne

    Mascherano shuttles between midfield and defense. Much needed leadership too.

    Midfield needs a major tinker… Planning for now and years ahead – A. Herrera united with Valverde and Coutinho with Neymar. Yup! Spend those dollars now – save later!

    CDM – Busquets
    CM – Herrera/S. Roberto/Rakitic
    CAM – Iniesta/Coutinho

    Alas! Our strike-force needs an injection – Youth!
    We hype La Masia; why not use it? We bring back both Sandro and Deulofeu. The positions except maybe for the strikers are fluid and match dependent.

    ST – Suarez/S. Ramirez
    LF – Neymar
    RF -Deulofeu
    CF – Messi

    There you have it.

    I like my 22 better Kxvein . Cheers mate.

    • Rivaldo
      June 2, 2017

      Oh…

      That means I am getting rid of a few people.
      No hard feelings – it’s YOU not me.

      OUT: 9
      GK – Masip
      CB – Matthieu
      CM – Gomes/D. Suarez/Rafinha/Turan/Samper
      ST – Paco/Munir

      €120 mil

      IN: 6
      CB – D. Sanchez
      RB – Bellerin
      CM – Herrera/Coutinho
      RF – Deulofeu
      ST – S. Ramirez

      €200 mil

      €80 mil budget met in my ideal world.

  3. Bruce Wayne
    June 3, 2017

    For me

    OUT
    GK: Masip (the most famous 3rd choice GK that doesn’t play).

    CB: Mascherano and Mathieu (well… they’re old).

    SB: Digne (to think Enrique sold Grimaldo and got this guy. Nothing against his abilities but his link up with Neymar is nothing to write home about)

    MF: Gomes (’nuff said); Turan (not technical enough to be a CMF/AMF or quick enough to be a winger); Rafinha (I really want him to succeed but he’s too injury prone).

    FW: Munir and Tello .

    Before getting in players we’ve got to consider that players will be concerned about playing time especially this season because of the World Cup. So…

    IN

    GK: Promote from Youth team

    CB: Mina/Davinson and keep Marlon

    SB: Semedo (RB) & promote a LB from the Youth team (Palencia and/or Nili)

    MF: Have faith in Samper, get Keita/Verratti/Seri (and perhaps test Madrid’s resolve with Isco)

    FW: Deulofeu (he’s cheap and he came from La Masia, he’s quick, good dribbler, assists and sometimes scores)

  4. Mishti
    June 3, 2017

    Only two transfers? Even if we make only one transfer this summer, it has to be an attacking midfielder of high quality. If we think we can do without that (by ‘do’ I mean actually try to win things), that’s as much Unicornland as anything. Seri does not make the cut for me, nowhere near in fact, sorry Kevin. Can we bet another season of Iniesta being able to play at least 70 odd minutes at a high level for 70-80% of games? If not, then we need to splash money, if that’s what it takes to get somebody who could at least pretend to be a replacement. And we need that person even if Messi permanently moves to #10 in a 3-4-3. I will travel further into Unicornland and say, let’s get Coutinho if we can. His chemistry with Neymar is a known, and if we are wondering how he’d do as an ACM, it is very likely he will play that position for Brazil against Sampaoli’s Argentina next week, and lead the team in Neymar’s absence. That should tell us something. Keep an eye. What we really don’t beed is another mediocre midfielder. If that’s all we are gonna get, please save the money, and brace for a painful season.

    If we are indeed moving to an interchanging 3-4-3/4-3-3, we need another CB who can be the stay-at-home-dad and take care of business when all the adventurous kids (and Pique) are up there somewhere doing their swashbuckling stuff. Boring as it sounds, I will not give up on my dream of having an actually functional defense, and less brainf**ts leading to absolutely silly goals, hence I will make a pitch for somebody like Azpilicueta. The guy can handle the ball (in fact has more goals and assists this season than any of our defenders), but more importantly, his intelligence and positional discipline stands out. He can play across the back line in any position. No Lemos please, sorry again Kevin, just don’t see it. If we are indeed getting Yerry Mina in a season’s time, we don’t need Davinson Sanchez. The Palmeiras guy has a similar profile, and is better. I’d rather keep Marlon around.

    So these are my two transfers. and just because I am greedy, I will throw in one for the future. We’ll need to look for a Pique replacement sooner or later. That kid de Ligt? Can we get him please and groom him for that role? The kid is meant for great things.

    • Davour
      June 3, 2017

      It is indeed interesting that Coutinho recently has played as CM rather than LW – from the little I’ve seen and (a little more) heard, this has been an improvement in terms of the quality of his game. Perhaps he does not have the defensive mind to manage it at Barca (where he would need to cover for Messi as 10), but with a second more defensive-minded CM + Busquets, who knows! His connection with Neymar is a plus. He would also be possible as RW, & LW, giving us options there.

      BUT – he would be very expensive, and due to Liverpool’s good season and upcoming CL participation, combined with possible new signings, he might be tempted to stay with Klopp and run the team, instead of backing up Messi and Neymar. Would maka a lot of sense.

      • Mishti
        June 3, 2017

        Agree. He is my Unicornland wish, but I do think he is the kind of player that would make sense for us to buy, in terms of the profile and the quality. But practical constraints remain. He is a big fan of the MSN, the main issue is the possible ‘back up to Iniesta’ status in his first season. With 2018 WC coming up, I doubt he’d accept anything other than a guarunteed starting spot.

      • Mishti
        June 3, 2017

        I can’t claim to follow Ligue 1 week in week out, but I did in fact see some Nice games, mainly because I was curious about what Favre was doing with them. Seri is a good player and a good passer, just don’t see what is so special, or how he is going to be that great boost of quality in our midfield from what we have right now when we take Iniesta out. Exceptional close control? Playing under a high press? Dribbling or passing from within a telephone booth? Great vision? Don’t know, may be I am missing something.

  5. Ash
    June 3, 2017

    We should count on samper as a sub for busquets and in my opinion yerri is a good cb we dont need to get one . If we were willing to buy someone in the defence it wouldve been mendy (moving to city). This guy can be a new abidal watch him! He can play as a cb and a lb and i would sell or loan digne and promote palencia to be vidals replacement, hes solid! And btw seri would be a great transfer , just wait and youll see our midfield getting better with this guy in it. Valencia arent buying munir so we should choose between him and alcacer.
    We should sell:
    Mathieu , rafinha (i really like his quality), andre gomes , turan , alcacer / munir, digne (loan) , vermalen, mascherano (if we are getting a center back this summer , if not keep him) , and alena (loan).
    Leaving us with :
    -Ter stegen , cilessen, a gk from the b team.
    – palencia (or we can loan him and get semedo who’s world class) , vidal, pique , marlon , umtiti , yerri mina (if not mascherano), alba and digne
    -busquets, samper , iniesta , rakitic , seri (if not we should get Lemar who’s really a complete midfielder and won’t be expensive) , segi roberto (must be in midfield in the starting 11!) ,denis suarez (has a great potential jus didnt get enough time , can be loaned) .
    – messi , suarez , neymar, alacer/munir, and deulofeu
    This team, with a great coach, can win everything.

  6. Ash
    June 3, 2017

    Or we can use all the money to get dybala and play him as a CAM or use messi as a CAM and let dybala replace him as a RW , that would be the best decision

  7. Yaredinho
    June 3, 2017

    Have De Ligt before it gets late and secure the CB positions for a decade with Umtiti, Mina, Marlon, and Pique being the mentor!

    • Mishti
      June 3, 2017

      Totally agree!! That would be some back line for the future 🙂

  8. realdox
    June 3, 2017

    Don’t know why majority is axing samper from there squad list while all we are clamoring for is midfielder who can perform under pressure.the quality is for us all to see, and from what I know the guy hasn’t been given chance to prove himself like Andre Gomes. same thing is applicable to denis, there’s gulf of quality in those guys; all they need is someone who can give them assurance and chance to show what they are capable of. if Jean seri hasn’t been playing every week, how would we know how good he is? m just asking though.

  9. Davour
    June 3, 2017

    Well, no consolation from Juve. This is RM’s season and CR’s finals – man the number of goals. And since that is what counts + CL = congratulations to another popularity price. If you want to know if someone understands, actually watches football, ask them: did Cristiano play better against Juve than Messi did? If they answer “yes”, you know they don’t know. But RM is hell of a team this year – quality. Better than Juve in every aspect, more or less. Higuain just is not a top player, they have little edge going forward, and the defence was not tight enough this time (0-1 was very preventable even as 1-2 was unlucky). Barca would have been the only team (well, Bayern, possibly) strong enough to beat them (as we have done).

    Have a fabulous summer, all. Let’s hope for a more harmonious next season! Over and out. Until next season.

  10. omoh
    June 3, 2017

    Honestly who ever thought Juventus defence could ship in 4 goals but Against barca 2nd leg, Allegri said after the match that if the game should continue for 2hours that barca still won’t score.

    The ease with which Madrid dismantled the whole juve system in the second half goes to confirm once again that Lucho was a big fool for conceding 3 against that team. Imagine a team that couldn’t even muster a single short on target in the second half of a CL final scored 3 against barca.

    • georgjorge
      June 4, 2017

      Now just imagine how big a fool Zidane is for conceding 3 in the Clásico against a team that couldn’t even score a single goal against the team which let in 4 goals in the finals. Or is he?

      More generally: the sad result of yesterday tells me that it’s not all about Barcelona doing badly this year (though they could have done better). Losing the league to a team like this season’s RM by three points is not the end of the world.

  11. Yaredinho
    June 3, 2017

    If Lucho is fool, you are a trash who doesn’t know much about transitivity and situations in football!

  12. Bruce Wayne
    June 4, 2017

    Now I hear people are comparing this Madrid side with Pep’s team… and perhaps even believing they’re better than Pep’s team.

    • G6O
      June 4, 2017

      The thing with Madrid these last two years is that they haven’t really dominated the way we used to, But they get results.

      If you let them have the ball around your box they will eventually score because they have the players to overwhelm your defense.

      The objective therefore should be not to not let them have the ball near your box. And then it’s not at all that dangerous.

      Which we have actually seen on numerous occasions this season.

      The problem is that right now there aren’t teams with great midfield out there who can do that so Madrid wins.

      Bayern could do that, and were doing it in the QF, but they committed suicide with the missed penalty and the red cards. We committed a suicide too in Turin.

      And then there was nobody left to stop them…

      BTW, this is at its core a predictable consequence of the age of the superclubs — when it is essentially the same 4 teams compete for the trophy every single year, if a couple of them don’t do their job well, the chances of one of the other two winning it a couple years in a row increase.

      Unfortunately for us, we were the ones who mismanaged their squad and Madrid were the ones who got lucky (obviously I’d much rather prefer it if it had been Bayern)

  13. omoh
    June 4, 2017

    Zidane shipping 3goals against barca says alot about the Madrid defence rather than the barca attack. It says a lot about the Madrid defence’s consistency at conceding goals against a fairly good attack. Especially when you consider the individuals present in the Barca attack.

    El-classico, like the PSG game was a game of the more motivated team to win. Motivation comes from different angle. In the cases of El-classico and PSG, it came from the fear of loosing your pride.

    The Madrid second half display came from the motivation to be great rather than fear.

    Now who is more dangerous? The person acting out of fear of defeat/humiliation/death or someone acting out of a desire to be the greatest? Now why do we have to act out of fear of humiliation rather than out of the desire to be great?

    Guardiolas barca and Zidanes Madrid acted out of desire to be great While Luchos barca played out of fear of humiliation.

    Now the Thing about the two is this. Acting out of fear is a temporary motivation that only comes at extreme cases and the Motivation is not constant but motivation out of desire to be great is constant and you live for the motivation everyday.

    Naturally against Madrid, Barca was more dangerous than Madrid was against Juve. Barca was suffering to survive but Madrid was enjoying their way to greatness.

    The problem is when you play for survival, you use all your strength but when you play for greatness you play with joy and conserve you’re strength.

    Barca against juve collapsed because they had no tactical superiority to fall back on after exausting their strength to survive against PSG. There was no tactical superiority to outclass a top opponent.

    The simple narrative of Luchos era was simple. Bull Shit can take you to the top but it definitely will not keep you there. Same goes for Di Matteo with Chelsea in 2012 Chelsea quickly realised it and sent him out.

    Zidane proved that winning the CL last season was no fluke and no BS, he knew what he was doing.

  14. Tata2
    June 4, 2017

    Madrid aren’t better than us even if they managed to win the double this year. All the talk of their dominance is bull crap. They got refereeing help both in la Liga and UCL. You can deny that all you want. Even at that it required a Turan brain fart and Neymar open goal miss for them to take Liga away from us. I believe we would be back to trophy winning ways once we sign players in the right departments. I could bet my house that we would beat Madrid in that finals. I expect us to grab a treble next season to quash all these talks of madrid dominance.

    • omoh
      June 4, 2017

      Hopefully the cowards at the elms of affairs don’t infect the new coach with their cluelessness.

      Sponsorship deal? They can’t pull off
      Good Transfer? They can’t make
      La Masia? They can’t manage.

      Heaven knows what they do at all.

  15. Jim
    June 4, 2017

    I thought we had signed one of the better shirt sponsorship deals in the whole of football just at the end of last year ? Transfers maybe a little more hit and miss but for me in the last three or four years they’ve signed the best 9 in the world and the next best player in the world as well as TS who hopefully will mature into one of the best. They have also picked up Umtiti who looks pretty good. Agreed on the midfield purchases.

    La Masia I don’t know enough about to comment. However, if we want to keep attracting top young prospects they need to see they have a chance of making it to the first team. That means they should be getting chances as backups to the top guys ( no, not four or five in the same game ). That’s one of the reasons Samper’s loan was disastrous for me. Given Gomes’ match time and awful performances, even if you don’t see what I see in Samper, how much would we have lost by giving Samper that time and saving money for a better use ? It would have also sent a sign to the youngsters in La Masia. What sign does it send when you pack off the B captain and possibly best prospect out to a doomed side and buy in several average players instead ? One of the few times I’ve thought Barto should have interfered in the sporting decisions and stepped in.

    Btw, last night was a rude awakening for anyone who still thinks this Madrid side isn’t the real deal. The result was never in doubt against a side who made us look at best ordinary. That won’t have escaped Messi’s attention.

    • omoh
      June 4, 2017

      Yes they signed a great sponsorship deal but who was the main protagonist? According to popular tabloids, it was pique. A squad player on the pitch. They failed woefully to convince the Qartar investors how big the club is.

      Player signings were poor on the average. Only 4 or 5 can be considered barca quality.

      Suarez, Rakitic, Ter stegen, Umtiti, Bravo, Cillesen(unproven in biggest games)

      The rest are just poor.

      La masia graduates don’t even have barca B to step up to the first team again cos even barca B is playing in Segunda B (a very poor division for someone hoping to move to the first team) reason why Damper was loaned out to get quality playing time and experience.

      • georgjorge
        June 4, 2017

        Popular tabloids are not what I would call a source on sponsorship deals.

        Barca B took first place in Segunda B this season and are having their play-offs to get back into the second division next week. They might not make it, but you can’t blame that one on the board at all.

        I’m not hot on everything the board does but to state they can’t make any good transfers or land any good sponsorship deals is way overboard.

        • Yaredinho
          June 4, 2017

          Even if we agree Pique helped to introduce the two parties, he was not part of the details, which the most important and difficult part. How about the Nike deal, then?

          My point is blaming the board for everything, which by itself is not factually true, doesn’t help to solve our problems as it misleads and obstructs us from identifying the actual problems.

    • omoh
      June 4, 2017

      The transfer issue now gets worse and more annoying when you consider the amount they spent on those flops.

  16. Víctor
    June 4, 2017

    I can’t imagine what the hell happened to Juventus yesterday, they played a very good first half and then they lost it… not denying that Madrid is a very good team, but you know that something happened to their rival yesterday.

    Juventus received just 3 goals in the previous 12 games and suddenly they get 4 past them? I’m guessing they weren’t mentally prepared for the last step towards the championship.

  17. omoh
    June 4, 2017

    The transfer issue now gets worse and more annoying when you consider the amount they spent on those flops.

    Now the most annoying is that Barca don’t even have a standard first eleven to talk of a reserve bench and people don’t seem to see this damage when we had a so called “top coach”.

  18. Ron
    June 4, 2017

    While the silly season ensues, I hear RM getting linked to Hazard and De Gea..These are world class players… Hazard especially.. wonder why we aren’t atleast putting pressure on them by bidding for Hazard too as a replacement for Iniesta in a 3-4-3

    Also if the rumors for Wenger being interested in Turan being true, I’d sell him in a heartbeat..

    On a side note, I feel you all seem to be underestimating the amount of talent and determination Zidane’s men needed to achieve that feat. Just saying they had referring help doesnt diminish the fact that they have been the first team to defend the CL title in the champions league era!

    I Feel our team is the only one that could contest a really fit and plucky RM side for the next few years and the upcoming transfers could make or break our hopes to continue on our era defining streak!

    • Yaredinho
      June 4, 2017

      If you are talking about Madrid’s potential based on their players, yes we are probably their worst enemy. Otherwise, they didn’t show much throughout the season apart from getting the results which suits them. Now I’m not diminishing their achievements, am no one to do that. But even we ignore the referring decisions they enjoyed, and with all our inconsistencies, they only have +3 points. That’s is the reality. And without new players we CAN perform better next season, the mere facts that we have new (said new not necessarily better) coach and we achieved almost nothing this season stirs our players, add other factors like more time for new comers…

      Having said that with a couple of astute changes we can evolve and get ready for the next 3-4 years.

      • Ron
        June 5, 2017

        While i agree with what you said, the current transfer market doesn’t seem to have the type of CB/RB/CM’s especially ones that would fit right into our playstyle.

        What you said about the evolution of our team is spot on though our rebuilding process could take way longer than 2-3 years considering the irreplaceable talent we have lost over the past few years from midfield to defense.. Xavi, possibly Iniesta soon, Puyol, Abidal, Alves…These were once in a generation players and maybe a new coach with new ideas may drive us in an altogether different direction just because of the lack of players with the skillset to play the Barca way!

        Also as Levon rightly pointed out in his article , balance is definitely one of the keys though finding the right players that fit our system may be easier said than done 🙂

  19. Half and Half
    June 4, 2017

    It wont be popular, but I would be looking at a squad like:

    GK: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Masip (or whoever as 3rd choice)
    RB: NEW SIGNING, Palencia
    CB: Pique, Umtiti, Marlon, NEW SIGNING, Mascherano
    LB: Alba, Grimaldo
    DM: Busquets, Samper
    CM: Iniesta, NEW SIGNING, Roberto, Rafinha
    FW: Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Sandro, Munir

    At centre back I’d like us to sign De Ligt, thought it may not be realistic at this stage for him to leave Ajax. Looks a really special talent for one so young. I’d keep Masch for experience and cover for various positions as we’d have a lot of young defenders.

    No idea about right back options. I’d happily see if Palencia could step up and provide cover and competition to a new signing though.

    Also no idea for a central midfielder. In a dream world Thiago comes back, but we need someone, it doesn’t have to be a name/profile player, who offers control of the football and can be the hub of the play.

    Bring back Grimaldo, Samper, Munir, Sandro.

    Wouldn’t cry if we lost Mathieu, Vidal, Digne, Gomes, Denis, Rakitic, Arda, Paco (and Douglas, Vermaelen and Tello). Could even be more brutal with a clearout tbh, but I’ll leave it at that.

  20. Ron
    June 5, 2017

    What are your opinions on the Qatar debacle with its impact on our Mes Que Un Club image…

    luckily our contract with Qatar Airways ends soon though our Board seems to be always in the crossfire when it comes to controversies be it the Neymargate or the Qatar backing

    • June 5, 2017

      Qatar Airways was always a horrible sponsor, but I don’t know if they are necessarily worse than Flying Emirates. What I want to see investigated is whether Sandro Rosell (and others) made money on the side from the deal with Qatar…

  21. June 5, 2017

    Precisely zero inferences can be drawn from the Champions League final, Real Madrid to Barça. Everything is an “if.” What if Suarez converts, what if Iniesta’s shot is better, what if Messi doesn’t miss those two shots he usually converts like falling out of bed at home.

    Does RM beating Juventus mean anything? Does us beating RM and Deportivo beating us mean that the wrong team was in the Champions League final? Nope. It just means that in football, shit happens.

    Real Madrid was able to open up Juventus because they played a style of football that the Acolytes says is devil worship. The deliberate possession style that people crave played right into the hands of Juventus’ defense. So which one do you want?

    Luis Enrique has been shat upon for trying to build a team that could play any number of different ways. He got it right sometimes, wrong other times. That’s part of why the games are played, because theory is one thing, reality another.

    Against Juventus Barça didn’t move the ball quickly enough, and they stood around and watched Dybala shoot. Twice. They compounded matters by finishing like dogshit in Turin. That is reality. Put anything anyone wants on a coach, but that is reality.

    Had Barça drawn Real Madrid in the quarters, I’m confident Barça would have advanced. They got the one team that was going to be a problem for them. That’s life and football.

    GENERAL NOTE: Please, please refrain from personal insults in this space. It makes discourse impossible. We can have opinions. We are not our opinions. Attack the opinion, not the person. Thanks.

  22. omoh
    June 5, 2017

    The kind players that barca need are never available in the transfer market cos they are a very rear breed of talents and any club that owns them will try to keep them at all cost. It is left to the buying club to pull all the stops to land them.

    These are reasons why I blame the Barca board. It took barca close to 10yrs of buying mediocre central defenders in the name of cheap alternatives to be able to land Umtiti. After loosing Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Mat hummels, David Luis amongst others along The way.

    All of them were priced at 40m as at that time. of which barca deemed were too expensive. Have barca not spent more than 80m on that CD after that?

    The same story is unfolding at the rightback and it’s about to start in the CM midfield where we actually need 2 players and we have to start looking for replacement for busquets. RM already has a cover for casemiro.

    No club will want to sell a modric or Herrera or Thiago Alcantara. In the game of football, you don’t look for cheaper alternatives if they can’t measure up to the real one especially for your first team. cheaper alternatives are for reserves.

    Now there’s this rumor of Angel di Maria. For what? an unecessary 30yr old that will probably cost close to verrati or coutinho. I just hope it stays a rumor.

    • June 5, 2017

      The larger problem is the necessary player quality as related to the Barça XI. Players good enough to make that kind of a difference at Barça are good enough to start for another team. So why come to Barça?

      People talk about Kroos. He transferred to Real Madrid in 2014. Our starting midfield was still Xavi/Iniesta/Busquets, with Raktic coming into the side to do the kind of work that few mids are willing to do. Could Kroos have done that work? Who would he have sat? His decision to move to RM was never more clear.

      Modric? Same. Xavi and Iniesta. Thiago left because of those two, not because of Fabregas, as many thing. Players of iconic quality are daunting, not only to play against but to potential transfers coming to a team. If you are a forward, for example, why would you come to Barça? You aren’t as good as the big three, and so you aren’t going to play a lot unless they get injured. If you are good enough to sub for them you can start for someone else. Pedro left and is now a Premiership champion.

      As supporters, we often underestimate how legitimately badass our players are. The CB race was a clusferf—. On the other hand, if the club had bought Marquinhos, would Umtiti have been in the frame? He came because he loves the team, but also because he could start and he knew it. And so it goes.

      • Jim
        June 5, 2017

        I’m a veteran of the Scotland as World champions theory after we gubbed England just after they won the World Cup in ’66 so I’d agree you need to be careful before dancing down that road. However, what I think was indisputable is that we struggled big time against Juve, not scoring in either leg, despite LE and his supposedly more vertical approach. No ifs about RM’s display, only ours and you either do it on the day or you don’t and there’s no point in saying “we could have”.

        I’d agree that it’s not been easy to attract the quality of player we need for our midfield because of the quality of Xavi and Iniesta but for me that’s no excuse for our buys last summer. Anyone approached would know that at worst they’d be up against Rakitic for a place in the first team. Not sure that’d put many off at all. Instead we seemed to adopt a scattergun approach in the hope one might come good. Still possible but does anyone honestly believe we have a world class player in that group ? If not, it’s not the answer. Nope, I don’t really have one either.

        Just in passing and in the light of developments in Qatar couldn’t help my mind wandering aimlessly along the following lines:

        Hmm, Qatar cut off by its neighbours and maybe more of the world community…
        Flights become very difficult due to airspace restrictions ….
        Difficult to get to and maybe pull outs from an unpopular WC venue to start with …
        Qatar need to scale back plans…..
        Non residents there start to get nervous and make plans to come home ….
        We still have a duff midfield …….

        No, I thought for a minute I had something there. 🙂

  23. questra
    June 5, 2017

    Great post. Thanks.

    It is very clear to me that we should still play 4-3-3, that controlling the midfield is more important than ever and that the our midfield trio should look like this:

    – Next season:
    Iniesta – Busquets – Verratti

    – When Iniesta needs replacement:
    Thiago – Busquets – Verratti

    – When Busquets needs replacement:
    Thiago – Weigl – Verratti

    For the right back position, when Alves needs replacement (oh wait, wasnt’ that… well, anyway):
    Semedo

  24. ciaran
    June 5, 2017

    Unfortunately I don’t see a case where a 4-3-3, or a 3 man midfield in general, will work.
    We have too many pieces who aren’t ideal in that scenario.
    Let’s say 4-3-3 with Messi in the front line.
    Neymar will once again be forced to do twice the work as he should. We will lose width on the right and again the right midfielder will be forced to run around like a mad man filling in for Messi and the fullback.
    A 4-3-1-2 would solve the problem in getting Neymar closer to goal and relieving his defensive work a bit but does nothing to keep the width up.
    It also doesn’t help that we don’t have elite players in either fullback position to be fair.
    3-4-3 diamond with three midfielders behind Messi would give give more possession and put the ball at Messi’s feet more often but again takes our second best player and makes him work like a lunatic.

    3-4-1-2 seems to be the only option to me.
    Firstly, Umtiti and Pique both are a very natural for for the LCB and CB roles. Umtiti is excellent defending one on one and very useful along the touchline with the ball at his feet. Pique is amongst the best defender bringing the ball out and is an excellent reader of the game.
    In a flat 4 in midfield, Alba, Busquets and Vidal would also be very comfortable in their roles, surely more so than the current set up, with an extra defender behind them in all cases.
    Messi is obviously perfect in behind two mobile centre forwards and you bring Neymar closer to Suarez which should benefit both. Neymar gets license to move around and find space like with Brazil and Suarez is less isolated.
    It means that a third centre back and controlling midfielder would all slide straight into the lineup.

    If Bellerin happens, which could go either way, it would be less of a hindrance in defense but he may not be an upgrade on Vidal in that situation.

    I wouldn’t go all out to clear the squad but I think it needs a bit of a shake up.
    I’d replace both Mascherano and Mathieu in the backline, let one/two of Arda, Denis and Rafinha go and, though it would be controversial, sell Rakitic to genuinely upgrade the midfield.

    GK Ter Stegen / Cillessen
    RCB Aurier / Marlon
    CB Pique / Sanchez
    LCB Umtiti / Digne
    RM F.Anderson / Vidal
    CM Seri / Gomes
    CM Busquets / Roberto / Samper
    LM Alba / Rafinha
    AM Messi / Iniesta
    ST Suarez / Paco
    ST Neymar / Munir

    Transfers in: Aurier 20m, Davinson Sanchez 30m, F.Anderson 40m and Seri 40m. 130m
    Transfers out: Mascherano 0m. Mathieu 0m. Rakitic 30m, Arda, 20m, Tello, Vermaelen, Douglas, and the rest of the loans gone for whatever we can. 60m.

  25. omoh
    June 6, 2017

    The fact that Rakitic came to Barca at a time xavi was still in the midfield is a testimony to the fact that we could have pushed for a more suitable midfielder that would be with the team for a longer period but the board chose to go for Rakitic.

    Don’t get me wrong I didn’t say Rakitic is not good (he is infact a great addition to the team) but they brought in a different kind of player when what we actually needed was a player that could replace Xavi in the long term. It shows the board never prepared for a Post-xavi midfield same way they’ve not prepare for a post iniesta midfield. Even the post Alves RB was a failure from the get go. It was a known fact that Vidal was playing as a winger in sevila. only playing the RB position on few occations.

    Thiago Went to bayern because barca never showed they had him in their plans only to let fabregas go the next season.

    All this poor transfer policies and decisions has become one too many for a team of barca’s standing. It shows a lack of a real or clearly spelt out sporting project. This is the reason Theo Hernandez allegedly gave for snobbing barca for Madrid. Same reason Vinitius also allegedly have for choosing RM over barca that had a first refusal on him.

  26. June 6, 2017

    If thinking is stuck in the past, difficult to think of a clear future. The game has moved on. There is no next Xavi, or Xavi replacement. So many people seem to want Barça to play like it used to. That ship has sailed as opponents adjusted.

    The question is what is the next adaptation? Have to wait to see what Valverde plans.

    Perceptions have been skewed by once in a lifetime players. Xavi is Xavi. Iniesta his own magic, also Messi. When they go, that’s it. We have been so lucky to have experienced this group.

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