Verratti? Maybe, but consider this

Marco Verratti isn’t happening. Period. That said, it’s hard to argue against a rumored/possible/maybe/hopeful transfer such as his. He’s an exceptionally talented midfielder who, at present, plays for Paris. St. Germain. The situation is a mess, even if it’s probably not anything like real life.

It all began when a “report” came out that Verratti told PSG that he wanted to leave the club, even though he only recently signed a renewal that puts him at the Paris giants until 2021. From there, suddenly Verratti, as do all transfers of that magnitude, became The Answer.

But what is the question?

Everything is headed toward a craving for Barça to get back to the past, back to a way of playing, the vaunted juego de posicion that some call “tika taka.” It swept all before it, gobbled up piles of trophies and reinvented football. Verratti is seen as the last link in that puzzle, “the next Xavi” some are calling him.

To begin at the beginning, results were already beginning to taper off for JDP even when Guardiola was at Barça and still had his coterie of magic men. The game was beginning to adapt to the demands presented by that system, and the last season ended with “just” a Copa del Rey victory. Some suggest that it was because Guardiola had to wrestle with inferior personnel such as Cuenca and Tello, which argues with the notion of the pure supremacy of JDP.

Put another way, if you still need the horses, could another system that relied upon the XI of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Eto’o, Henry, Messi have played a different way and still swept all before it?

Also, if Barça was to perform the impossible and actually sign Verratti, and he comes, and the team makes the same mental errors and has the same lackluster play at key times, does anyone think that results would differ?

And what of the “use La Masia” crowd, many of the same people so blithely suggesting that Rafinha’s value should be maximized to build the Verratti kitty? What, also, of Carles Alena, who will be watching matches from the bench, or on perpetual loan at another team — Verratti would be part of Barça for at least six to seven years. What of the other creative mids coming up through La Masia? Also, what of non-Masia talented types such as Denis Suarez? Players aren’t as patient now. Look at Jordi Mboula, whose head is turned by the prospect of first-team football at Monaco, rather than continuing to wait for his shot at Barça. And his position isn’t even as logjammed as midfield. Players are less patient these days.

“Sell Gomes, sell Turan.” Okay. But that still doesn’t answer the fundamental nature of the difficulty. Talented, etched-in-stone incumbents cost clubs quality players. Even though people lay the blame for the Thiago migration at the feet of Cesc Fabregas, would Thiago have stayed had Xaviniesta been less indomitable? Valid ask. Messi blossomed into the most influential player in world football by sliding back on the pitch, a move that also acknowledges that he isn’t the goalscoring dynamo that he was four years ago, even if his numbers aren’t all that different. Does he return to being a full-time forward and if so, what happens to the ways that he changed the game for Barça last season?

This doesn’t even get into price. Verratti, should he decide to become a massive pain in the ass for PSG, threaten to go on strike, etc, etc, will cost at least 100m in a summer where Barça have an even more pressing need at RB. Assuming that sales such as Turan, potentially Mascherano and others happen, some 50-60m could be raised. And for what? A player widely perceived as the best controlling midfielder in the game, on a team that lost key matches by being, collectively, dogshit. Would Verratti have helped Suarez put his shots anywhere except straight at the keeper, or helped Neymar not miss key instances in front of goal? Or would the influence of Verratti have been felt in other parts of the pitch, such as when the team stood around to watch Dybala shoot, or just decided that they were so tuckered out from Paris sightseeing that they just weren’t going play against PSG in their house?

The influence of a single player on a collective, Messi notwithstanding, is overrated. Is what Verratti does in specific essential, or could those tasks be performed by another midfielder who doesn’t cost 100m, a ridiculous transfer saga and bile flying across European borders? Is that transfer as much psychological, for both team and supporters (as well as PSG) as it is tactical?

We haven’t yet touched on whether Barça even should go back to the future, and whether — unrelenting bile toward him aside — Luis Enrique and his desired approach wasn’t right for the way the game is being played in the here and now? PSG had Verratti when Barça eliminated them from Champions League. Ah, he just needed better teammates. Him feeding MSN would be just the ticket, until Suarez scuffed a chance or Neymar shot wide. A Twitter user made a video of the 50 chances created by Messi that were blown by teammates. Even if all 50 weren’t considered great chances, enough of them were — including matches against Alaves and Juventus — to make you wonder about what might have been this season. Did the team suffer because the right side was a turnstile for opponents, or because it didn’t have the exact right midfielder?

And there are still more questions, such as is Neymar playing tika taka the best use of a creative, dynamic midfielder who is at his best when fluid and unfettered. Should we ask Neymar to stop a run up the wing and slide the ball over to Busquets, to begin the on-pitch rondos? Treble-winning Barça (both of them) were different from the JDP icons, including the team that produced the most wonderful match of football ever seen in its destruction of the Manchester United side in the 2011 Champions League final. Was that the system, the personnel or both? If Tello or Pedro take that shot instead of Villa, is the result the same?

Verratti is a wonderful player. But if someone doesn’t ask whether his price and potential influence are both outsized, the debate isn’t really a complete one. Verratti isn’t the next Xavi. There is no next Xavi, a sentiment that has been uttered by Verratti himself. He isn’t the next Iniesta, either. Is he one potential part of the puzzle that Barça needs to solve? Possibly. Maybe. But there are lots of other pieces to that puzzle, so many that it’s worth wondering whether this is all worth it, long and short-term. If Verratti was in his last year, with a fee of say, 60m, it’s a no-brainer. But he has four more years on his contract to a team that doesn’t even need to sell players, with an owner who would probably burn PSG down rather that sell Verratti to Barça. What’s the real price of the player, and that war? Is the massive summ worth it, fiscally and psychologically?

To my view, no. Barça can snag a player of a profile such as Seri, along with an RB, commit to Alena and without doing much of anything else, be right back in the frame as most of the difficulties of this past season were psychological. Is that guaranteed? No. Nothing is. Verratti could come and hurt his knee in training. In many ways, spending 100m for Verratti would be like the Golden State Warriors splashing for Kevin Durant to solve their “problems” of last season, which were more psychological than anything else, even as Durant was a key addition to the roster. But the Warriors played better against Cleveland, who also underperformed. What happens if the Verratti deal happens, and the same mental mistakes are made this year? Is he still the answer?

Barça is already an amazing team that would be helped by the presence of a midfielder such as Verratti, even as it’s fair to ask whether all of the effort and anguish would be worth it. This is true even as perspective and caution are, as always, the watchwords here.

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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.

17 Comments

  1. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    June 13, 2017

    \\

    Correct.
    Like I said in my previous comment, Verratti would be a no brainer if the cost was somewhere around 60. Not worth wasting time on the exhausting war as you say.

    Buy:
    1. Semedo (pony up the asking price, don’t f*** around)
    2. Seri (could work well in the double pivot valverde likes to play)
    3. Dembele
    4. Proper CB (i trust the sporting directors to do another umtiti in this front)
    5. Seal the Marlon deal

    Do this and we’re sorted. Really.

    I also don’t mean to sound racist. But I really adore and trust all the black players that put on a Barca shirt. Think about it. Eto’o, Abidal, Keita. Look at Umtiti rocking it. It may be a stupid theory but i believe all black barca players succeed, Even the much maligned Song, I thought wasn’t as bad as he was made out to be.
    Look at my ‘buy’ list, there is a pattern there which wasn’t consciously thought of before I wrote it. I was just happy to observe the pattern after I identified those that could do good for us.

    Dont buy:
    1. Bellerin – i think he is overrated. He maybe half catalan but i cant think of ONE arsenal player who has shone for us. Not one. Recipe for disaster.
    2. Angel Di maria – He is great when healthy. But argentine roots aside, I can’t see him as an upgrade from Rafinha. Same fragility.
    3. Veratti – Too Frickin expensive.
    4. Dybala – He looked like the next messi against us. Where the hell was he in the final? Also likely to be over priced.

    Then,
    Promote Alena, Check out Deulofeu and figure out if he’s willing to slog it at Barca.

    SELL:
    1. Turan
    2. Mathieu
    3. D. Suarez (or loan him to man up)
    4. whoever else is on our books.. like tello, etc etc

    SQUAD of 24
    GK – Mats, Cillessen (2)
    RB – Vidal, Sergi Roberto, Semedo (3)
    LB – Alba, Digne (2) umtiti can fill in here as well
    CB – Pique, Marlon, Umtiti, New CB (4) Masche to fill in when needed
    DM – Mascherano, Busquets, Andre Gomes (3)
    AM – Rafinha, Iniesta, Rakitic, Seri, Alena (5)
    FW – Suarez, Neymar, Messi, Alcacer, Dembele (5)

    • kingjudah8
      June 13, 2017

      cant imagine you saying keep gomes gomes isnt a barcaz type of footballer and also cashing in on rafinha is better because of injury lay off every season dembele too expensive and jean seri is not an upgrade to sergi roberto also sergi wont play right back next season hell be back to midfield if barca can inclde either rakitic or gomes in verratti deal it would be good if manu can buy a dabbing machine for world rercord fee i dont see anything bad in barca breaking the bank for verratti he is good all round in midfield if someone was to buyiniesta of his prime age or xavi it would be close to an outrageous 70million euros as of then

      • *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
        June 14, 2017

        gomes deserves another year, another chance before he is cast away as a failure.
        I did see some glimpses of why we forked out all those millions and feel strongly that he has a huge upside which none of us really can see right now.

  2. June 13, 2017

    I personally think this whole Veratti thing is nonsense and it is the club misdirecting the media so they can get on with their real business in the background. For all the reasons Kxevin pointed out, it just isn’t going to happen, and I think it’s all a smokescreen. Ahh silly season. Gotta love it!

  3. ciaran
    June 13, 2017

    I think that PSG need to keep him more than Barca need to buy him. If they sell him it’s really proof that they aren’t at THAT level yet. They don’t want to admit it. No one could go to Barca or Real Madrid or Bayern and simply buy a player that they weren’t willing to sell and PSG won’t consider themselves a superpower if they give in.

    From a simple football perspective, Veratti would improve us. He is an upgrade to our midfield, no doubt. He is better than the player who he would replace, Rakitic, and if things were that simple you would buy him. The problem really is that we have some massive gaps in our team.

    Assuming we start in our usual 4-3-3, there’s no question in our need for a starting right back and in this market, those are going to cost €40-50m. We have 2 outstanding centre backs but outside of those could do with an upgrade. Any good centre back is €20-30m. We seem to be looking at a game changing right winger and unless Deulofeu is re-signed then those cost €40m+ too.
    I understand the calls for Seri instead.

    I, for one, think that Deulofeu could be worth the risk. Dembele at €60m+ is a massive risk. He’s a talented youngster but they can turn out either way. Bojan and GDS were both incredibly talented youngsters and they would have to buy a ticket for the Camp Nou like the rest of us. Deulofeu could watch how hard Neymar works, in training and in matches, and think ‘maybe I could try harder’. If he does he has gobs of ability to change a match, even from the bench.

    The thing that I like about Veratti is that he wants the damn ball. I just don’t get that impression from Rakitic. He never shows for the ball and if somehow he ends up with it, he just gives it back and runs away up the pitch again. I don’t even think that he’s trying to find space, I think he’s not comfortable with anyone pressing him.
    When Thiago is on the pitch, he moves around and demands the ball to feet. He moves the team where he wants to move them and is always tinkering with it. Veratti the same. Iniesta isn’t that player even though he can do the role. Nothing wrong with that.

    • Rami
      June 14, 2017

      PSG allowing him to leave, Will simply be because he was keen to leave AND there is a tempting offer for him (Key point), No club will keep an unhappy player in the presence of a great offer for him, Period, No matter the “Level” of this supposed club.
      “We’re not a selling club”
      is a bit a hollow motto in my opinion, A fake power play, Not really applicable in the real world, No club wants a complacent player in it’s squad and waste collecting big loads of money on him, No matter how supposedly important this player is.

      If messi at this moment said to the club, I want to leave, I don’t care about new contracts, And i’ve made my decision and there is a 100M or more offer for him, I’ll accept the deal in a minute, As any sensible person would.

      The reason you don’t see clubs coming and buying our, RM or BM players, Is because no player wants to leave these club, They’re considered the pinnacle of anyone career, And if a player wanted to leave, Then most likely he wasn’t getting that much minutes anyways.
      So it all come down to the players choices, Not the club’s willing or unwilling to sell.

      • Rami
        June 14, 2017

        By the way i don’t think verratti will actually come, He’ll be offered a new deal, Just like with every season, And he’ll accept it like a good boy.
        But it’s interesting and fun having these hypothetical discussions about him.

  4. Rami
    June 13, 2017

    The transfer of verratti is a controversial topic, There are arguments from both side of the coin, Great article from you, Although i don’t agree with everything you said.

    #The first side: Yes, Football is a team sport, We both completely agree on this, It’s the collective that wins and it’s the collective that loses, So what’s the logic behind spending that amount of money on a single player?, As you said, Best case scenario verratti will perform brilliantly in his role, But how in the hell is he supposed to prevent his other 10 teammates from screwing up?, It’s the collective that matters, Right?.
    Is there a player actually worth 100m?, And is there a tool to gauge “The worthiness”?, What if he gets injured a lot?, What if he doesn’t live up to expectations?, What about the financial sustainability?, How much more can we carry on with these high profile transfer fees.

    #The second side: Luis Suarez cost us a very hefty fee of 82m ( Which should’ve been even more if it wasn’t for his “bite” incident, Luckily for us), A price that carried with it most of the potential negatives said above, But here is the golden question, Would we have been able to win a treble and then a double if it he wasn’t around?, My personal answer is no, And i’ll even go out on a limb, And say that the majority will agree with me on this, Suarez was an instrumental player in our success over the past 3 seasons, If neymar had costed us 100m (he’s not that far off funnily) would we had called him a failure or ” F*** yeah, Worth it”?, RM already have a lousy track-record of trophies in the past 8 years, Can we imagine how much worse it would’ve been if perez hadn’t forked that record breaking 90m euros for cristiano…

    But hold on a minute, I just said that it is a team sport, And it’s all about the collective, And now i’m talking about a single players being instrumental to success?, Am i contradicting myself?
    Mmm, Maybe not, Yes the collective is what always matters, But in a way (although not completely of course) the team is the sum of it’s individuals parts, And when your goal being domestic and global success, That sum must outgrow the competitors in a way, We won 5 out of the last 9 la ligas, A massive achievement when looking at our level of our local competitor, But the majority of these la liga were won on 3 points or less, We obviously had the slight edge, But since they’re always trying to close that gap, How do we maintain it?, What gives us the edge?, Having the best of the best on the team, That makes sense to me….

    So given all he info above, And it were up to me to decide, Will i bring veratti for 100m?, Probably yes, Although i should make it clear, I’m making this hypothetical decision, Sitting behind a computer screen, With the only real consequence of my choice is being wrong on the internet, It’s not my job on the line, And there aren’t millions of people sharpening their knives and spears in case i’m wrong, Thank god i’m not in robert shoes, No one envies him.

  5. CentreBackJockey
    June 13, 2017

    I think we can survive without 1 or 2 massive key player signings. We already have a whole set of key players that can make the difference. The focus on having a system that works and filling the gaps in our squad is less risky and can have a greater influence on how our key players perform at crucial moments.

    A player like Verratti may have a massive impact and help put us at a level above all others. But how can Verratti make a difference if we can’t play the system that suits him or any other key player. As we experienced last season, at some point we’ll need to compensate for unexpected injuries and suspensions. If we don’t have the squad to allow us to play the way that makes us most effective then it doesn’t matter how good Verratti is, he won’t make the difference.

  6. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    June 14, 2017

    \\

    The new Xavi and Iniesta is Messi and Neymar respectively.
    Just put two dudes behind them to protect the midfield and defence.
    .
    DONE.
    .
    They are less disciplined xaviniestas but much better goal scoring xaviniestas. Neymar is the closest thing in football right now to an iniesta. The way he glides. Yes he is more pacey and more often in the box than the don, but the way he can get past many defenders and do a simple cut back for a tap in is what Iniesta did at his prime. No one can make a defence splitting pass like Xavi. Except Messi. Go back to video play reels of the sheer amount of such through balls and lobs Messi makes. Probably more than Xavi. Yes he doesn’t run 11km like peak Xavi or make 100 passes a game like peak Xavi, but in terms of quality of the pass, and the ability to see one where there is none, he is the closest the world has to a prime Xavi.

    Put these two maestros in aa 4-2-3-1 and we are back to wreaking havoc.
    but what do i know.

  7. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    June 14, 2017

    Even WITHOUT signing ANYBODY,
    does this look so bad?

    ============ Ter Stegen ============
    == Vidal == Pique == Umtiti == Alba==
    ======= Roberto == Busquets =======
    === Messi === Iniesta === Neymar ===
    ============== Suarez ==============

  8. Rivaldo
    June 14, 2017

    First: A little off topic.
    But man Umtiti is a beast of a player. Aomeone made the comment that there is no difference between him an Bartra for them. Sometimes i wonder about people’s eyesight and what bias they are using. Is it a La Masia bias… a race bias. These questions arise because Umtiti has been what Bartra never was. Could Bartra have been an excellent 4 th CB for us? Without doubt – but he didn’t want to be. But there is no way he is on Umtiti’s level. I hope Umtiti keeps improving and becomes a real leader out there. His skill set is amazing – aerial dominance, anticipation, aggressive when needs be, ball skills.

    https://youtu.be/UaMom7iK3TQ

  9. Rivaldo
    June 14, 2017

    On Veratti…

    My heart is split. On one hand we need a player to control the midfield tempo and be dynamic – more Modric than Xavi. This isn’t to dominate like the old days but to dominate nevertheless. We need a player capable of dictating play from midfield with clever movement, ball skills and a range of passing. Someone who looks for the ball like Messi does and Xavi did – who controls the game. I see this as vital – it would lessen some of the pressure we face from pressing teams and clam us at key moments – yes Messi does this but we need a midfield general.

    But…

    Our team has other great needs. A quick, high energy, adept and quality RB – this player has got to be good if not juat keep Vidal and S. Roberto.
    We also need another destabilising forward – Douglas Costa is a rumour i like… left footed and more controlled dribbling than O. Dembele for me – which is more suited to our team. I feel like Demele would lose the ball more with his dribbling style. Douglas Costa is more fluid and has a great shot and would cause defenses more trouble in my opinion… and maybe cheaper.
    So splashing €100 mil at Veratti we better be sure because we need (3) players – make that (4) cause everybody is assuming Mascherano come back from his latest leg injury ok at his age.

    One thing to remember is the though we have key pieces is that this will be one of the most important windows for us – Messi/Pique/Alba/Busi/Suarez/Rakitic/and Mascherano/Iniesta’s last couple of years at the very top – we need to get it close to perfect as we can. That perfect balance that helps us now and sets up up for the next 4-5 years.

  10. Rivaldo
    June 14, 2017

    After careful review this is my revised squad list of 22 first team players:

    Formations: 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 / 3-4-1-2

    Forwards: 5
    Neymar
    Suarez
    Messi
    Paco
    D. Costa (new) €35 mil

    Midfielders: 7
    Iniesta
    Rakitic
    Busquets
    D. Suarez
    S. Roberto
    Veratti (new) €90 mil
    Samper

    Defenders: 8
    Pique
    Umtiti
    Marlon
    Mascherano
    Vidal
    Semedo (new) €35 mil
    Alba
    Digne

    Goalkeepers: 2
    Ter Stegen
    Cillessen

    IN: 3 – €160 mil

    OUT: 9 – €90 mil

    Masip €0 mil
    Matthieu €5 mil
    Vermalen €0 mil
    Douglas €0 mil
    Rafihna €25 mil
    A. Turan €25 mil
    Munir €10 mil
    Tello €5 mil
    A. Gomes €20 mil

  11. G6O
    June 14, 2017

    I am really not at all sure that “The Way” is past its sell-by date.

    If you recall the first Clasico this year, we struggled to impose control over the game until Iniesta came in and then all of a sudden the ball was ours and Madrid were chasing it helplessly. Then we made some more subs and lost control again.

    But the point is that we had it for an extended period of time, and Madrid didn’t. Which goes to the heart of the reason why Madrid won two consecutive CLs — because there wasn’t a team out there to deny them the ball the way we once could. We, when we played like in the days if old, were the only ones to do it well.

    And in general, it seems absurd to me to deny that the loss of midfield control has not been a major reason for our downfall this season. All those games where we struggled mightily were mostly down to loss of midfield control.

    And when that happened, MSN struggled too because they were starved of the ball.

    The midfield is the largest hole in the squad right now because there is only one reliable midfielder (Busquets) and zero more advanced midfielders who can confidently be relied on to carry us through a whole season. Even buying Veratti alone doesn’t fully fix the problem. Which is not to say that buying two Veratti’s is guaranteed to solve it, but it has to be openly acknowledged as the main problem. Otherwise we’re in for another disappointing season.

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