At the end of the official transfer season, things have gotten really interesting.

When business ended on Friday and the club had signed nobody, despite assertions of its sporting director that at least one more player was coming after Ousmane Dembele, a press conference was announced. It was a bombshell that, as it turns out, sat atop a minefield.

In brief, sporting director Robert Fernandez said that the club tried for Coutinho, but Liverpool’s valuation of 200m was extravagant. But they tried. They then tried for other players, to no avail. So they won’t resign, because they did their jobs.

They also said that they understand fans’ frustration with the process, but they wanted to underscore that the squad was, in their eyes, excellent and ready to compete. He also said that no, Messi hasn’t officially signed his renewal yet but that it is agreed, and you can book it. It’s done and will be signed. Boom.

After this presser, Liverpool weighed in with its evaluation, one that was, essentially, “Those guys are full of crap.”

In a statement the club said that it never had any intention of selling Coutinho, never put a valuation on him and that stance was unchanged from when the rumors first popped up. Boom. What is amazing about this is that in effect one club is calling another club a liar after the first club called the other club a gold digger.

Suffice it to say, heads spun, particularly in the wake of the deadline day drama when Agusti Benedito visited the Camp Nou to officially begin his censure motion.

But things weren’t done.

What broke a few hours after the presser was a rumor that Messi has no intention of signing his renewal before year’s end.

Um …

Suffice it to say, the culerverse is now in a tizzy because nobody knows what is going on. There is, quite naturally, silence from the Messi camp, as there traditionally is when things such as this arise. This, naturally, makes people believe that the rumor is true, which makes them think that Messi could leave on a free transfer in summer, which makes people think that this is not only the worst board in the history of football, but the worst administration in the history of mankind.

That is a lot to unpack.

Prima facie, the rumor is a very effective tactic from a player who loves his club and would never, ever leave it. Let’s start there. Being silent about it underscores the effectiveness of said tactic. Fear works.

In the past, Messi has said that in his view, the team deserves managers that are worthy of it. When he agreed to his renewal (something that was announced by the club), was he planning this all along? Who knows. Was this an opportunity for the greatest player and culer to make the ultimate power play? Who knows. Everything is speculation, even the rumor about the rumor. But man, is it all fascinating.

One way to interpret the rumor and the attendant silence is that Messi has underscored Liverpool’s assertion that Barça are a bunch of liars. Not only did they not put a 200m valuation on Coutinho, but he isn’t signing his renewal.

Another way to interpret the rumor is that someone made it up, like a lot of other crap in this transfer window, but consider the source, a respected journalist in Alfredo Martinez. To make something like that up damages his relationship with the club as well as the player involved, a man to whom every journalist wants access. You also have to consider the value of making up a rumor such as that. There is no payoff for the journalist, only a quagmire.

This leaves us with a lot to unpack, with a single bottom line: the FC Barcelona board is in trouble, and frankly it should be. It is difficult to remember a time since the days of Gaspart when the club has been more mismanaged. As noted in a past post, they are money managers who have forgotten about the human side, something that permeates every level of the club dealings. They say and do things without considering the human consequences. Two players sundered relations with their clubs, and only one was signed. The club let them do it.

Yes, the players were silly for doing that. But as a club, what is its role in this situation? Did someone reach out to Coutinho and Dembele and say “We’re trying, but you shouldn’t do this?” No evidence of that. This and a host of other actions points to a self-serving nature that puts the board before the club. That isn’t new. What is new is the effect. The most powerful player in world football is making the ultimate power play. Is this an effort to make them sweat, or underscore the Bendito censure motion with a tacit imprimatur?

In the wake of a defiant press conference about the team’s transfer activity, the board has a significantly bigger problem to contend with — will they be the ones who let the greatest player in the history of the game leave on a free? Further, key players said, “Sign some people,” and they didn’t. The coach they just hired said that he needs some more people to be able to fully do his job, and they didn’t provide those people.

When Iniesta noted that he has been having feelings about continuing at the club, feelings related to the people running it and how they treat their employees, it was a remarkable thing to say from a player who is traditionally quiet about such things. We have a lot signals, all leading to one inescapable conclusion: some folks are in trouble.

Is there a way out for them? One isn’t apparent right now. Player mutiny, coach probably vexed, been called liars, fanbase up in arms, censure motion in process. What is for sure is that the kind of defiance that underscored the Saturday presser is not the answer. What is? Conntrition? A group hug? An understanding of their actions and legitimate efforts made to rectify them?

The time has passed for gestures. Mismanagement doesn’t just mean not making money or doing your job. It doesn’t matter how much money is in the bank if everybody is unhappy and make no mistake, everybody is unhappy. A lot of people are screaming incompetence. This isn’t accurate. They are competent at making money, at dudgeon, at hubris. Mismanagement is different from incompetence. It’s easy to be president when the team has just won a treble and you have just won re-election. It’s easy to be president when the team is on a U.S. tour among fans hungry to see their heroes in person, and all is full of love.

But Barça is rolling downhill, and fast. It’s second-best player left for a key rival, and left the club reeling, with no response. Recall at the birthday party of Neymar’s son, and the pictures of the key Barça players, including Messi, present and showing their love to a player that the club and board was beefing with? A statement? Some say yes, others say no, was just friends hanging with friends. But now its best player has made his own statement, an earth shaker.

It might come out in subsequent days that no, Messi will sign, no he would never leave Barça, etc. And from this chair, Messi loves the club too much to consider leaving it. He’s loyal, and is a culer to the core.

But why not make the people who have put the club into such a state sweat a little bit, men who are, as this is being typed, if they are at all aware of the implication of any of this, renting backhoes to dig out from the deep mess they are in.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. I’ll just post again what I said in the last entry.

    The transfer season doesn’t seem so bad, despite the general feeling of the supporters. Yes, Neymar is a great player and did lots for the team, but he wasn’t the 2nd best player in the team. Nor the 1st obviously. (We all know who is in that spot)

    Barcelona got lots of money for that forced transfer. It wasn’t used in its entirety, which is good, other teams overpriced their players when negotiating with us. If that was going to be the case then I guess it’s better for Barcelona to cease that negotiation.

    Neymar’s departure did really hurt, but let’s not forget that Barça defeated RM at their own home without him.

    1. I agree on not mourning the loss of Neymar, but the win against RM was based on an unreal Messi performance that cannot be expected at every turn. It increases our Messi-dependency – BUT watching a bit of Spain’s game, it is obvious that there are resources which, correctly managed, can make up for a lot, at least if Dembele does well and Luis finds his golden boots. There is still a lot of talent, and squad-wise, doom is too strong a word, true. And sure, Barca didn’t lose their 2nd best player – Busi is still around! The problem with this narrative of over-priced players is that it becomes and excuse for short-term planning – quarterly capitalism, to add to the fantastic comment below by Squeen (a problem also reflected in politics overall, lack of constrictive ideas).

  2. A colleague of mine worked at the Silicon Valley “darling” of the 1990’s, Silicon Graphics, and watched its slow motion self-destruction from the inside. He and I often discuss a reoccurring phenomena in the business world and shake our heads at the predictability of it—the people who love and worship money are good at doing only one thing: making money. They can’t seem to produce anything tangible of value. Great “artist”—and I’m thinking about folks like Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes, etc.—struggle to bring a dream into reality, and are often tripped up by the financial side. They need able managers to support their work, but you never EVER want the money-people in charge because ultimately they destroy the very thing that created value in the first place—even if they (temporarily) make lots of money in the process. Ultimately, the core value is lost in the pursuit of wealth and the company slowly decays and disappears. I also believe it is happening to Apple now—Tim Cook is a finance guy, not an entrepreneur—not a dreamer, not a creator.

    The big problem is wild success (e.g. Guardiola/Messi Barca) generates the potential for wealth. The money-men are attracted to it like flys on s**t. They claim that the hopeless dreamers (Jobs, Laporta, etc.) are mismanaging the money, and slowly take over (in the name of the investors who also are just looking for financial returns), and push the founders out. Barca, like the late 80’s Apple, are now in danger of tanking. The talent that loves FOOTBALL feel like the board (who love MONEY) are not on the same wavelength at all. They are right.

    A good balance is always if a dreamer is in charge and has a solid supporting cast of money watchers (Disney had his brother)….BUT they should never be allowed to truly hold the reins of power. When they happens, they invariably kill the golden goose. In their minds, that’s okay, because they can just divest and go somewhere else—wherever the money is. “Our Football Division is no longer turning a profit, lets become a selling club….not working, maybe basketball has a higher margin.”…etc.

    The money people are never really ABOUT anything, just money. All earthly pursues are equal in their eyes if they are profitable. Perhaps Barca should drop football all together and become an investment banking firm. What does it matter what we do, or how we do it, if we can make money?

    Same old story. Different setting. New cast of heroes and villains.

    Love the site. Love your articles. Please don’t stop.

    1. That’s a great comment, and a perspective which might come very close to the truth. Thanks.

    2. Love this comment. Xavi said the other day, simply enough, “The players were happier under Laporta.”

      Joy is something always underestimated by the money managers. “I gave my son a new Ferrari. What’s his problem.” You didn’t give him a hug and tell him you love him.

      An example is the Ibrahimovic deal. Everybody knew that deal was stupid. Even the people making it. Laporta said, “What baby wants, baby gets,” and made the deal. Because you have to keep the workers happy. Sometimes, just bringing donuts on Friday is more valuable than announcing record profits for this quarter.

      There is no joy. Record profits? Yes. But no joy.

  3. Was watching again Isco tonight how he made Verratti a fool in more than one ocassion, along with the other italian players.
    This is something about what ifs and should haves. There was a time, just a year ago i think when he was benched at RM, not playing at all and i believe he had a modest buyout clause compared to the one now. I firmly believe that if we chased him, asked him and guarrantied him regular playing time with us and paid that clause (unless there was some antibarca clause in his agreement with RM) he would now be with us.
    Same with Asensio. Add to this the stupidity with Thiago.
    I dont even want to go further back in time and talk about missed oportunities to sign players who wanted to play with us but we never showed interes on them. They ended up mostly at RM.
    Whatever happens, even if we win a big title this season, i do think that we havent solved our problems in long term. Especially after Busi, Iniesta, Pique, Messi are no longer around.
    We have to go back to our academy and build from there. We must, otherwise, God knows when we will be a respectable force again.

  4. Buis looked imperious today. Isco, Ascencio, Iniesta, & Silva tore apart a stingey Italian defender. Fun game to watch. Reminded me of classic Pep era of triangle passing in confined spaces

  5. If I have the power, I would have removed the whole board-slash-election thing.
    This whole debacle reeks of extreme shortsightedness due to constant electioneering and instant gratification. The only thing motivate the board is the next election and a good balance sheet, and as such never had any actual plan spanning longer than two years. Just like your run of the mill corporation.
    Sign. What a terrible time to be a Culer. I feel so bad for Messi and Iniesta – at least we have the freedom to complain our heart out.

  6. Thanks for the overview, Kxevin, very helpful. My main question after the presser was: yes, yes, but is ANYTHING your responsibility? Blame the world, let it burn to the ground rather than admit any part in its mess.

    1. As I understand it, it expires after this season = he is a free agent in January and can leave in the summer for nothing, should he want to.

  7. Ok, the usual quiet Sunday for me . . . Until I pop on here and see folks getting pretty excited over stuff that may or may not be true. Also popped over to read the Xavi interview and it’s quite interesting – as always.

    Again, just to be sure folk don’t think I think everything is wonderful I’d remind them that I was moaning about the playing side from the start of LE’s tenure. I’d just remind you that some folks thought our style was wonderful then. I dont think the club has handled things well in some areas ( club in general, not board in particular. ). However, let’s not kid ourselves that management are always going to be popular among the troops in general. Don’t know if this is a British thing but I spent a career listening to teachers moaning about what management should be doing to make the school a better place.

    1. Allowing us to move away from our traditional midfield based game
    2. Not giving our most talented youngsters time in the first team to see if they can handle it ( yes, I am mainly thinking about Samper but there are others. )
    3. Signing a whole shed load of players who are not and who never will be first team quality. Just a quick excerpt from Xavi’s interview. He says we use to have Barca type players in all positions but …

    “Now they have five or six players for it, in [Andres] Iniesta, [Jordi] Alba, [Lionel] Messi, [Gerard] Pique, Luis Suarez and [Sergio] Busquets. Yet Barcelona should have 11 players who fit the system. You never used to say “this player would fit in well at Barcelona” because all those players were already there. They have signed players who do not fit the system.”

    Yup. Spot on. ( just gonna point out here that he includes Jordi Alba here for those who continually harp on about him ! )

    So, there have been mistakes. What I don’t know is who is to blame. We could take the easy answer and say the board but the board doesn’t have day to day contact with players. What does keeping a set of completely mollycoddled footballers happy even involve ? Does it mean not selling players past their prime ? Does t mean the president bringing in the donuts to training on a Friday? Come on. Xavi does say the players were happier under Laporta’s reign.. He didn’t have to say that and it concerns me. Wish I knew what he meant.

    However, The board doesn’t decide which players to buy. It’s their job to try to bring in whoever the sporting team decide. I wish I knew who was on the sporting team and what their remix is but what seems to be the case is that too many of them are opening their mouths and talking nonsense. If Bartomeu has done the same please point me to it. If your viewpoint is that he should have moved in and sacked a couple you have my agreement, starting with whoever sanctioned last summer’s incomers, move on to the guy who insulted Pique and maybe one or two others. As Xavi said

    “There hasn’t been opposition to the president at Real Madrid for some years. There always is at Barcelona and a president can only be in charge for six years. ”

    I also don’t like Valverde saying he needs more players in. If he said it before we bought Semedo, Paulinho and Dembele, fine. If he’s said it since, maybe the job isn’t for him. He needs to get down to it and make it work. Remember, this was started by Neymar’s underhanded leaving and the players needed to improve us are all their team’s best players.

    Not sure what the fuss is about Messi . Of course, there’s a rumour about him not signing. Why wouldn’t there be ? If you wanted rid of the board you create panic. Have we learned nothing from our cousins across the water’s recent experiences ? Xavi comment was spot on in that he doesn’t think that’s what’s happening but it would be Messi’s right if he chose to do so. Does anybody here really think Messi will leave without resigning? If so, please get your comment down on paper here so we can revisit it later. If not, let’s look at the real problems in the team.

    Last night’s Spain game was an absolute revelation in some ways. At times Italy couldn’t get the ball away from them to even think about attacking. Iniesta was superb in a much freer role running the whole shebang. Busi revelled in it. The worst thing is they learned how to play like this from us. Now we need to relearn it but what is clear is that the game hasn’t moved away from the midfield in any sense but we do need the correct players to be able to do it.

    So will the board survive? Don’t know. The mob can turn ugly on anyone. I’m not sure why villagers with pitchforks comes to mind but it does . To be honest, that is the least of my concerns. I want back to the way of playing which has gone never to return ( apart from Spain last night !) If the board is responsible for that rather than the sporting team, get rid of the board. But let’s identify the cause of the problem correctly first.

    1. We’ve discussed this before, and none of us have the answers, really, but some questions come to mind. Is the board not responsible for the sporting team? Are they not (alt least partly) responsible for making sure the club maintains its philosophy? Are they not responsible for conducting business without ending up in jail? Should they not support the players more or less unconditionally (not criticising them, etc., etc.)? Should they not shoulder the blame when long-term planning is/seems absent and a “crazy market” is to blame? When we receive a transfer ban? When we sign players, many of them, who do not work out (as you indicate)? Keeping LE for a third year was obviously a sporting mistake – did they buy into his ideas, or “just kept” him? They have drawn criticism from Iniesta – INIESTA! – not only Alves. They threw Abidal out the back door, but cannot offload unwanted players. They lied about several things (as been discussed), etc etc.

      To my mind, a little too much smoke not to suspect a fire. They have made money, true – but as is noted above, not without a price. They brought Neymar, but handled everything around him questionably (in hindsight, I wonder wether Neymar at large was really more a curse than a blessing, to be honest – emphasised by the Iniesta-Busi masterclass yesterday, but I know we agree on this one). I do agree with your call to be calm and thoughtful, though. Pitchfork mobs are rarely constructive…

    2. I don’t there are too many points of difference between us, Davour.

      Of course the board is responsible for the sporting team in general. I think, trying to put myself in their shoes, my quibble would be when as president would I step in ? LE because of the treble was untouchable in his second season and remember he had a huge amount of support, here included, for his more vertical approach. I would agree that I would have pushed the button after his second season given the direction of our play but that would’ve still been hugely controversial. I wish I knew why they didn’t.

      They are responsible for our philosophy but some would argue ( not me) that that philosophy just demands attacking football. The jail business I agree with although as I’ve said before Rosell isn’t Barto and even Rosell is still presumed innocent. Tbf, Messi could also have ended up in jail this last year !

      I’m still not sure what Iniesta was criticising as being him he keeps the comments quite guarded. Listen if Iniesta came out and said he’d been badly treated I’d buy a Sack the board t shirt myself.

      Probably the only big thing Id maybe take issue with is the Abidal one. Although not as big a fan as many of him he was a great player for us but his time on the park at the top level was over. He was offered a job for life at the club but turned it down. Is that so bad ? He has now agreed to become a club ambassador along with Ronaldinho. How is this so wrong?

      You’re right we needed to get rid of players. All we have managed is to send some off on loan. Almost always for us a bad move as playing for us requires a certain style of play. Maybe not quite as bad for defenders but mids and forwards just unlearn things they’ve been taught. Mind you, the only concrete offer I know of was 40m for Gomes. Why they didn’t bite that hand off Ive no idea unless Valverde stopped them.

      I am sorry Neymar’s gone but I did want him to keep working on his game and lose the ball less as that’s so costly for us.

      I don’t think the transfer window has been bad at all. Top need was a RB and we seem to have landed a good one. After that Neymar’ s sudden move left us floundering but we’ve got possibly the best ( only) decent alternative. I’ve been guilty of flagging Pailinho but I’m happy to wait and see on him.

    3. I agree we don’t differ too much (though the Messi-Rosell comparison is a bit of a stretch, though I see your point) – I realise now my comment perhaps came off a bit harsh, not intended! I meant the questions in earnest, and I respect you not rushing to conclusions – though I am a slightly curious as to why you take such an “understanding” position with regards to the board, unless it is to balance the pitchforks. The how well we did on the transfer market is yet to be seen, of course, but I agree it is not necessarily awful. For me it’s rather the long-term tending to making the team strong that has failed, and the symbolic point was not replacing Puyol. It is of course difficult to manage the transition from perhaps the greatest team ever assembled, but not sure it has been done with too much flair.

      We’ll see how Benedito does, and what Messi does. That will be key, I’m sure. Until then, we can keep guessing and shadow fencing!

    4. I’m not sure why I am understanding of the board as you put it, Davour. Maybe I’m just a contrary old sod !

      Unlike others I did feel a difference when Bartomeu took over from Rosell who I never warmed to. He began by ( rightly) making public the details of the Neymar transfer, something which clubs never do.

      I also thought his letter to fans on Tito’s passing was beautiful. Even now looking back to find this comment I can’t believe how emotional that time was ( and how I still get) looking at the pictures. How did that team ever play again that season? Anyway, the comment I remembered is the PS at the end. It’s just a small thing and maybe creates a wrong impression of Bartomeu but it came across to me as genuine and warm and not someone who is just a money man.


  8. Patience! That’s entirely correct. Barcelona fans, players, staff and board should have patience! One bad game and the entire “barcaverse” is nuts talking about how the team is falling apart…

  9. I’ll take a bad game over a bad future any day in my life.
    If the 5-1 drubbing was due to the introduction of exciting new bloods in midfield, i would have been thankful since barca would not have been a club that is too fearful of defeat to build for the future.
    But that wasn’t what happened.
    The team that lost, other than Umtiti, had no future in it.
    Where is the rebuilding?
    Where is the new blood in midfield?
    Xavi was gone without a proper replacement.
    Iniesta will be gone in a year or two without an understudy.
    Who is going to replace Busi when he can’t keep up 50 matches a year?
    It takes several seasons to ease even world class talents into the standard a club like us would expect. Apparently we don’t even have a plan to.
    I don’t care for trophy as much as I care for the future. Even if we win the sextuple this year I still think we failed. Doubly so if the trophies give the board an excuse to continue this disastrous path, like what they did with LE.

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